Students with disabilities are expected to adhere to the same attendance policies as other students. However, it is a reality that some students have disabilities that may cause an increase in class absences. There is no clear guidance on whether or not an attendance policy must be waived or extended should a student with a disability exceed the number of allowed absences. However, you are responsible for the following:
- Informing students of your attendance policy.
- Meeting with students who wish to discuss the attendance policy.
- Explaining why you will or will not extend your attendance policy and the rationale(s) for this decision.
If you have an attendance policy that is not flexible in any way, be sure to articulate the legitimate pedagogical rationale(s) for this policy.
The Office for Civil Rights offers the following guidelines in determining whether attendance is an essential aspect of the course:
- Are there classroom interactions between the instructor and students, and among students?
- Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method for 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 do the course description and syllabus say?
- Which method is used to calculate the final grade?
- What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
How Student Disability Services Can Help
- We meet with students to discuss their concerns and answer any questions they may have concerning attendance and disabilities.
- The same basic information provided to instructors about this issue is discussed with the student to ensure that they have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities in these areas and the rights and responsibilities of the instructors.
- Students are informed of the need for proper medical documentation.
- Students are strongly encouraged to inform their doctor/medical team that they are attending college and to share an understanding of the academic rigors of their program with their doctor/medical team.
- Students are informed of the need to discuss the attendance policy with each instructor.
- Students are given accommodation letters to provide to the instructor as part of a one-on-one conversation. The letters will help instructors know that the student has provided appropriate documentation to the college and that the request to consider an extension of policy is legitimate.
- Students are encouraged to use absences for disability-related reasons only, in order to help minimize the actual number of missed classes.
- Students are encouraged to provide timely notifications as early in the semester as possible.
- The office is available to answer questions from instructors and help faculty develop fair and reasonable policies.
Additional Guidelines on Attendance
- Familiarize yourself with the attendance policy of your division and related protocol and procedures. Know who to speak to should you have questions concerning this policy.
- Convey verbally and in writing your attendance policy. Ask any student who believes they may have reason(s) to exceed the maximum number of absences to see you immediately. If the student's reason is disability-related, discuss this with the student and refer him or her to the director of Disability Services. Tell him/her that you will talk in more detail once a letter is received from the Disability Services office.
- Include information on partial attendance (arrive late/leaving early) and how this translates into absences. If a student is arriving late on a consistent basis and claims it is disability-related, refer the student to the Disability Services office.
- Have clear reasons why attendance is important to the academic integrity of your class/program. Stress important factors such as sharing of ideas, hands-on learning experiences, and critical feedback that take place in the classroom.
- Discuss with the student possible ways to make up missed work. This could include reviewing certain texts, utilizing tutorials, and providing special projects and assignments.
- Provide the student with a means of contacting you, such as an email address.
- Ask the student to see you after each absence to discuss missed work.
- It may not always be reasonable to request a doctor's letter for each missed class. Students may not always go to the doctor when they are out sick or for other disability-related reasons (such as a broken wheelchair), just as you may not always go to a doctor when you call in sick to work. Students may wish to provide you with such letters, however. It is important that students understand the need to use absences sparingly for non-disability-related reasons to help minimize the number of missed classes.
- Alert the student as soon as possible if he or she has exceeded the allowed number of absences. Likewise, inform the student should you feel it is no longer possible for that student to receive a passing grade.
- Utilize Student Disability Services if you have any questions or concerns. Encourage the student to work closely with support services.
- Keep an attendance log that includes all students. Do not keep attendance only for certain students.