Fundamental Alteration of a Course or Program
There may be times that the student and/or the ADA Panel request an accommodation that a professor believes may compromise the academic integrity or create a fundamental alteration of the course and/or program. To determine whether an accommodation fundamentally alters the nature of a course, instructional staff members who teach or who have taught the course should:
- Identify the essential academic standards of the course; requirements that go to the very nature of the subject matter or that are of the utmost importance in achieving the course/program objective.
- Articulate specific requirements that individual instructors believe are fundamental to teaching the course/program, taking academic freedom into consideration.
- Identify the unique qualities of the course/program in relation to its overall objectives and any program in which the course is required.
- Engage in "reasoned deliberation" as to whether modification of the course/program would change the fundamental academic standards, and
- Determine whether there are any options to the fundamental requirements of the course/program.
- Why is the standard that the instructor believes will be lowered important to the course/program?
- Is the standard the better way (or the only way) to achieve the desired academic objective?
- Will the requested accommodation lower the academic standards of the course/program?
- Can a different method or requirement that will not be altered by the accommodation achieve the required academic or pedagogical result?
- If not, why not?
The decision to deny an accommodation should not be taken lightly. Institutions have found themselves in legal trouble for devoting insufficient thought to the conclusion that a requested accommodation should be denied.
Answering the above questions and documenting the process will allow instructors to establish that they have carefully evaluated the awarded accommodation and the course/program objectives. Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to a student with a disability is a violation of law, putting in jeopardy an institution's federal funding. However, disability laws also require that students with disabilities meet the "essential," "academic," and "technical" standards of the class/program/college.
Nov 19, 2013