What Faculty Need to Know

Office of Disability Resources


Hamline University is committed to providing an environment in which all students have the opportunity to participate in the academic experience, which includes students with disabilities. Academic accommodations exist in order to provide students with disabilities equal access and opportunity to the many experiences on a college campus. Federal and state laws govern how and to what extent students with disabilities receive accommodations. Faculty members play an integral role in providing those accommodations. Faculty is encouraged to work closely with Disability Resources when questions or concerns about accommodations arise.


Disability Resources is committed to ensuring that all information and communication regarding students and their disabilities is maintained as confidential except when disclosure is authorized by the student or permitted by law. The goal of the confidentiality process is to ensure that students with disabilities will not be discriminated against based on their disability.

No one other than authorized personnel within a university community has access to a student’s disability related information. A student need not disclose their specific disability to faculty or staff. Faculty and staff need to know what accommodations are appropriate and necessary to meet the student’s disability related needs. In some instances, a faculty or staff person may request a more in depth discussion to better facilitate the student’s learning. In that case, the faculty member should contact Disability Resources. To protect confidentiality, all disability related diagnostic documentation must be filed only with Disability Resources. Information in student files will not be released except in compliance with federal and state law.

Accommodation process

It is the student’s responsibility to contact Disability Resources to request accommodations. Once the student has registered with Disability Resources by meeting with the Director and providing any necessary documentation, an accommodation notification will be emailed to the student's professors and will be copied to the student. That student should then initiate a conversation with their faculty during office hours to discuss those accommodations. If a student requests accommodations without verification from Disability Resources, please refer that student to our office. The student should request a new and updated accommodation notification email to their faculty each semester, even if the student has had a previous course with the same instructor.

Faculty rights and responsibilities

Faculty members have the right to:

  • Maintain the fundamental nature of course content
  • Require students to demonstrate knowledge of essential course material
  • Ask a student who requests an accommodation to provide a Faculty Notification Letter
  • Discuss an accommodation with the student and Disability Resources if it seems unreasonable

Faculty members have a responsibility to:

  • Implement best practices to reach a wide range of learners
  • Direct students to the necessary resources such as Disability Resources and Academic Services
  • Work with Disability Resources and the student to ensure they are accommodated in a timely manner
  • Maintain confidentiality

Determining essential components

As part of the process of identifying potential accommodations, Disability Resources may ask for information concerning the essential elements of your course or program. The first step is for faculty to establish specific learning objectives and/or outcomes for the course or program. When considering outcomes, sometimes it is helpful to divide the outcomes into skills, knowledge, and attitudes.

Disability Resources does not determine essential requirements of programs or courses. That work is solely the province of the academic department and its members. When determining essential requirements of a program, departments should consider licensing board requirements, course objectives, and, if applicable, basic job requirements from a general class of occupations such as “staff nurse.”

If a student requests a waiver of an essential requirement in either a course or program, please contact Disability Resources  immediately, so that we may facilitate that process, as there are processes and procedures that must be followed under the law.

Syllabus statement

Faculty is strongly encouraged to include a statement on their syllabi directing students to Disability Resources, should they need accommodations or assistance for a disability. Such a statement indicates the faculty member’s willingness to assist in the provision of reasonable accommodations and informs the student of the institution's legal responsibility to provide necessary accommodations. A syllabus statement opens the lines of communication making it more likely that a student who needs accommodations will disclose that need to the faculty member. Some examples of acceptable statements are:

“Students with disabilities who think they need an accommodation in this class are encouraged to contact Disability Resources at disabilityresources@hamline.edu or 651.523.2079 as soon as possible to better ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely manner.”

“It is University policy to provide reasonable accommodations to students who have a documented disability. Students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to contact Disability Resources at disabilityresources@hamline.edu or 651.523.2079 as soon as possible."

Webpage and Blackboard accessibility

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require access to all educational material. Faculty should keep in mind that if they use classroom software (Canvas) or web pages as part of their course, they need to be accessible to students with disabilities. Faculty who question the accessibility of their web page or classroom software should contact Disability Resources.

Alternate format materials

Please provide written information (syllabus, handouts, textbook information) and a list of classroom videos in advance. This allows Disability Resources  to provide alternative format course materials in a timely manner. It can take up to four weeks to convert material into audio format, and even more time if the book/document needs to be transcribed into Braille or captioned.

Tips for working with students with various types of disabilities

Blind and/or visual impairments

  • Read anything written on the board or overhead out loud
  • For longer assignments, establish word limits instead of page numbers in case the student needs to use a larger font
  • Ensure that the aisles of the classroom are kept clear at all times
  • In smaller classes where participation is integral to the course, say the name of the student when responding to a question so the student with a visual impairment knows who is speaking
  • Provide copies of handouts to Disability Resources as early as possible so they may be enlarged
  • If a guide dog is present in your class, refrain from focusing on it: Do not pet the dog unless given permission by the student, and never give the dog treats

Temporary, chronic, and psychiatric disabilities

  • Students with serious medical or psychiatric disabilities may have unpredictable acute phases which require treatment or hospitalization. Although you do not need to compromise essential components of the course, try to be flexible in working with the student to determine how he or she can still get the most out of the class.
  • Students who present a Faculty Notification Letter listing flexibility with attendance and/or assignment deadlines should have a very specific discussion with you at the beginning of the semester regarding reasonable limits to this accommodation.
  • The nature of these types of disabilities can change throughout the semester. If a student requests a modification in accommodations, be sure to ask the student to present you with a new Faculty Notification Letter.
  • If you are in a classroom that is physically inaccessible and one of your students becomes physically injured, you will likely receive notification from Disability Resources and/or Classroom and Event Management of a classroom change.

Deaf and/or hearing impairments

  • Look at the class when speaking and avoid pacing. Speak like you normally would, and avoid exaggerations.
  • Avoid standing with your back to a window or other light source. The glare can make it difficult to read lips and facial expressions.
  • Repeat questions or comments made by others in the classroom before answering.
  • Be aware that if the student is using a sign language interpreter, it may take them longer to respond since there is a slight delay between what is said and the student receiving the message.
  • The grammar used in American Sign Language (ASL) is different from English language grammar. Thus, be aware that such errors on written work do not reflect the intellectual ability of the student.
  • When speaking with a student who uses an ASL interpreter, always address comments and questions to the student.
  • Avoid oral testing.
  • If a service dog is present, refrain from focusing on it. Do not pet the dog unless given permission by the student, and never give the dog treats.

Physical and mobility-related

  • When possible, Disability Resources will notify you in advance if you are using a physically inaccessible classroom for a course which a student with a physical or mobility-related disability has registered. In this event, Disability Resources will work with Classroom and Event Management to facilitate a classroom change and notify you of the change as soon as possible.
  • If your office is inaccessible, speak with the student about an alternate private location to meet.
  • If you are planning an event or field trip outside of the classroom, be mindful of the accessibility of the space you are visiting and how you plan to get there. Contact Disability Resources for assistance in securing accessible transportation. Give advance notice of any location changes.
  • Students with physical or mobility-related disabilities may be late to class if, for example, the sidewalks are icy. Understanding on your part is useful in these situations. However, if you notice constant tardiness, speak with the student. If his or her explanation is unrelated to the disability, handle the issue as you would with any other student.
  • Keep classroom aisles clear.
  • If a service dog is present, refrain from focusing on it. Do not pet the dog unless given permission by the student, and never give the dog treats.

Learning and attention-related

  • Cater to different learning styles by alternating how information is presented. Some students may learn best through listening, while others will be visual or hands-on learners.
  • At the beginning of the semester, provide all students with your office hours and information on accessing tutoring services. Please note, tutoring is provided by the Center for Academic Success and Achievement , not Disability Resources.
  • Be prepared to provide a reasonable amount of extra help to students with learning and attention-related disabilities, as they may need information repeated.
  • While rude and disruptive behavior should never be tolerated in the classroom, students with learning and attention-related disabilities may display non-disruptive but inattentive behaviors (such as staring out the window during lecture). Understand that such behaviors are sometimes used as a coping strategy in difficult or tiring learning situations.

Autism spectrum disorders

  • Be sure to give clear and concrete instructions on assignments and deadlines.
  • Try to give structure and organization to lectures by highlighting main points first and summarizing at the end.
  • Provide visual representations of class material when possible.
  • Encourage the student to participate when doing group work without singling them out.
  • Understand that it is often times much easier for students with autism spectrum disorders to communicate via e-mail rather than in person.
  • If the student becomes disruptive in class, handle the situation as you would with any other student.
  • Allow the student to step out of the classroom for a few minutes if they becomes especially anxious or agitated.

Myths and realities

Myth: Anyone can get accommodations.
Reality: Disability Resources only provides accommodations to students who present documentation of a diagnosed disability. Documentation must meet the requirements set forth by Disability Resources.

Myth: Extended time for exams is an “academic boost.”
Reality: A student who doesn’t know the material can sit with an exam for as long as they want, and still get a bad grade. If the point is to know and manipulate the material well (which some students with disabilities take longer to do), extended time is not interfering with course requirements. It is merely making the playing field more even.

Myth: Test anxiety is a disability.
Reality: Many students become anxious when taking an exam. However, in order for the student to qualify for testing accommodations from Disability Resources, they must have a documented disability such as dyslexia or ADHD.

Myth: Disability Resources provides testing to diagnose students with learning disabilities and/or ADHD.
Reality: Students who think they may have a learning disability or ADHD may contact Disability Resources to get a list of local places that provide testing and diagnosis.