Student Life

Disability Resources for Faculty and Instructors

Partnership for Accessibility

As designers of the learning environment, instructors are encouraged to engage in thoughtful design that integrates accessibility, without the need for accommodations when possible. When this is not possible, it may be necessary to work with students and Disability Resources in providing accommodations. If a student reports an accessibility issue, please guide students to DR to begin the accommodation process, if they have not already done so.

Please note that the goal of accessibility is equal access, rather than guaranteed success. Instructors are not expected to lower course standards or modify essential learning objectives to accommodate students with disabilities.

Accommodation process

Students who experience barriers in the curricular environment and wish to request academic accommodations will self-identify to Disability Resources and meet with a staff member to discuss barriers they are experiencing or anticipate in the classroom. Students provide third-party documentation necessary to support requests for specific accommodations. Once accommodations have been approved by Disability Resources, students will be able to utilize the Faculty Notification Screen in STARS to make faculty aware of needed accommodations. Please note that students will only be able to select from a list of accommodations that have been specifically approved by our staff for individual students. When instructors receive the notification via email, they will be able to view a complete list of each student's accommodations through the WIUP DRC Faculty Notification Form (DFNF). The email notification is the official disclosure of disability status and notification of accommodations. Instructors are free to proceed with making plans for accommodations and may contact students to discuss accommodation arrangements.

Audio and video instructions for utilizing this system

Captioned video instructions for utilizing this system

Please note that students are under no obligation to disclose information about specific diagnoses to instructors, and instructors should not ask for this information. However, instructors may discuss observations related to a student's performance or functioning within the classroom to make appropriate referrals, to garner a better understanding of how to design more inclusive curriculum or to better support students in the classroom. Some students will opt to share information regarding diagnoses and faculty should keep this information,  as well as all information related to disability status confidential.

SDSC Disability Resources staff members are available for one-on-one consultation by phone or appointment. If you would like to ask questions about the accommodation process or a specific student situation, please contact 309-298-1884.

Exam Accommodations

When exam accommodations are required in order to allow accurate assessment of a student's knowledge, instructors can administer exams and quizzes with accommodations utilizing resources from within your department or utilize Exam Services within the SDSC. 

Online Exam Accommodations

The Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research (CITR) provides support for instructors using WesternOnline. This support includes information on accessibility of D2L and technical support for allowing extended time for online exams. To view instructions for extending time on exams in WesternOnline go to  Granting Extended Time . For technical support, please contact CITR at 309-298-2434.

Some students may require an audio format for online exams. This can be accomplished through screen reader software, conversion of the exam to Mp3, or a live reader. The chosen audio format depends on the student’s experience with screen reader technology, accessibility of the learning management system, accessibility of the content within the learning management system, location of the student and whether or not the instructor requires the online exam to be taken at a proctored site. Students should work with the Student Development and Success Center Disability Resources to determine the most appropriate arrangement for audio format of the exam.

If you require students to take exams for online courses at the WIU Testing Center proctored test site, please email the following information to

  • Student name
  • Student ID#
  • Course name and number
  • List of student exam accommodations
Captioned Videos

Captioned videos are the most effective method for providing equal opportunity for students with hearing loss when showing a video either in class or online. It allows the student to read the words and catch the visual cues from the screen, which, combined, enhances understanding of the video. Disability Resources strongly recommends that instructors choose videos with captions to show in class. However, if you plan to show videos that are not currently captioned, you may follow the instructions below for assistance:

  1. Check your video first to see if captions are available. For online videos that have captions, you will see "cc" in the toolbar. If you click on that button, it will allow you to turn on the captions. For DVD's, you may turn captions on by going to languages and choosing English subtitles for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This option is often listed as English SDH.
  2. After you check the video and find that it is not captioned, you may contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access at 309-298-1977 for assistance with captioning online videos.
  3. For assistance finding captioned DVD's or VHS tapes, first contact Malpass Library to see if they have a captioned version of the video or can assist you with finding it via interlibrary loan. You may contact the Malpass Library Reference Desk at 309-298-2700 or 309-298-2705. For assistance with interlibrary loan, please call 309-298-2761.
  4. You may also contact the video retailer to see if a captioned version is available.
  5. If neither the library nor the retailer can provide you with a captioned video, please contact Disability Resources in the Student Development and Success Center at 309-298-1884 or

Syllabus Statement

The following syllabus statement has been approved by Faculty Senate and President for inclusion in all course syllabi:

Students with disabilities: In accordance with University values and disability law, students with disabilities may request academic accommodations where there are aspects of a course that result in barriers to inclusion or accurate assessment of achievement. To file an official request for disability-related accommodations, please contact Disability Resources in The Student Development and Success Center at 309-298-1884,, or in 125 Memorial Hall. Please notify the instructor as soon as possible to ensure this course is accessible to you in a timely manner.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I required to provide an accommodation?

According to University values and disability law (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended and Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504), the University is required to provide reasonable accommodations. If the student has followed the proper procedure to establish eligibility for accommodations through Disability Resources and you have received an email notification, then please proceed with arranging accommodations.

What if I am not sure how to implement these accommodations in my course (e.g., the student is requesting a copy of class notes, but students do not usually take notes because of the nature of my course)?

If you are uncertain about implementing an accommodation in your course, please contact the Disability Resources in the Student Development and Success Center at 309-298-1884 or

Why didn't I receive this notification earlier in the semester?

You will likely receive most notifications during the first week or two of the semester. However, students may request accommodations at any time during the semester. Some students wish to wait to see if they experience barriers before requesting accommodations. For example, some students will take the first exam before requesting accommodations for future exams. In addition, some students may connect with Disability Resources later in the semester for a variety of reasons (e.g., they were recently diagnosed, they were unaware that services are available, etc.).

The law says that accommodation requests should be made in a timely manner, which means the University must be given ample time to make the necessary arrangements. In addition, accommodations are not retroactive. Therefore, if a student chooses to forego accommodations on the first exam and then decides to request exam accommodations, instructors are not obligated to re-administer the first exam with accommodations. However, accommodation arrangements should be made for future exams.

Can a student request additional accommodations later in the semester?

Yes. Students are allowed to request additional accommodations at any time during the semester. In anticipation of this possibility, the Disability Resources Faculty Notification System was designed to differentiate between initial requests and additional requests.

What if a student changes their mind about a requested accommodation?

If you receive an accommodation notification from a student, and later the student decides that it is not needed, it is a good idea to make a note of this. A good way to do this would be to email the student to clarify that they indeed do not want the accommodation and copy Disability Resources (

I'm concerned that the requested accommodation lowers course standards or modifies an essential element of my course. What do I do?

Disability accommodations are intended to provide equal access, not reduce course rigor or modify essential course objectives. If you have concerns regarding this matter, please contact the SDSC Disability Resources staff at 309-298-1884 or

What should I do if this accommodation doesn't seem fair to other students?

The underlying assumption of the question is that fairness and equal treatment are synonymous with "the same" treatment. However, the same treatment doesn't always measure fairly. First, disability law protects students with disabilities from being subjected to the arbitrary measure of what is best for others, except in cases of safety to others. Second, the assumption of the law is that modifying non-essential tasks should give the student with a disability an equal, or fair, chance to demonstrate their ability, minimizing the impact of the environment to the greatest extent possible.

  1. A student who cannot perform the physical task of writing or other fine motor manipulations may be an excellent writer even though they cannot print or type the letters and words. Thus, the physical act of writing is a non-essential task. The student's mastery of language and course material must not, under the law, be judged by their ability to manipulate a pencil or pen, or by use of a keyboard. Accommodating the student by providing a scribe to record the student's essay responses on an exam, permits the student to show whether they can write effectively and whether they have acquired the information and critical skills the instructor wished to convey in the course.
  2. A student with a learning disability can learn, but learns differently. Learning disabilities that involve eye-hand coordination or thought processing may call for accommodations (e.g., alternative format textbooks, readers and scribes for tests, screen readers, help with marking scantron sheets) that reduce barriers to learning in the classroom and/or to accurate demonstration of course competency.

Fairness is ensured by holding students with disabilities to the same academic standards and essential learning objectives as other students (e.g., students with disabilities take the same exam as their peers) and just means each according to their need (e.g. with reasonable accommodations). Therefore, the provision of accommodations is not an issue of fairness but justice.

What is my responsibility once I receive the notification?

The email notification is the official disclosure of disability status and notification of accommodations. Instructors are free to proceed with making plans for accommodations and may contact students to discuss accommodation arrangements. Contact should be kept confidential as should all disability related communications.

Universal Design with Resources

Universal Design (UD), also known as human-centered design is a conceptual framework that can be used to operationalize this philosophy. Using UD principles, instructors can design courses that are accessible and inclusive of a diverse student body. Below are some barriers that are common in the learning environment and the potential impact of those barriers. Additionally, you will find inclusive design ideas that will increase access. Please note that inclusive design may not completely eliminate the need for individual accommodations, but it has the potential to greatly reduce the number of accommodations requested.

Learning Barriers and Solutions Table
Common Learning Barriers Impact Inclusive Design Suggestions Impact
Timed Exams    Students must arrange individual accommodations each semester Plan shorter, more frequent assessments Student's knowledge, rather than the speed with which answers are provided, is the essential element being tested
Faculty may need to send students to another location for testing and remember to send exam and instructions for proctoring each exam Allow students who are not finished at the end of class to finish in the department conference room Students are not separated from their peers during testing and have equal access to the professor
Students may not have access to faculty during exam if they have questions Give online assessments allowing everyone additional time for completion Students may not need to make separate testing arrangements each semester
Consider giving take-home exams
Inaccessible Course Materials (e.g., PDF's, Word documents, textbooks, videos, PowerPoints, etc.)     Students may fall behind while waiting for documents to be converted to an accessible format or videos to be captioned Ensure that PDF's, Word documents and PowerPoints are designed in an accessible format  Students can stay on track with the timeline of the course
Faculty may need to work with the Disability Resources and other resources to obtain accessible materials Choose textbooks from publishers who offer both print and e-books Faculty spend less time during the semester trying to make alternate arrangements for students
Faculty may need to extend deadlines or offer incompletes to accommodate students who have fallen behind due to inaccessible course materials Choose captioned videos Once a document is designed to be accessible, it does not have to be re-designed each semester, even if minor changes to dates, assignments, etc. need to be made.
Students can view videos with the class without the need for separate accommodation
Other students in the classroom may find captions to be helpful, as well
Note Taking     Faculty may need to assist with finding volunteers to take course notes for students with disabilities Encourage students to share notes and form study groups All students have access to additional materials to enhance learning and studying
Students may fall behind while waiting for a note taker to be identified and for the note taker to provide copies of notes Use online discussions The group note taking method allows for note taking assistance to be a seamless part of the design of the course
Record lectures and post podcasts online
Make PowerPoints available to all students
Utilize the group note taking method

Information available here has been adapted from the University of Arizona Disability Resource Center.


Resources for Designing Accessible Learning Environments

Below are resources to assist instructors with implementing Universal Design into the design into the curricular environment.

Universal Design
Designing Accessible Course Materials

For more information on creating accessible documents, check out the following links: