SDAC is not only here to support students with disabilities on Grounds, but we also act as a liaison and support for UVA faculty and staff. We hope that this page serves as a resource for these faculty and staff, and encourage all instructors to watch this Online Guide to Student Accommodations. As always, SDAC staff is always available to answer questions or address any concerns.
- Referring Students to SDAC
If you are working with a student whom you suspect would benefit from our services, then feel free to suggest that they contact SDAC. You could also send them the direct link to submit an application for SDAC services.
- Syllabus Statements
Faculty are required to incorporate information for students with disabilities in their syllabi. We have provided sample wording for statements below:
Syllabi Statement Option 1
UVA is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning in this course, please feel welcome to discuss your concerns with me. If you have a disability, or think you may have a disability, you may also want to meet with the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC), to request an official accommodation. You can find more information about SDAC, including how to apply online, through their website at www.studenthealth.virginia.edu/SDAC. If you have already been approved for accommodations through SDAC, please make sure to send me your accommodation letter and meet with me so we can develop an implementation plan together.
Syllabi Statement Option 2
It is my goal to create a learning experience that is as accessible as possible. If you anticipate any issues related to the format, materials, or requirements of this course, please meet with me outside of class so we can explore potential options. Students with disabilities may also wish to work with the Student Disability Access Center to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in this course, including official accommodations. Please visit their website for information on this process and to apply for services online: www.studenthealth.virginia.edu/SDAC. If you have already been approved for accommodations through SDAC, please send me your accommodation letter and meet with me so we can develop an implementation plan together.
Syllabi Statement Option 3
I am committed to creating a course that is inclusive in its design. If you encounter barriers, please let me know immediately so we can determine if there is a design adjustment that can be made. I am happy to consider creative solutions as long as they do not compromise the intent of the assessment or learning activity. If you are a student with a disability, or think you may have a disability, you are also welcome to initiate this conversation with the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC). SDAC works with students with disabilities and faculty members/TAs to identify reasonable accommodations. Please visit their website for information and start the application process online: www.studenthealth.virginia.edu/SDAC. If you have already been approved for accommodations through SDAC, please send me your accommodation letter and meet with me so we can develop an implementation plan together.
- Accessible Course Materials
There are many ways in which faculty can ensure an accessible experience for their students by creating accessible course content. By ensuring an accessible experience, you not only benefit the students with disabilities in your course, but it positively impacts the learning experience for all students. The two biggest areas which we like to highlight would be videos and PDFs.
Videos: If you are showing a video in your course, it is best practice to ensure that the video is captioned. This ensures that the video is accessible to those that are D/deaf and hard of hearing, but it also may benefit students who are English language learners or the student who forgot to bring their headphones to the library. For more information, please visit the UVA Library webpage on Making Media Accessible.
PDFs: Many readings are available to students as a PDF. If you are using PDFs in your course, we would like to ensure that they can be read by text-to-speech software, such as Read&Write. This software is often used for those with print-related disabilities (such as those that are blind, low vision, or have a reading disorder), but again has the potential to benefit all of your students.
At a minimum, we ask that your PDF have “selectable” text – that is, text that is recognized as text by the computer. Additionally, look at the “reading order” – which can often be seen when you are highlighting the text – to make sure that it is reading it in the right order. Finally, your images, figures and graphs should have “alt-tags” on them (i.e. descriptions of the graphic) so those that are blind can still have access to the information it contains.
SDAC staff is available to assist in making course content accessible, so please feel free to email SDAC if you have any questions.
- Reasonable Modification of the Course Attendance Policy and/or Assignment Deadlines
Some of the most complicated accommodations to implement are for those students authorized for Reasonable Modification of the Course Attendance Policy and the Reasonable Modification of Assignment Deadlines. Although these are two different accommodations, the procedure for implementation is similar for both. With one or both of these accommodations, we acknowledge that the student has a condition which may impact their ability to get to class on a regular basis or turn in every assignment in a timely manner. However, we also want to acknowledge that these accommodations cannot significantly impact the learning objectives and outcome of the course.
SDAC believes that the best practice for these accommodations is for the student and faculty to dialogue ahead of time and come up with a contingency plan for what should happen should the student need to miss class(es) and/or get an extension on an assignment, before it is even needed. The best outcomes are a result of having this dialogue as early as possible, coming up with a contingency plan, and ongoing communication between the student and faculty. The student is responsible for initiating this dialogue; however, if they fail to do so, it is also appropriate for the faculty to reach out to the student. SDAC is available to facilitate this dialogue, should there be complicating factors or the student and faculty are unable to come to an understanding together.
The following questions may help frame the discussion regarding attendance modification:
- What does the course description and syllabus say?
- What elements of the class experience are used to calculate the final grade?
- What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
- To what extent is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among students?
- Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on student participation as an essential method for learning?
- To what degree does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
- What is a protocol for making up missed work or assignments, including quizzes/exams? How does the instructor want to be contacted about absences?
The following questions may help frame the discussion regarding assignment deadline extensions:
- What are the course practices and policies regarding deadlines?
- What method is used to calculate the final grade?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on meeting deadlines as an essential component for learning?
- To what degree does the student's failure to submit timely work impact others in the class?
- Are assignments used as course content when they are due (e.g. problem sets reviewed as the first lecture on that content)?
- How many days beyond the published deadline would be reasonable?
- How would the student contact the instructor should they need an assignment extension?
- Are there any assignments within the course for which an extension would not be reasonable? Why?
Once this dialogue has taken place, the student needs to record the outcome by filling out an "Agreement with Instructor" in their account on the SDAC online portal that outlines the outcome of this conversation.
- Notetaking Services
Notetaking services can be invaluable to a student who has limitations in taking their own notes due to a disability. The SDAC typically will authorize a student with either the ability to record lectures or access peer notes.
If a student has been authorized to record a lecture, then the student may have an electronic device (such as a computer, tablet, Smartpen, etc.) which has the ability to record the lecture. We ask that you allow the student to do so, even if you have banned such electronics from your classroom, in accordance with UVA Policy PROV-005.
The Peer Notetaking Program is a valuable accommodation/resource for students who have difficulty taking notes while listening to class lectures, have a physical disability prohibiting writing, or have unavoidable absences due to chronic illness. With these difficulties, provision of class notes may be considered a reasonable accommodation or auxiliary aid. In our orientation sessions, students are informed that unless notes are being provided to accommodate illness, note taking is not a substitute for their own attendance and participation in class. If you have concerns related to a student who receives notes, please call and discuss these issues with us to determine whether intervention by SDAC is appropriate. If you determine that notes are not necessary in your course (e.g. you provide lecture notes to all students) then please provide us with that information and we will adjust our records.
Otherwise, please make an announcement that we are looking for a volunteer notetaker in the course during your next class session. Please do not disclose the name of the student with the disability. Please direct volunteer notetakers to the Noteaker Application form on the SDAC online services portal to submit their information and begin uploading copies of their notes. If you have questions about either of these accommodations, please feel free to contact the student’s Accessibility Specialist.
- Recording of Classroom Lectures and Discussions
University policy (PROV-008: Teaching Courses for Academic Credit – Section 5) “prohibits the recording or transmission of classroom lectures and discussions by students unless written permission from the Instructor has been obtained and all students in the class as well as guest speakers have been informed that audio/video recording may occur.” Students receiving an accommodation including recording of classroom lectures and discussions are exempt from this policy, however, restrictions on distribution do apply. Also, a personal recording of this information is not a transfer of any copyrights.
Instructors may want to include language in their syllabus alerting class members they may be recorded. It is also encouraged that a statement indicating that recording for personal study be allowed by any class member. Many students who benefit from later review of recorded lectures do not have a disability or issue that would qualify them for an accommodation through SDAC. Providing permission in the syllabus opens that option for all students.
If broad application is not applicable to your class, a statement allowing recording by permission (per policy direction) should be included.
- Inclusive Classroom Practices
Our students come to UVA from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds, experiences, and customs. For some, English is not their primary language and the jargon and expressions used commonly in American culture are confusing. Statistics show that many students with disabilities do not self-identify to SDAC. They are working to perform in your class without the benefit of specific accommodations.
There are a number of practices which can be incorporated in your course experience and will provide an inclusive environment to benefit all participants, not just those with disabilities. Borrowing from the work done at the University of Washington by Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, below are general guidelines to consider:
- Class climate. Adopt practices that reflect high values with respect to both diversity and inclusiveness.
- Example: Put a statement on your syllabus inviting students to meet with you to discuss disability-related accommodations and other special learning needs.
- Interaction. Encourage regular and effective interactions between students and the instructor and ensure that communication methods are accessible to all participants.
- Example: Assign group work for which learners must support each other and that places a high value on different skills and roles.
- Physical environments and products. Ensure that facilities, activities, materials, and equipment are physically accessible to and usable by all students, and that all potential student characteristics are addressed in safety considerations.
- Example: Develop safety procedures for all students, including those who are blind, deaf, or wheelchair users. Encourage students to refrain from using scented products which may exacerbate symptoms for those who are sensitive to environmental triggers.
- Delivery methods. Use multiple, accessible instructional methods that are accessible to all learners.
- Example: Use multiple modes to deliver content; when possible allow students to choose from multiple options for learning; and motivate and engage students-consider lectures, collaborative learning options, hands-on activities, Internet-based communications, educational software, field work, and so forth.
- Information resources and technology. Ensure that course materials, notes, and other information resources are engaging, flexible, and accessible for all students.
- Example: Choose printed materials and prepare a syllabus early to allow students the option of beginning to read materials and work on assignments before the course begins. Allow adequate time to arrange for alternate formats, such as books in audio format.
- Feedback. Provide specific feedback on a regular basis.
- Example: Allow students to turn in parts of large projects for feedback before the final project is due.
- Assessment. Regularly assess student progress using multiple accessible methods and tools, and adjust instruction accordingly.
- Example: Assess group and cooperative performance, as well as individual achievement.
- Accommodation. Plan for accommodations for students whose needs are not met by the instructional design.
- Example: Know campus protocols for getting materials in alternate formats, rescheduling classroom locations, and arranging for other accommodations for students with disabilities.
- Class climate. Adopt practices that reflect high values with respect to both diversity and inclusiveness.
- Giving Extra Time on Exams in UVACollab
If you are working with a student who receives extra time on exams, UVACollab has created a video and step-by-step instructions on how to give certain students extra time on UVACollab.
- Concussion/Head Injuries and Return-to-Learn Pathway
What is your role in concussion recovery? Each athletics department should have a concussion management plan that outlines the steps to be taken by team physicians and athletic trainers following a sport-related concussion diagnosis and during a student-athlete’s recovery. The concussion management plan should provide for the identification of an academic point person who will navigate return-to-learn activities with a student-athlete who has been diagnosed with a sport-related concussion. The return-to-learn pathway is considered part of the suggested medical management plan and, in more complex cases of return-to-learn, the academic point person will be part of a broader interdisciplinary team.
- Faculty/Staff Disability-Related Accommodations
If you are a staff or faculty and would like to request accommodations due to a disability, then please visit the Equal Opportunity and Civil Right Program's website for the procedure and forms to initiate the process.
Policies and Guidance:
- SDAC Procedures and Guidelines
- HRM-009: Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment
- HRM-010: Preventing and Addressing Retaliation
- IRM-008: University Information Technology Accessibility
Departments and Offices:
- Student Disability Access Center
- Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights
- Coordinator of Academic Accessibility