Attendance Accommodation

As attendance is often critical to a student’s mastery of knowledge and/or skills, many college instructors establish attendance policies, which are mentioned in their syllabi. Students are expected to follow attendance policies established by the instructor in each class.  However, the university recognizes that there may be times when a qualified student with a disability cannot attend class because of disability-related reasons.

When is an Attendance Accommodation Appropriate?

The disabilities covered under this accommodation are typically chronic or episodic in nature. This accommodation allows for a reasonable amount of excused absences and the ability to make up missed assignments, exams and quizzes within a specified amount of time. Implementation of this accommodation is determined on a case by case basis.

If you are contacted by OARS about attendance as a possible accommodation, we will seek an understanding in the role attendance plays in the design of your course. As well a basic understanding of the impact or role timing of assignments and exams plays on the interactive or participatory nature of a course.

What are the Expectations of the Students?

This accommodation still requires that:

  • Students attend class regularly, arrive prepared for class, and be knowledgeable of the course material previously covered
  • Students participate in all course requirements such as exams, assignments, and other coursework
  • Students need to complete the same essential components and objectives of the course as stated in the syllabus  
  • Students may only use this accommodation for disability-related reasons that are documented through OARS  

Regardless of the attendance accommodation, the student is required to meet all of the academic course requirements and to complete all assignments and examinations. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain the material and notes for missed classes. The student will be graded according to the criteria stated in the class syllabus. If a student finds that he or she is not doing well in the class due to extended absences, the student is urged to consider options such as dropping the class, withdrawing from the class, or taking an incomplete.

Modification of the attendance policy does not mean that unlimited absences will be permitted. The number of absences permitted will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Absences for non-disability related reasons will not be excused.  It is important that the student not abuse the accommodation regarding the attendance policy.  If this occurs, the student will be asked to meet with the Director of the Office of Accessibility Resources and Services and the faculty member.  If intentional accommodation abuse has occurred, the student could be subject to violation of the academic integrity policy located in the Student Handbook.  

What is the Process?

  1. The Office of Accessibility Resources and Services(OARS) determines that the accommodation is reasonable on a case-by-case basis. We explain to students that this does not mean that they can miss as many classes as they want. Also, the student is responsible for completing all course work.
  2. OARS registered students sign e-form agreements indicating they understand how the accommodation is provisioned. Students submit their accommodation requests via myDRC database and accommodation letters will be sent to faculty via email.
  3. OARS will send an online Attendance Accommodation Agreement form to faculty along with guidance on how to fill out the agreement form. Any questions should be directed to OARS at (501) 450-3613. The faculty member should complete and submit the form within three business days. 
    • Tip: A general rule to consider in determining a reasonable time frame for a makeup or postponement of an assignment, paper, exam or quiz is typically a minimum of 48 hours. In certain courses, it may be appropriate to consider an alternative assignment, reading or project to make up for missed class discussions or projects. Other examples of how disability absences might be accommodated may include the ability to turn in assignment/papers late without a grade penalty or the ability to make up any assignments, quizzes or exams that have been missed without a grade penalty.
  4.  OARS will send the agreement to the student once it is received from the faculty member and approved by OARS.
  5. If the student has concerns or questions, regarding what the faculty has indicated in the agreement, OARS will resolve these issues with conversations between faculty and/or students.
  6. Once the agreement is sent to the student it will be considered active in three business days if the student does not respond. If the student notifies OARS that they approve the agreement, it will be considered active immediately. OARS, the student, and the faculty member will all receive a copy of the agreement.
  7. Once the plan is in place, the student is required to contact their instructor each time the accommodation is used due to a disability-related absence. Please contact OARS if questions or concerns arise.

If the student and faculty are not in agreement on the Attendance Accommodation Plan the OARS representative will request a meeting with the faculty member, chair of the department, and the dean to go through the Accommodation Determination/Fundamental Alteration Protocol.

What is the Accommodation Determination/Fundamental Alteration Protocol?

While OARS makes every effort to reasonably accommodate a student’s disability-related needs, attendance requirements are not waived if doing so would fundamentally alter the essential nature of a course. In some cases, attendance is fundamental to course objectives: for example, students may be required to interact with others in the class, to demonstrate the ability to think and argue critically, or to participate in group projects. In other instances, faculty may determine that students can master course content despite some or many absences.

In order to determine if attendance is fundamental to course objectives, an interactive process will be established between the OARS representative, the faculty member, department chair, and the dean who collectively are knowledgeable about the academic area, any related licensing requirements, any applicable accreditation for the course of study, the student’s disability, and accommodation methods. This group will meet to go obtain more information about the course following the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) guidance.

Federal law requires colleges and universities to consider reasonable modification of attendance policies if required to accommodate a student’s disability. In making this determination, two questions must be answered:

  1. Does the student have a documented disability that directly affects his/her ability to attend class on a regular basis? OARS will make this determination based on a review of documentation from the student’s physician, psychologist or other appropriate specialist and through an interactive registration process with the student him/herself.
  2. Are attendance and participation an essential element of the class? More specifically, would modification of attendance policies result in a fundamental alteration of an​ essential element of the program? OARS will make this determination in collaboration, with faculty members and appropriate department chairs, deans and the Provost if necessary.

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) provided the following guidelines to be used in considering whether attendance is an essential element of a course:

  1. What is the course attendance policy? What do the course description and syllabus say?
  2. What elements of the class experience are used to calculate the final grade?  (attendance, assignments, exams, etc.)
  3. Is the attendance policy and late work or missed exam policy applied consistently? Are there
    exceptions to the policy made for extenuating circumstances, such as athletic travel or religious
  4. To what extent is the classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among students?
  5. Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  6. Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on student participation as an essential method for learning? Attendance and/or their assignment (project) contributions.
  7. To what degree does a student’s failure to attend class or do an assignment on time constitute a significant loss of the educational experience of other students in the class?
  8. Are there alternate ways that the student can acquire or demonstrate mastery of the skill that would meet the same fundamental objectives of the course or program?   (Alternative assignment, reading, or project to make up for missed class discussions or projects.)

If the OARS representative, the faculty member, department chair, and dean have explored this issue in a well-reasoned manner, without resort to a pretext for discrimination, and believes the accommodation would fundamentally alter the essential elements of the course or program and no reasonable alternative accommodations exist, then the accommodation can be denied. 

What are Reasonable versus Unreasonable Accommodations?

Reasonable accommodations are modifications to University rules, policies, or practices that are designed to provide a student with a disability with an equal opportunity to meet academic and technical standards. The University is not required to modify its rules, policies, or practices to the extent that these modifications would “fundamentally alter” the essential nature of its programs and is not required to make fundamental changes to its core degree requirements.

  • This accommodation is not a blanket reason to miss class.
  • Faculty are still responsible for this accommodation even if they delay in responding to OARS.
  • Some students register late in the term and some wait to respond to the need to sign the agreement. In these cases, faculty are not expected to provide retroactive accommodations. However, it may still be helpful to have this information, even at a late point in the term.
  • At no time is the student required to present the faculty member with medical documentation verifying his/her disability related absence for this accommodation.
  • If the absences meet or exceed 50% of those agreed upon in the Attendance Accommodation Agreement, the OARS should be informed. This will allow OARS to be of assistance in answering questions about the accommodations from both the student and the faculty member.
  • Absences that are not related to the effects of a disability are not included in this accommodation (i.e. Absences due to a common illness, car trouble, etc.) and should be addressed according to the syllabus stated attendance/absence policy. The student is responsible for following the faculty member’s syllabus regarding absences due to non-disability related issues.
  • An accommodation in attendance is not reasonable if regular attendance is essential to the course and/or curriculum.
  • Faculty are not obligated to re-teach material missed due to not attending class.
  • Not every course component can be provided an extension.
  • Students have the responsibility for completing all class work and should be held to the same standard as all other students.