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Faculty FAQ

Academic Accommodations (General)

OAS promotes equal access for WVU students by authorizing reasonable and effective accommodations. We do not assess, diagnose, or treat disabilities, nor do we investigate or adjudicate complaints for noncompliance with accessibility law.

A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment designed to provide equal access to courses and educational programs at WVU. Accommodations mitigate the impact of a student’s Disability without compromising the academic integrity of the course.

Accessibility Specialists are responsible for determining which accommodations are appropriate, based on review of medical documentation, the functional limitations identified by each medical provider, and disability law. They ensure that all documentation meets the standards required for authorization of accommodations at WVU.

If you have received a notification of accommodation email from OAS, then the student has presented medical documentation that verifies their status as a person with a Disability, legally eligible for accommodation at WVU.

Under the law, faculty are not considered need-to-know personnel and are not entitled to have information about a student’s Disability. Students may offer information about their Disability, but as a faculty member it would be illegal for you to request or require that a student disclose their Disability. If a student discloses their Disability, you are required to maintain confidentiality.

Because all disabilities present themselves uniquely, based on the individual, knowing a student’s diagnosis would not be helpful in accommodating them. Knowing what their accommodations are, and discussing how to implement those accommodations, based on their needs and the course setup is, however, an important part of the interactive process for receiving accommodations.

Determining accommodations does not fall under the scope of practice for faculty, and if faculty were to take on that role, it would place both the institution and the faculty member at considerable liability. By law, students have a right to choose whether/when they wish to make use of the accommodations that they are authorized to receive. Sometimes, students may feel that they do not need to make use of their accommodations, and that is their choice. It does not mean that they have been incorrectly diagnosed or authorized to receive an accommodation for which they should not be eligible. It simply means that, in this instance, they have elected not to make use of the accommodation for some reason. For instance, a student who is hard of hearing may, may make use of their transcribing accommodations in one class but find that they are unnecessary in a different class, based on which approach is most effective in a given classroom environment. If a student with extended time on an exam finishes early and does not make use of their extended time, it just means that they finished the exam early as any other student might.

Accessibility is a shared responsibility. Under the ADA, the “interactive process” is the method used to determine if a student has a Disability that qualifies them to receive reasonable academic accommodations. If so, the process also works to determine how those academic accommodations will be implemented in the classroom. This process requires communication between the student, OAS, and faculty.

Accessibility Services Responsibilities

  • Meeting with students and authorizing appropriate accommodations based on documentation
  • Communicating rights and responsibilities to students during intake
  • Communicating a student’s eligibility for accommodations to faculty
  • Maintaining records that verify Disability
  • Collaborating with students, faculty, and staff to provide guidance regarding the implementation of accommodations
  • Maintaining student privacy and confidentiality

Student Responsibilities

  • Renewing accommodations in the OAS online system at the start of each semester
  • Discussing the specific implementation of accommodations with each instructor, and digitally signing the Notification of Authorized Accommodations email during/after the initial meeting with the instructor
  • Promptly notifying OAS of any barriers encountered during implementation of accommodations
  • Informing faculty and OAS staff if they wish to discontinue the use of authorized accommodations
  • Maintaining academic standards
  • Abiding by the WVU Campus Student Code

Faculty Responsibilities

  • Confirming that OAS has officially authorized the requested accommodations when uncertain
  • Confirming that accommodations do not compromise the technical standards of the course and the learning objectives. Please ask your department chair for additional information about technical standards and/or contact OAS before declining to provide an accommodation
  • Working with the student to implement accommodations, and digitally signing the Notification of Authorized Accommodation email during/after the initial meeting with the student
  • Implementing authorized accommodations within one week, once requested by the student, and adjusting as necessary to ensure effectiveness
  • Notifying OAS of any questions, issues, or concerns related to accommodations, especially accommodation requests that are unusual or complex
  • Maintaining student privacy and confidentiality

Each class is unique, so initial discussions with students are necessary to determine the best way to implement accommodations in a specific class.

You may discuss with your department or program leadership how accommodations are typically implemented in your department.

If you still aren’t sure how best to accommodate the student, please reach out to the Accessibility Specialist listed on the notification of accommodations email. We are happy to answer questions and assist you.

Being proactive and adopting principles of Universal Design while creating your course can help to ensure that it is accessible. For more information on how to do this, please see our Faculty Resources page. Please reach out to OAS if you have questions.

In some cases, accommodations may not apply to some courses. For instance, if a student is authorized to use a scribe or test reader on an exam but there are no exams in the course, then that accommodation would not apply. Please reach out to OAS if you have questions about the applicability of accommodations to your course.

If you believe the accommodation impedes a technical standard of your program, you should contact the OAS to discuss your concern immediately. Through the interactive process, the accommodations and course standards will be discussed to determine if the accommodation is inappropriate in the specific class. Alternative accommodations can also be discussed at this time.

A student’s Disability-related information must be kept confidential by law. Faculty members should refrain from mentioning or discussing a student’s accommodations or services during class or in front of other students or colleagues. Consultation with your department leadership for the purpose of implementing an accommodation is allowed. Please contact OAS if there are any questions, issues, or concerns regarding an accommodation.

That information is confidential. If students inquire about another student’s accommodation, you may state that the information is confidential.

Students with Disabilities have a right to be accommodated, to have an equal opportunity to succeed on an even playing field. College courses are challenging, and students are evaluated based on their academic performance. As is the case with all students, not every student receiving accommodations earns a passing grade. Faculty should point students to academic resources that might help them (and others) succeed in class, and/or refer them to their academic advisors.

No. You are under no obligation to waive your attendance policy. However, you are strongly encouraged to consider whether regular attendance is essential to your course. Students may miss class due to a variety of medical and health-related issues. There are two broad categories for such absences, including those resulting from emergent or acute medical concerns and illnesses, and those related to a disability(ies).

An acute medical illness or injury is not the same thing as a disability. When a student must be absent from class due to a medical illness or injury, they should contact their instructors directly. In the event of an emergency, the Office of Campus and Community Life can assist students in notifying instructors.

Regarding disability-related absences, an instructor’s choice to excuse students from class is considered an “academic decision.” This means instructors may excuse students at their own discretion. OAS does not issue excuses for absences to any students, regardless of disability.

Students may request their accommodations at any point in the semester, but accommodations cannot be applied retroactively to past assignments.

All students are held to the behavioral expectations set forth by WVU. Conduct issues should be directed to Student Conduct.

At WVU, roughly 10% of students use an accommodation. Nationally, the percentage of individuals with Disabilities is about 15%. Increases in the number of students requesting accommodation may happen for a variety of reasons. As students with Disabilities become more aware of their civil rights, they are more likely to seek accommodation. Likewise, as WVU students with Disabilities become more aware of the Office of Accessibility Services’ mission, they are more likely to utilize OAS as a resource. This is evidence that the system is working to ensure equal access.

Accommodations are provided in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on supporting medical documentation. A variety of disabilities can be accommodated through use of the same accommodation. While it may seem that the accommodations are similar, the functional limitations experienced by each student with a Disability can be mitigated in multiple ways through the approved accommodations.

Unlike high school, where teachers routinely refer students to special education services, in college students are responsible for self-advocacy. If a student expresses concerns to you or offers up information that leads you to believe that they might benefit from accommodations at WVU, you may provide them with information about OAS. For instance, you might ask, “Did you know that WVU has an accessibility services office?” or say, “That is a concern that the folks in the Office of Accessibility Services might be able to assist you with.” This type of discussion should happen in private. For more information, see our Faculty Resources page.

Universal Design looks at what people need to participate fully in their classroom or community, and it argues that all materials should be made accessible, proactively, so that they can be used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their Disability status or other factors.

Consider the following scenario: A student uses screen-reading technology to study the textbooks in her classes. However, when she is assigned a number of PDF scans from journal articles, she finds that the screen reader is unable to read the content in the right order. That is because the PDF was not designed with her in mind. Accommodations help to right-size the impact of that poor design choice by retroactively making that PDF accessible. However, Universal Design would point out that it is more efficient, more effective, less costly, and better for all users, if that PDF were designed with accessibility in mind in the first place.

Accommodation Emails

University BOG Governance Rule 1.6 requires faculty to implement all approved accommodations, except in cases where doing so would violate a Technical Standard of the course. Please contact OAS if you have questions about the appropriateness of an accommodation in your course.

No. Correspondence from OAS may only be sent to your official WVU MIX email because that is the one email address that all faculty receive, regardless of their appointment. However, you may contact ITS to have your MIX email automatically forwarded to your @mail address, if you prefer to receive email there.

No. You are not required to initiate contact with the student. The student must arrange a meeting with you or use office hours to discuss implementation of accommodations. If the student does not meet with you to discuss how accommodations will be implemented, you are under no obligation to provide the accommodations. 

As a reminder, instructors have 7 days to implement accommodations after the initial conversation with the student.

After you have spoken with the student about how to implement the accommodations in your class. 

When signing the letter, it is important that you enter notes regarding your discussion with the student. If a question arises about what was agreed upon, those faculty notes provide important verification.

Let the student know that they should speak with their Accessibility Specialist. If a requested accommodation is not listed on their official accommodation authorization email, it should not be provided.

No. Instructors may not create or enter into personal contracts with students regarding accommodations. If you have concerns about a student misusing accommodations in your class, please reach out to OAS.

While we appreciate your desire to accommodate students, faculty should not create their own unofficial accommodations. Please reach out to OAS if you have questions.

All of the accommodation authorization letters for your classes are available to view at any time on SAMM. You can access these letters by using the link in the email that was sent to your MIX account or by logging in directly through the link in the navigation bar of the Office of Accessibility Services website.

Assistive Technology / Notetaking

Yes. If a student has been authorized to use technology as an accommodation, that legally supersedes non-technology policies. However, a student is only allowed to use their technology in an approved manner and for the purposes authorized. For instance, a student who uses notetaking technology can be asked to put that technology away during administration of a test or quiz (as that is not a notetaking opportunity).

No. If you do not use notes for your lectures, then you are not required to create notes for the purposes of accommodating the student.

If you use PowerPoint slides for your lectures, you are required to provide them to the student as part of the student’s legally authorized accommodation. You may remind the student that they are obligated not to reproduce or share the PowerPoint slides, per our policies.

Closed Captioning

This is normal. Because translating/formatting Braille documents and Closed Captioning course media can both be time-consuming processes, we often reach out in advance of the semester to begin collecting materials in courses where we know a student will be making a request. Under those circumstances, it is reasonable to communicate with OAS directly and to begin making provisions for services in the upcoming semester, even though you have not yet received an official notification of accommodations email yet. That email will be sent closer to the start of the semester, and the student is still expected to meet with you at that time to discuss implementation of accommodations.

Unfortunately, no. At this time, automated and machine captioning offered through YouTube and other platforms does not meet the standards necessary for accommodation in higher education. Occasionally, a creator will upload professional captions to their YouTube content, and our staff always checks for this before recaptioning any content, but in most cases, videos will require captioning through our office. For information on how to check the viability of existing captions, please see our Faculty Resources page.

Media captioned by OAS is done in full compliance with the United States Copyright Office exemption to Section 1201 Rulemaking of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

No! You are welcome to do so, if you want, of course, but closed captioning is a rigorous and time-consuming process. OAS is happy to create captions for you. WVU adheres to the West Virginia University Closed Captioning Quality Guidelines when creating captioned content, and this can be a useful resource for faculty wishing to create their own captions. That said, captioning can be a very time-consuming process, and we encourage you to take advantage of the captioning services offered by OAS if you have never done it before. To request Closed Captioning of media, please contact Kelly Barnard.

The earlier the better. We often request that instructors provide us with links to videos a month ahead of their intended show date, though we recognize this is not always possible, especially at the start of the semester. That said, the earlier you can provide us with the content, the quicker we can get you the captions.

This does occasionally happen. Please send them along anyway. We will do our best to turn these requests around quickly, but we strongly encourage you not to tie any last-minute videos to assignments and grading outcomes.

Absolutely! To request Closed Captioning of media, please contact Kelly Barnard. These services are currently offered free of charge.

For more information regarding custom requests, please see our public event accessibility page.

Turnaround times depend on the length and topic of the video and its positioning in our captioning queue. Longer videos and those that contain sophisticated topics and terminology take much longer than shorter, more general ones. While a four to six week lead time is preferred, we know this isn’t always possible. We can typically turnaround a short video (10 minutes or less) within two days and an hour long video within a week. We prioritize videos on a first come, first serve basis; however, we do take into account other factors, such as length of project, availability of captioners, and due date when strategically assigning video content. As a general rule, the earlier the request, the better. 

We can provide captions for most video formats, including MP4, FLV, AVI, MOV, MPEG, WebM, and WMV. We are able to easily work with videos recorded using tools such as Zoom and Mediasite

Please note that videos recorded using VoiceThread are not currently well suited to captioning requests through OAS.

Both YouTube and Mediasite can be used during the professional captioning process and serve as viable video hosting platforms. 

Captions cannot be created for audio-only files, as there is no visual content onto which we can attach the subtitle lines. That's okay--audio-only files do not require captions to be successful. A written transcript would be the appropriate accommodation in this case, and OAS can assist you with creating one. For more information, please contact Kelly Barnard.

Live Captioning and Sign Language Interpreting

OAS has one of the oldest and most respected auxiliary aids programs in public higher education.

WVU’s Captioners are trained by TypeWell, and they adhere to the Association of Transcribers and Speech-to-text Providers (ATSP) Code of Professional Conduct.

WVU’s Sign Language Interpreters hold either state or national certification, and they adhere to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Code of Professional Conduct.

Captioners and Interpreters are not subject-matter experts. They are experts on communication access. While they do call upon years of experience and hundreds of University class hours to speed up the delivery of services, the skills required to interpret a class or to create a quick, accurate, clear, and complete transcript are not analogous to the skills required to teach the class. If a captioner or interpreter has a question about a concept, they will reach out to the instructor.

These microphones are sensitive, and they are designed to pick up the voice of the person wearing them. If you sit them on the table or podium, rather than wearing them, they will not operate as intended. Please clip or magnet the microphone to your lapel or collar.

If you wish to have a private conversation with someone else, please unclip the microphone and move it a few feet away. When you resume lecturing, please reclip it to your collar.

The student will retrieve the microphone from you after each class session.

Transcripts paid for and created by OAS for the purpose of student accommodation remain protected property of OAS. OAS only releases class transcripts to students who are registered with our office and authorized to receive them as an academic accommodation. They may not be reproduced, copied, shared, or sold. Transcripts are not available for distribution to other campus stakeholders, except when requested as part of an internal investigation conducted by WVU or when a transcript is subpoenaed as evidence in a legal case.

Students who have questions about the content of their transcripts may bring transcripts to their instructors for clarification, but instructors cannot request or require that students provide them with copies of their transcripts.

If you wish to commission a live transcript of a class or event for personal or professional use, please contact Jason Kapcala.

No. A faculty member may not legally prevent a captioner or sign language interpreter from entering the classroom to provide services for a student. OAS captioners and interpreters are bound by a strict code of ethics that includes confidentiality over classroom content. There are only a few instances where a captioner/interpreter is permitted to break confidentiality, as follows:

  • If during the provision of services, a captioner or interpreter overhears or is signed information pertaining to abuse of minors, threats of suicide, or criminal endangerment of others, they are mandatorily required to report this information to their supervisor.
  • If a classroom situation seems like an emergency or is imminently dangerous, they will contact WVU Police.
  • If they are required to testify as part of an internal investigation conducted by WVU or subpoenaed as a witness in a legal case.

Captioners and Interpreters are granted auditor status by ITS in courses for which they have been assigned to provide services. This grants them access to course readings, study materials, and PowerPoints, which they use to prepare for each assignment, including familiarizing themselves with the spelling of proper names and technical terminology. They do not have access to any part of eCampus that a student would not have access to.

When requested as part of a registered student’s accommodations, OAS provides captioners or interpreters free of charge.

There are, however, times when event hosts wish to provide services on behalf of members of the public. In those instances, the individual units are responsible for arranging and paying for those services. However, OAS can help. In some cases, depending on availability, we can provide a captioner or sign language interpreter for a cost.

If an OAS captioner/interpreter is not available at the time of your event, we can still point you to other vendors and resources. For assistance, please contact Jason Kapcala.

For more information regarding custom requests, please see our public event accessibility page.

Students are obviously the best resources when it comes to their preferred method of communication; however, there are a few best practices available on our Faculty Resources page that may be useful when communicating with a student when there is an interpreter or captioner present.

Testing Accommodations

The short answer is “No.” Faculty are given 7 days to implement accommodations once a student speaks to you about how their authorized accommodations will be implemented in your class. If you are unable to accommodate a student whose request comes less than a week before an exam, then you are not expected to accommodate them. However, there may be times when the OAS Testing Center has availability to proctor an exam on short notice, and faculty should still reach out to see if this might be a viable option.

Changing the duration of tests and exams is an academic decision left to the instructor. However, please be advised, it does not change the nature of the accommodation. If you provide more time to the entire class, then you must still provide the extended time as outlined in the Notification of Authorized Accommodations.

For instance, let’s imagine that you have a student who receives 50% extra time on exams. Your exam is scheduled for 30 minutes, which means that the student should receive 45 minutes to complete it. You decide to change your original plans and give the entire class an hour to complete the exam, instead. In this scenario, you must then provide the student with an hour and a half to complete the exam, based on the percentage listed in the notification of authorized accommodations email. Raising the overall exam time does not eliminate the need to implement the accommodation.

No. Extended time accommodations only apply to the timed test administration period. Extended time accommodations do not apply to calendar deadlines for exams administered outside of class, as described in the scenario above. Extended time accommodations also do not apply to open exams that exceed 24 hours in length, nor do they apply to homework or other projects or assignments.

However, if students are forced to complete an out-of-class exam within a certain period once they start it (such as an hour timer that starts once the student begins the exam on eCampus), you would have to apply the extended time to that timed administration period.

Extensions are considered academic decisions, not accommodations, and are therefore left to the discretion of the instructor.

Please note, this is not meant to suggest that the request for an extension itself lacks foundation or merit, or that it would be inappropriate for you to authorize an extension if you feel inclined to do so.

We recommend that you contact the OAS Testing Center at 304.293.8193 to request that the student take their exam at the center or to request assistance in identifying a proctor. You may also utilize study rooms in the library, if available.

If you are unable to find a test reader or scribe for a student within your unit, please contact the OAS Testing Center at 304.293.8193. We may be able to help you secure one.

It depends on the course and what you are evaluating. For instance, students are being tested specifically on their ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide, as reasonably stated in the course objectives, then use of that four-function calculator would not be appropriate, as that would be providing them with the answers. If the student is being tested on something else, then use of this tool would be allowable. If you have questions about the appropriateness of an accommodation in your class, please reach out to OAS.

It depends on the course and what you are evaluating. For instance, students are being tested specifically on their ability memorize the equations, as reasonably stated in the course objectives, then use of an equations sheet would not be appropriate, as that would be providing them with the answers. If the student is being tested on something else, then use of this tool would be allowable. If you have questions about the appropriateness of an accommodation in your class, please reach out to OAS.

Each class is unique, so initial discussions with students are necessary to determine the best way to implement testing accommodations in a specific class. 

You may discuss with your program leadership how testing accommodations are typically arranged through your department, or if you need assistance in implementing testing accommodations, we highly recommend contacting the Office of Accessibility Services Testing Center at 304.293.8193.

No. Students who have requested accommodations in a timely manner and have made use of their accommodations for the test are held to the same academic standards as all students. The student may always be referred to their Accessibility Specialist to discuss the need for additional accommodations in the future, but a test does not have to be retaken.

If the student did not request accommodation prior to an earlier exam (at least one week in advance), then that exam grade would stand. However, the accommodations would apply to all future exams once requested and discussed with faculty. Accommodations cannot be applied retroactively.