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FAQs For Faculty

What is a Disability?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a "person with a disability; includes any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (ii) has a record of such impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having an impairment."

What is the procedure for students with disabilities to obtain accommodations at Community College of Rhode Island?

The process of registering as a student with a disability includes three elements in order to be considered complete:

Step 1: Students are required to self-disclose their disability. They should make an appointment to meet with the Office of Disability Services. During this appointment, the campus coordinator and the student will discuss the college's Policies and Procedures for Students with Disabilities and the student's specific accommodation needs.

Step 2: Documentation of the disability must be provided from a qualified, licensed and impartial professional and must contain a comprehensive assessment including, when possible, clearly identified recommendations for accommodations. See Guidelines for Providing Documentation of Disability to the Community College of Rhode Island. Appropriate accommodations for each student are based upon the specific recommendations and justifications for reasonable accommodations provided in the disability documentation.

Step 3: The Request for Accommodation (RFA) letter will be delivered electronically via email and the professor should reply to the DSS Coordinator. This RFA confirms to CCRI Faculty and Staff that the student is registered with the Office of Disability Services and is eligible for the requested accommodations. In order to protect the rights and privacy of students with disabilities, the student's disability documentation will remain confidential and will not be released without the student's informed and written consent. However, faculty are encouraged to use this interaction as an opportunity to discuss the shared responsibility of implementing the accommodations and develop a specific plan for their course.

What do I need to know about Request for Accommodation letters?
  1. Once DSS has reviewed the student's disability documentation and determined that a student is qualified under the law, Request for Accommodations (RFA) letters are prepared by DSS coordinators. Both the DSS coordinator and student then sign the RFA.
  2. Request for Accommodation letters will be delivered electronically to professors via email. Professors are asked to reply to the Coordinator as a form of receipt as early in the semester as possible. Receipt of the emailed RFA is the faculty member's assurance that the student has a documented disability and is eligible for reasonable accommodations.
  3. The Office of Disability Services strongly encourages the faculty member to use this interaction as an opportunity to invite student to meet privately during office hours to discuss the shared responsibility of implementing the accommodations and develop a plan specific to the course. Faculty may make copies of the RFA letters, as needed. Faculty members should direct all questions or concerns regarding the accommodation, to the DSS coordinator personally to discuss their concerns.
  4. Testing and classroom accommodations become effective on the date that the Request for Accommodations letter is emailed to the professor and are only valid through the end of the semester. Accommodations are not retroactive.
What are the responsibilities of the student with a disability who is receiving accommodations?

Please visit the Shared Responsibility page for answers to this question.

What does The Office of Disability Services recommend I include in my Syllabi?
  • Faculty are encouraged to add a statement to their syllabi regarding the Community Colleges of Rhode Island's commitment to assure reasonable access to academic programs, opportunities, and activities for students with documented disabilities.
  • A similar announcement to the class at the beginning of the semester is suggested.
  • Sample Syllabus Statement:
    "Services for Students with Disabilities: Any student with a documented disability may arrange reasonable accommodations. As part of this process, students are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services for Students as early in the semester as possible ("
What do I need to know about Testing Accommodations?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice ADA Title III regulations, post-secondary institutions must offer exams and courses in a location and manner that is accessible to individuals with disabilities or offer alternative accessible arrangements. Examinations should be administered so that the results accurately reflect the individual's aptitude or achievement level, not the impairment.

Typical testing accommodations, including extra time and/or a separate location for testing, are provided by professors within their respective departments, typically during office hours. If faculty experience scheduling conflicts in providing these testing accommodations due to professional responsibilities, the Office of Disability Services should be contacted for support.

In specialized cases, the Office of Disability Services will provide other testing accommodations, such as scribes, readers, assistive technology, or sign-language interpreters.

Please note, extended time for exams allows a student to have additional time to complete the exam, NOT the ability to take the exam at a later date. However, if faculty are going to utilize DSS to proctor an exam, scheduling conflicts may arise that necessitate this situation.

For example: a student's RFA specified time and a half for quizzes and exams. The quiz was given at the beginning of class followed by a lecture and discussion. The faculty member was concerned that if the accommodation for extra time was provided during the class's quiz time the student would then miss the important notes and discussion that followed. The faculty member and the student opted to schedule the student's quiz at a later date so that access to course content was not compromised.

Will providing a student with accommodations give him or her advantage over other students?

No. Providing accommodations simply levels the playing field so that the student with the disability has an opportunity that is equal to the other students' to learn and demonstrate mastery of course material.

Will providing accommodations mean that I will have to restructure my course and lessen the requirements of the course?

Accommodations should never change course standards or the essential functions of the course. All students, including students with disabilities, must meet the requirements of a course - with or without accommodations. Accommodations are adjustments that help ensure that students are not excluded from the course because of a disability.

Should I accommodate a student with a disability who does NOT provide a Request for Reasonable Accommodation letter?

The request for accommodations letter is the professor's assurance that there is a legitimate need for accommodation and that the student has followed the appropriate channels. When students request accommodations without a letter they should be referred to the Disability Services office.

While it is encouraged to refer any accommodation request to the Office of Disability Services, if it is an accommodation that the professor would feel comfortable providing for any student (for example, closing the door to reduce distractions, providing seating near a window for natural light), the accommodation may be provided without consulting with the Office of Disability Services.

Do I have the right to deny a student an accommodation if I feel that it is not necessary in my course?

It would be more appropriate to discuss (with the student and Disability Services) how the requested accommodation could be adjusted to the format/goals of your course. While accommodations should never change course standards or the essential function of the course, denying an accommodation might be interpreted as excluding the student. When a letter from the Disability Services office is presented to a professor, the accommodations that are being requested are based on a thorough review of the student's documentation of disability and are necessary for the student's equal participation in the course. Instructors are encouraged to contact the DSS office for support.

I have a student with a disability who is failing my course. Is there something that I should be doing differently to help this student succeed?

All students, including those who have disabilities, can fail courses. However, as you would with any student in trouble, it is appropriate to address the issue with the student and/or the Disability Services office. It is possible that different accommodations or different preparation strategies will help the student succeed. For additional resources please visit the success center's website.

I received an accommodation letter requesting that a student in my class be given extended time on exams. There are classes taught in the same classroom before and after my class, so how can this student get extended time if they can't begin early or stay after class?

In this instance, the professor is asked to find an alternative time and place for the student to take the exam so that the student is assured the necessary extended time in which to take the exam. A possible alternative is to have the student take the exam during office hours in the professor's office or another private space in the department. Another alternative is to call the Office of Disability Services on your campus and request that arrangements be made in the DSS testing labs or with the coordinator for that campus. Typically one week advance notice is considered adequate to make the necessary arrangements. All campuses currently have staff available during daytime and limited evening hours to proctor exams.  For information regarding your campus, please refer to the DSS homepage for information and/or contact the DSS coordinator that signed your RFA form.

When should I refer a student to Disability Services?

Faculty members are encouraged to refer students to Disability Services if the student has disclosed that they have a disability.

Why is specific information about a student's disability withheld from faculty, rather than holding faculty to the same standards regarding privacy as the Disability Services staff?
  1. Providing students with assurance that their documentation of disability will be kept confidential encourages students to identify with DSS and request the help they need. While all students with disabilities appreciate this policy, populations with highly sensitive diagnoses (e.g.: some student veterans, and some mental health care recipients) often perceive this agreement as critical to maintaining their integrity.
  2. According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, (FERPA) documentation of a disability is considered "personally identifiable information" and is a confidential and protected educational record. Please visit The US Department of Education website for further information.
  3. Focusing the conversation on the request for accommodations rather than the nature of a student's disability helps to protect the institution, DSS staff and faculty member from potential legal matters that may imply specific discrimination. This is in direct compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended 2008, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.