Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Student Accessibility Services provides academic accommodations as supported by the student's documentation and those required by Section 504 and the ADA laws.

Examples of Academic Accommodations

Extended Exam Time/Distraction Reduced Location

At the college level, extended time is generally defined as 1.5x the standard exam time. Students whose documentation supports extended time may take their exams under proctor supervision in the Student Accessibility Services Test Center.

To be eligible for exam accommodations, the student must submit their Letter of Accommodation to their faculty prior to making a test request. To utilize exam accommodations, students must complete an Exam Accommodation Request form* a minimum of two business days prior to the test date.

*Alternative formats of the Exam Accommodation Request form are available through the Test Center.

Exam Readers/Reading Software

Students with supporting documentation may be provided with a reader or reading software so they can hear the exam questions. The proctor will read the questions aloud and may repeat a question if requested. The reader may not coach the student toward an answer.

Students also have the option of using Kurzweil or Snap&Read reading software. Kurzweil is available on the adaptive computers in the Student Accessibility Services office and in the Kearney lab. Snap&Read is available on all academic computers. Students are able to put Snap&Read on their own computers as well. For instructions on how to download the program, contact the Student Accessibility Services coordinator at

Note Taking Assistance

Unless a student is physically unable to take notes, we recommend using a Livescribe Smartpen for recording and taking class notes. Student Accessibility Services has a limited quantity of Smartpens available for loan to eligible students.

Students whose disability necessitates note taking service will be provided with notes from a classmate enrolled in the same course(s), who is hired to share their notes via email.

Audio/Electronic Textbooks

Students who require audio textbooks:

  • Apply to Learning Ally, (formerly RFB&D- Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic) and if applicable, to the New York State Library for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH).
  • Request these services as early as possible so texts may be available in time for each semester.

Note: If the disability mandates an alternative format textbook, and the book is not available electronically through Learning Ally or the bookstore, the coordinator of student accessibility services will assist in obtaining the required text from the publisher.


  • The best practice when choosing a textbook is to select one that has an ETEXTBOOK format, in addition to a standard format. An ETEXTBOOK is a digital, downloadable version of the physical textbook that works on both PC and Mac platforms.
  • Order textbooks as early as possible in consideration of students who require books in an alternate format. It can take several weeks to process requests for alternate formats if the text doesn’t include an ETEXT format.
Classroom Assignments and Equipment

In response to the needs of students with mobility or hearing impairments, an effort is made to assign their courses to accessible classrooms. Specified classrooms are equipped with freestanding, height adjustable tables and/or cushioned straight-back chairs. The furniture labeled, “for use only by individuals with special needs” is most often placed in the front of the classroom, relatively close to the door. The faculty is asked to assist the effort to keep the furniture in place and to prohibit use by anyone except the designated students.

Assistive Listening Devices

Many students who use hearing aids effectively in quiet environments have a difficult time following information presented in large college classrooms. Some students who have an auditory processing disorder may also struggle to tune out extraneous noises. In the classroom, the instructor’s voice is competing with background noise, room echo, and distance. Most Assistive Listening Device systems (ALDs) use a microphone/transmitter positioned close to the instructor’s mouth to send the instructor’s voice through the air or by cable to the receiver worn by the student.

If a student’s impairment requires the use of an ALD, the student will bring the necessary equipment to class. The faculty will be asked to wear a lapel microphone approximately three to five inches from the mouth, to speak slowly and clearly, and to make sure that their voice intensity is not too loud. Since the ALD user may not have access to questions raised by others in the room, remind students to speak one at a time. Be sure to face the student when speaking and to repeat questions and comments from other students.

Assistive Technology Equipment and Software

There are two adaptive computer stations located in the Student Accessibility Services office (Kearney 300) and one in the Kearney Open Lab (accessible 24/7 by card swipe). All adaptive computer stations feature Kurzweil 3000, a reading software program. Kurzweil 3000 scans any printed document, displays an exact image and reads the text aloud, while highlighting the spoken word and sentence. In addition, the Kurzweil program can magnify text larger than a conventional copy machine.

The stations in Kearney 300 also include Dragon Naturally Speaking, a word processor with voice activation capabilities. Students can use Dragon Naturally Speaking as a hands-free way to compose papers, reports, etc. by speaking into the computer with the use of a headset and microphone. Individual training to use the Naturally Speaking program will be provided as needed. Both programs are potentially useful for students who need readers for tests and for those who are better able to produce essays using a computer rather than handwriting.

Snap&Read Universal is a text reader that reads text aloud on the widest range of accessible and inaccessible text on your computer. The OCR (Optical Character Recognition) feature in Snap&Read Universal allows users to read inaccessible text like Flash or image-based PDFs. Highlights of the program include:

  • Reads accessible and inaccessible text aloud
  • Works across Google Drive, email, websites, Kindle Cloud Reader, and PDFs
  • Works offline
  • Dynamic Text Leveling
  • Study tools
  • Translation into 100+ languages on Chrome
  • Data for reading level and usage
  • Bibliographer

A Merlin LCD desktop electronic magnifier is also located in the Student Accessibility Services office. Similar in function to a CCTV, this high-quality flexible LCD magnifier allows individuals with low vision to read and write independently.

More information can be found on the OIT Accessible Software/Workstations page.

Foreign Language Requirement for Bachelor of Arts Degree Programs

A student whose documentation verifies a waiver of the high school foreign language requirement will be exempt from taking the foreign language sequence for the B.A. degree program. However, the student must complete the two-course Core requirement for "Intercultural Perspectives & Languages” (P5). The course options to complete the P5 Core include non-language courses and American Sign Language.

Foreign Language Requirement for NYS Teacher Certification

A two-course sequence in one foreign language or in American Sign Language fills the requirement for NYS Teacher Certification.

Attendance Requirements

Students with and without disabilities are expected to attend all course-related activities. The attendance policy for each course is outlined on the course syllabus. Absences, for any reason, do not relieve the student from responsibility for completing the essential requirements of a course.

Attendance "flexibility" may sometimes be appropriate for students with health-related disabilities that occur episodically or for students with mobility impairments that are impacted by weather. Flexibility does not mean that attendance policies do not apply. Rather, it requires the instructor to consider the function of attendance for a particular class and to make a reasoned decision for the requirement. For some classes (primarily lecture based classes), attendance may not be essential and a certain amount of leniency may be made. However, in a seminar class, a class where group projects are completed, or in field experiences, attendance often becomes an essential function of the class and absences may interfere with the student's (and classmates') educational experience.

The faculty, student, and student accessibility services coordinator should discuss the attendance requirements at the start of each semester and may wish to outline in writing the parameters of any modification to ensure clarity of the plan.

The U.S. Department of Education recommends that the following facts be considered in determining whether attendance is an essential requirement of a course and thus not open to accommodation:

  • Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, and among students?
  • Do student contributions in class constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  • Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on student participation as an essential method of 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 does the course description and syllabus say regarding attendance?
  • What method is used to calculate the final grade?
  • What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?

In the final analysis, the instructor needs to determine how much attendance flexibility can be allowed without altering the essential requirements of the course. The determination of what is "reasonable" at any point in time depends on the impact of the student's disability and the essential nature of class attendance. If students cannot meet the attendance requirements with or without a reasonable accommodation, withdrawal from the course may be the only option to avoid academic penalty. Students are responsible for knowing the withdrawal deadlines posted on the academic calendar.

Sign Language Interpreters

Requests for interpreters must be made in advance. Be sure to send all course, event, and meeting schedules to the student accessibility services coordinator ahead of time to allow for adequate time for services to be arranged. Students should inform the coordinator of a cancelation as early as possible.

Other Accommodations

Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis and are dependent upon each individual's unique needs. The list above is not exhaustive. Students should meet with the student accessibility services coordinator to help decide which accommodations they need in order to have equal access.