Faculty Resources

Fast facts for faculty

Section 504 and FERPA

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 states, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability …shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.“

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of a student’s educational records, including the documentation of a disability. The law applies to all colleges and universities that receive funds from any program under the U.S. Department of Education.

Title II, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

The ADA uses the same definition of disability as does Section 504. However, it provides clarification of the phrase otherwise qualified. To be otherwise qualified, an individual with a disability must meet the essential eligibility requirements for admission and participation in the college or university’s programs, with or without:

  1. Reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices;
  2. Removal of architectural, communication, or transportation  barriers;
  3. Provision of auxiliary aids and services.

Rights and Responsibilities

Rights of Students w/ Disabilities:

Be in higher education if they are otherwise qualified to be there; equal access to courses, programs, services, jobs, activities, and facilities available through the university; reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids and services; appropriate confidentiality of all information pertaining to their disability with the choice of whom to disclose their disability, except as required by law; information that is readily available in accessible formats.

Responsibilities of Students w/ Disabilities:

Meet and maintain the qualifications and university standards for courses, programs, services, jobs, and activities; provide current and comprehensive documentation of a diagnosed disability to the university’s disability services office; follow the procedures outlined by the disability services office in order to obtain accommodations; notify their instructors of their need for accommodations; advocate for their own needs.

Faculty Rights:

Maintain academic standards of courses; determine course content and how it will be taught; confirm a student’s request for accommodations and ask for clarification about a specific accommodation with the disability services office; deny a request for accommodation if the student has not been approved for such accommodation; deny accommodations for students not registered with the disability services office; award grades appropriate to the level of student’s demonstration of mastery of material.

Faculty Responsibilities:

To understand the laws and college’s guidelines regarding students with disabilities; refer students to the disability services office when necessary; provide requested accommodations and academic adjustments to students who have documented disabilities in a timely manner; maintain appropriate confidentiality of records concerning students with disabilities, except when disclosure is required by law or authorized by the student; provide handouts, video tapes, and other course materials in accessible formats upon request; evaluate students based on their abilities rather than their disabilities.

Working with Students with Disabilities

Purpose of Accommodations

Under the law, accommodations are not implemented to give students an unfair advantage; rather, accommodations are intended to give students with disabilities an equal opportunity to achieve the same results that other students have the opportunity to achieve.
NOTE: Approved accommodations may not always be applicable or appropriate for every class.

  • If an accommodation fundamentally alters the nature of the course or changes the standards of the course, it may be modified or denied.
  • Faculty should examine the essential core elements and structure of their course and work in collaboration with SDS to make this determination.
  • Faculty should NOT provide accommodations without an accommodation approval letter through the SDS Office.

Providing Information About SDS

  • It is imperative to include a statement in your syllabus which supplies the contact information for SDS. Encourage meeting with students to discuss possible accommodations as they relate to your specific course and their individual disability.
  • If a student approaches you about a disability they believe they have and/or a request for accommodations without the necessary Letter of Accommodation from the SDS; you should provide the contact information and explain the importance of registering with SDS.
  • Accommodations may be requested at any point in the semester.
  • Faculty should NOT provide accommodations independently without an approval letter from SDS.

Faculty Syllabus Statement Example

“Students in need of academic accommodations for a disability may consult with the office of Students Disability Services (SDS) to arrange appropriate accommodations. Students are required to give reasonable notice prior to requesting an accommodation.”

  • The contact information for SDS should also be included in the statement.
  • SDS recommends that professors also make an announcement at the first class meeting informing students of the available services.

Receiving an Accommodation letter from SDS

  • Meet with the student privately and establish a plan to provide or implement the accommodations.
  • Discuss and establish clear expectations immediately.
  • If you feel unsure about how to implement the accommodations, SDS is a resource you should use, along with the student.
  • Continued communication with the student is important. Confirm with the student that the accommodation(s) is (are) effective and re-evaluate the implementation of the accommodation(s).
  • Contact SDS if you feel a student is misusing an approved accommodation and/or if the accommodation is threatening the academic integrity or standards of your course.

Establishing Clear Expectations


  • Flexible Attendance: Determine how many absences will be accepted, how/when the student will notify you when they will be missing class and outlining how the student will be expected to make up missed work, exams, etc.
  • Extended Due Dates for Assignments: Determine how much notice you will require if a student is requesting an extension, how long of an extension will be provided, how the student will submit the work, how frequently the student may request extensions, any assignments that have due dates which cannot be extended, etc.
  • Exam Accommodations: Determine the procedures for a student requesting exam accommodations, how much of a notice will be required, how the student will present you with the Exam Form to complete, if the student can take the exam before/after the class (if using the SDS Exam Room), etc.

Reasonable vs. Unreasonable Accommodations:

Reasonable accommodations are modifications to academic requirements that are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate on the basis of disability.

Accommodations are NOT considered reasonable if making the accommodation or allowing participation poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, requires a substantial change in an essential element of the curriculum, and/or imposes an undue financial or administrative burden.

  • The course requirements/standards should be held equally to all students.
  • If a faculty feels an accommodation is unreasonable for their class, they should immediately contact SDS.

New College

SDS Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are a quick resource for faculty working with students with disabilities.

Read more here