Disabled students face many barriers related to accessing higher education (Consider: Research Brief: Higher Education and the ADA | ADA National Network (adata.org). One of the barriers disabled students face is programmatic, relating to the overall structure of academic programs and coursework. Essentially, for some students, the strict nature of assignments deadlines can prevent equitable demonstration of full mastery of course content.
Until now, the DAC has used a suite of accommodations to ensure accessible learning for students with chronic, episodic disabilities. This suite was intended to provide flexibility within class policies and ensure that students with disabilities were not disproportionately penalized for symptom flares. This suite of accommodations included disability-related absences, make-up exams proctored by the DAC, extra time on in-class and short turnaround assignments, and consideration for flexible deadlines on longer-term assignments.
Faculty have pointed out that their curricula are consciously designed to achieve carefully planned learning objectives; as written, these particular accommodations may be difficult to implement in the context of the classroom. At the same time, neither ADA precedent nor disability justice allow the DAC to put students in the position of negotiating accommodations with faculty.
Thus, the DAC is piloting the Flex Plan in the hopes of increasing faculty input on classroom accommodations while ensuring that student rights are protected.
Flex Plan Pilot Program - Faculty FAQ
FLEX accommodations facilitate access to educational content for students with chronic, unpredictable disabilities, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Examples of chronic, unpredictable disabilities include, but are not limited to, chronic pain disorders, autoimmune disorders, and some mental health conditions.
DAC Flex Plan recommendations have been formed through collaboration with campus stakeholders, professional organizations, and peer exemplars. These guidelines are not meant to be mandates and may not work for every student or class.
Students should notify faculty when missing class for disability-related reasons: DAC recommends that students notify instructors of absence via email in advance of the absence (if possible) or within 48 hours.
How many days may the student miss (beyond those stated in the syllabus): DAC recommends that, if attendance is graded via roll call or participation, faculty facilitate 50% more absences than allowed in the syllabus attendance policy.
in the context of your class, how much additional time is reasonable for late assignments? DAC recommends that students submit late assignments within 72 hours of the initial deadline.
If a student misses an exam for disability-related reasons, the DAC recommends that students schedule a makeup exam within 5 days of missing an assessment. If the DAC is to proctor the makeup exam, students must schedule a DAC-proctored makeup exam 2 business days in advance.
The Flex Plan is intended to create a reasonable modification, where appropriate, to the classroom attendance and assignment deadlines policies of each course but is not intended to serve as an attendance or assignment submission waiver. Rather, the Flex Plan allows for flexibility in attendance, assignment due dates, and exam scheduling.
The Flex Plan insulates students and faculty from the risks of negotiating the parameters of an approved accommodation or the inadvertent denial of an accommodation without due process.
Using the FLEX plan contract, faculty have a chance to provide the DAC with feedback on how classroom accommodations interact with course learning objectives.
The FLEX plan also creates a clear contract with accommodated students to avoid misunderstandings around accommodated absences and due dates. The Flex plan places the DAC as a support for faculty and students navigating classroom accommodation implementation.
Course attendance policies are set by faculty and depend on University policy, course learning objectives, departmental policy, scheduled experiential activities (i.e., labs), and accrediting body standards. Faculty are not required to modify essential course requirements in order to implement flex accommodations.
Faculty have the right to establish attendance and late work policies in accordance with Western Washington University policy (see faculty handbook for attendance policies). All students are expected to attend class and meet deadlines for assignments and tests.
However, students with chronic or episodic disability-related symptoms face barriers outside of their control, which impact their ability to attend class and complete tests or assignments at the scheduled time. The Flex Plan addresses attendance and assignment deadline-related barriers for students who are impacted by chronic, episodic disability-related symptoms.
The instructor’s class policy on late work (e.g., 10 points off a grade for each day late) will remain applicable even to students with Flex Plan accommodation if they fail to meet the agreed upon disability-related extension, or if they miss deadlines for other non-disability related reasons.
As a reminder, accommodations are not retroactive; instructors are not obligated to adjust previous penalties for late work if accommodation letter is provided after-the-fact.
If faculty believe that implementing Flex plan accommodations will constitute a fundamental alteration of course learning objectives, they should contact the DAC's Director, Dr. Josef Mogharreban at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 360-650-3083.
Denial of approved disability-related accommodations is an institutional decision made by an ad-hoc committee assembled by the DAC.
When the DAC determines that a student qualifies for a disability-related Flex plan, the DAC recommendations are implemented initially. If the professor is concerned about how the DAC recommendations will impact learning objectives, faculty should complete the DAC Flex Plan Proposal form to offer helpful suggestions and begin an interactive process with the DAC.
The Flex plan is not intended to provide unlimited flexibility and should only be applied in the event of a disability-related acute episode or other disability-related event, per student report. It is never appropriate to ask for or otherwise require a medical note from a student.
- What does the class description and syllabus say about assignment deadlines or late work?
- How is the final class grade calculated? To what extent are assignments factored into the final grade? Are there any alternative grading schemes for assignments (i.e. one assignment grade may be dropped, etc.)?
- Are assignment deadline policies consistently applied? (i.e.., Have any exceptions made to the policy for non-disabled students, such as for athletic travel or religious observances? If so, then these exceptions must also be granted to students with disabilities.)
- What is the purpose of the assignment? Is it necessary to have it completed before an exam? Before a discussion?
- Is the material being learned in the class sequentially? Does each week’s material build on the material learned in the previous week(s)? (This may shorten the window of time in which an extension can reasonably be granted.)
- Are assignments used as class content when they are due? Are students required to actively participate in class discussions/activities based off of the assignment? (e.g. problem sets reviewed as the first lecture on that content)
- Are answer sets released that would impact a student’s ability to request an extension? If so, how important is the timeliness of providing the answer sets to student learning and course sequencing?
- Are there other lab or class sections the student could attend to catch up on missed material?
- Does the assignment involve teamwork? Would failure to complete the assignment on time compromise the educational experience of other students in the class?
- Is it possible for students to “work ahead” in this class?
If attendance is graded, the DAC recommends that faculty allow students with Flex Plans to miss up to 50% more classes than allowed in the syllabus attendance policy.
Students should plan to work with faculty and peers to gain access to missed content.
Increase attendance and decrease the amount of collaboration required to help students catch up by allowing live remote attendance via Zoom. For tips, click here.
Reduce the amount of collaboration required to help students catch up by recording class lectures using Zoom and posting the recording to the course Canvas page.
Designate a volunteer class notetaker for each class. Ask the volunteer class notetaker to post their notes to Canvas for each class session.
Post all written course materials to Canvas.
The DAC Testing Center is available to help proctor exams when a Flex-approved student misses an exam for a disability-related reason.
The DAC recommends that students make up missed exams within 5 business days of missing a scheduled quiz or exam.
Faculty Responsibility: Faculty must submit the exam and complete a Testing Agreement at MyDAC. If faculty have questions, they should reach out to the DAC at 360-650-3083 or by emailing email@example.com.
Student Responsibility: Students who want to test in the DAC testing center must schedule makeup exams via MyDAC 2 business days in advance.
When students need flexible deadlines for disability-related reasons, DAC recommends that faculty allow 72 hours of additional time.
Some assignments may be time-sensitive and may not allow for flexibility. If you have questions about whether you can implement flexible deadlines for some assignments, or how to do so, contact the DAC at 360-650-3083 or at DRSFrontDesk@wwu.edu.
Tip: When online discussion boards are part of class requirements, allow multiple forms of submission to facilitate timely participation. For example, allow students to upload their thoughts in writing, via an audio recording, or via a video clip in Canvas. For questions on these Canvas settings, contact ATUS via email or by calling 360-650-3333. Canvas resources are available here.
Summer 2022, gathering exemplars, Access Committee work, collaboration with AIM, developing administrative tools and process
Fall 2022, initial launch in classroom with limited number of students
Winter 2023, incorporate faculty and student feedback and continue limited pilot
Fall 2023, determine capacity for full-DAC implementation