Frequently Asked Questions

Read our Frequently Asked Questions.

Who is a person with a disability?

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act define a person with a disability as someone who:

  1. a) has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity;
  2. b) has a record of such an impairment; or
  3. c) is regarded as having such an impairment.

Major Life Activities: The phrase major life activities refers to normal functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

Physical Impairment: A physical impairment includes any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following bodily systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory and speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine.

Mental Impairment: A mental impairment includes any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

Learning Disabilities: A learning disability is a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders occur in persons of average to very superior intelligence. Someone with a learning disability will exhibit a significant difference between their intellectual capabilities and what they can produce.

What types of disabilities might be present in my students?

The types of disabilities students at Furman University have included:

  • Specific learning disabilities in areas such as reading, math, written language, auditory or visual processing
  • Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder
  • Hearing impairments
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Vision impairments
  • Psychological disabilities such as mood, anxiety and depressive disorders, and bipolar disorder
  • Chronic health disabilities such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, and diabetes

Although faculty and staff do not necessarily have access to the names/labels of disabilities that their students have, information is provided by using the hyperlinks above about the various disabilities and classroom modifications / accommodations that may be effective for students to gain equal access to the programs and opportunities available. It’s important to note that some of our students have multiple disabilities. Many of the ideas listed could be considered guidelines of good teaching and advantageous to any student.

What are a student’s responsibilities when working with the Student Office for Accessibility Resources?
  1. Self-disclose as a student with a disability.
  2. Present appropriate documentation of disability and request accommodations.
  3. Meet with a SOAR representative to engage in the interactive process and determine accommodations.
  4. Select which professors will receive notice of their accommodations and request use of their accommodations each term.
What are some typical accommodations for students with disabilities?

The accommodations depend on the nature of the disability. Based on the specific diagnosis and the student’s strengths and weaknesses, a plan is developed, outlining the most appropriate accommodations. Although extended time on tests is the most common accommodation due to difficulty processing information, it is not the only option. Other accommodations may include: audio version of textbooks, readers, note taking assistance, recording lectures, use of laptop computers, use spell-checker, or sign language interpreters. Test accommodations may include: extended time, alternate test format, or oral exams. Faculty consultation is an essential part of this process. Creative and cooperative efforts are required to provide students with an equitable education while maintaining academic integrity.

Should I include information about disabilities in my syllabus?

You should include a disability statement on your syllabus. An example is below:

The Student Office for Accessibility Resources is committed to helping qualified students with disabilities achieve their academic goals by providing reasonable academic accommodations under appropriate circumstances. If you have a disability and anticipate the need for an accommodation in order to participate in this class, please register with the Student Office for Accessibility Resources. They will assist you in getting the resources you may need to participate fully in this class. You can contact the SOAR office at 864.294.2320 or at You can find additional information and request academic accommodations at the SOAR webpage.

How am I notified that a student has accommodations?

We create Letters of Accommodation for each student affiliated with the Student Office for Accessibility Resources (SOAR). The letters list the student’s name and approved accommodations. If the student would like to use any of their accommodations in your class, their letter will be emailed to you. If a student mentions accommodations, but you do not have a letter, please contact SOAR.

I received an accommodation letter, but I’m not sure what I am supposed to do about some of the accommodations.

We frequently receive phone calls with questions on some accommodations. Please refer to the information below. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions! We can be reached at 864.294.2320 or

Alternate format/accessible materials-this means the student needs to be able to access written/print matter using a text-to-speech reader or a screen reader. The Student Office for Accessibility Resources will work with the student to make inaccessible documents, accessible. The Furman Accessibility Checklist can help you work to create your own accessible materials.

Notetaking assistance-the student will use either peer notetakers, a smart pen, or a notetaking computer program. The Student Office for Accessibility Resources works with students each semester to determine the appropriate notetaking support. We will coordinate peer notetakers, if needed.

Why are college instructors required to either allow or provide exam accommodations to students with disabilities?

Federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) mandates that both the university and individual faculty members must provide appropriate exam accommodations to students with disabilities.

Is providing exam accommodations to students with disabilities fair to other students?

Determination of exam accommodations is made after carefully reviewing documentation of a disability and the effects of the disability in a test taking situation. Accommodations are determined so as to minimize the disability and “level the playing field,” not to give the student with a disability an advantage. Faculty should express any concerns regarding exam accommodations to a SOAR staff member who can verify the appropriateness of the requested accommodation and provide assistance to both the student and faculty.

What do I tell other students regarding the exam accommodations for students with disabilities?

Nothing! As a matter of fact, confidentiality is of extreme importance, so you should refrain from discussing any information regarding a student’s disability in the presence of other students and/or faculty without the student’s consent.

Who is responsible for actually making exam accommodations, faculty or SOAR?

Both. The SOAR staff has been given the responsibility of determining appropriate exam accommodations (based on documentation and individual situations), but both SOAR and faculty jointly provide the accommodations. Faculty can verify student requests through SOAR. Faculty must comply with the law by either providing the appropriate accommodations themselves, or if this is not possible, utilizing SOAR as a back-up for proctoring.

Why am I notified about some students at the beginning of the semester, and others at the middle or end of the semester? Wouldn't it be better if I knew what their needs were before they started having problems?

Students who have previously disclosed their disability are encouraged to notify their professors during the first two weeks of classes. Some students may want to begin their education at Furman University without the stigma or label of having a disability; therefore, they may try to forego requesting accommodations until the last possible moment. Some students who are newly diagnosed may present their documentation to us during the semester. The student must advocate for himself or herself, thus timing may vary.

Some students will utilize accommodations in one course but not the other. Why is this? While the student’s disability is present in every class, the course design may dictate what means of access, if any, the student may need. Disabilities and their impact can be complex and the ways students manage and cope with those conditions may lead to different approaches for different courses. We defer to the student to identify him or herself, and once that occurs, we are obligated to put reasonable accommodations in place from that point, moving forward.

What should I do if I suspect a student has a disability but I have not been notified?

If you suspect that a student has a disability, talk with the student about your observations. Since this is an extremely sensitive topic to some students, it is best to speak to the student in a private setting. Focus on the student’s performance and why you are concerned. Describe the behavior or evidence you have seen, rather than labeling it or classifying it as a disability. Ask the student if they have ever received support services in high school and then recommend they meet with a SOAR staff member to help identify the problem areas and recommend strategies for success.

What do I need to know about confidentiality, when working with students with disabilities and accommodations?

This is an issue that unnerves many faculty members. What can I say, and to whom? We’ve put together some tipsas well as what not to do, in the hopes of clearing up any confusion.

Once I am notified of a student’s disability, with whom can I share this information?

The confidential nature of disability-related information has been an over-arching principle of nondiscrimination since the establishment of Section 503 and 504. Disability-related information is considered to be medical information and to be treated in the same confidential manner, with the same need-to-know restrictions. This means you must avoid discussing this information with anyone unless it is absolutely necessary.

What is the process for the SOAR exam proctoring service?

Student’s will complete a test reservation for each test they wish to take with SOAR.  Once the reservation is made, faculty will receive a confirmation email. Faculty should review the reservation and let SOAR know if there are any changes. It is important to provide SOAR with a copy of the test in advance of the reserved date and time.

Do exams have to be taken in the SOAR facility?

No. Faculty may choose to accommodate the student within their facility. In fact, we encourage students to attempt to take the test with the professor so that they may ask questions that may arise during the test and get appropriate answers. It is the student’s responsibility to make arrangements with the faculty member prior to the exam date. As long as the student’s required accommodations are met, it is not necessary for the student to take the exam at SOAR.

What is the test security in SOAR?

We take test security very seriously. We will always do our very best to protect the integrity of your test. All Furman University Student Conduct Policies and Academic Integrity Policies are in effect when students take a test in the Student Office for Accessibility Resources. When students arrive to take a test, they are asked to put their belongings in a cabinet. They are told to put their cell phones in their bags and to empty their pockets. They are also asked to remove smart watches. If they have on bulky clothing, we will ask them to show us their pockets are empty. If a student is permitted to use their personal calculator, we have them remove the cover and leave it in their backpack. They are not permitted to take pencil pouches into the testing room. If scrap paper is needed, we provide the scrap paper. This paper will have a stamp in it signifying it was provided by our office.  There are windows in all of the testing rooms, so students are always supervised. All testing rooms are monitored by closed circuit video. When the test is completed, the students turn their test into one of the proctors. If the student is to return the test to the professor, the test is put in an envelope and sealed. The proctor will place their initials on top of the flap and that is covered with packing tape. If you suspect an envelope has been tampered with, please contact our office.  Professors are invited to come and visit the testing center and ask questions.

I have a student with a disability who must take the exam at a different day and/or time than the rest of the class. Can I give that student a different exam?

Yes, it is appropriate to alter the content as needed, if you have legitimate concerns about the security of the exam (such as the answers have already been shared with the class). A more accurate description of the school’s obligation when, for reasons unrelated to a student’s disability, it cannot give the same exam as a late exam is that the school must give an exam of no greater difficulty in a format that is no more difficult than the earlier exam, and the professor must not apply a more demanding grading system to that exam. However, SOAR would recommend you do not routinely give different exams to students with disabilities, as a rule. Giving different exams simply because the student happens to have sought and received an accommodation is inappropriate because that would be treating the student differently simply because they have a disability.

I administer pop quizzes. How can I provide accommodations such as extended time to a SOAR student?

Students with extended time for tests and quizzes should still be afforded the extra time for pop quizzes, as long as it does not fundamentally alter the essential elements of the curriculum. Consider these options: give the SOAR student warning of the quiz so they can take the quiz in your office before or after the class or start early or stay late in the classroom. Or, with advance notice, the student could schedule to take it at the SOAR office with a proctor.  If you are not comfortable giving advance notice, take on the responsibility of scheduling the space and proctor for the student and direct him to that location on the day of the pop quiz. Examine the purpose of the pop quiz. Is it to show mastery or is it an attendance tracking technique. Is there an alternative assignment the student could do to meet the objective? Call SOAR for more discussion on solutions, given your particular circumstances and challenges and your student’s accommodations. You may find The Accommodation Dilemma of Pop Quizzes to be a helpful article.

Do I need to provide extra time on a take-home test?

SOAR facilitates accommodations when an academic barrier exists. Extra time for an in-class test removes a barrier where time may be too limited and the disabled student may be impacted as a result.

For a take-home test, is time a barrier? How much time do you anticipate that a student would spend on average on the exam? If you took that time and added the extra time multiplier, is it reasonable for a disabled student to get the work done within that total take-home time frame? Depending on the amount of take-home time available to all students and the amount of time needed to complete the test, the answer will vary as to whether or not more time as an accommodation is needed. Often, I do not think more time is necessary. And when it is necessary, I am not sure the exact extra time multiplier is the answer (36 hours instead of 24) but it could be.

I wrote the quiz to take 15 minutes, but I’m going to give the entire class 45 minutes. Do I still need to allow my student with accommodations to have extra time?

Please note that time accommodations are not granted for “X amount of minutes” but rather “X amount of time beyond that given to all students.” A student with a time accommodation will need additional time to demonstrate the same level of achievement/knowledge as can be demonstrated by classmates in the time allocated.

For example, you write an online quiz to take 15 minutes, but plan to give the entire class 45 minutes to complete it. Because you are allowing other students to use as much as 45 minutes to complete the test, that same 45 minutes may not be adequate for a student with a time accommodation. Extra time should be assigned in this case.

You might refer to the 2010 OCR letter to Lewis and Clark College (OCR Reference #10092092). In this case, OCR ruled that the student in the case must be provided additional time on top of what the class as a whole was provided—even if the instructor felt that the exam was written to be completed in a certain amount of time, or even if the instructor “built in” additional time for all students.

One accommodation listed on the Accommodation Letter is “Permission to record lectures.”  Why might this accommodation be necessary?

Under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and its Amendments, institutions of higher education must provide auxiliary aids and services to students with documented disabilities and may not deny equal access to the institution’s programs, courses and activities. For a variety of reasons, some students are not able to take adequate notes during class. Audio recorders are a legitimate auxiliary aid to supplement or substitute note taking for some students with disabilities. Faculty members have the option to request a student who uses a recorder to sign an agreement for recording and present the form to the instructor. Please refer to the Recording Agreement for more information.

I am considering prohibiting laptops in my classroom. How will this affect students with disabilities?

The current trend of faculty members limiting or prohibiting electronic devices in the classroom is understandable, given the increasingly disruptive habits of students accessing non-class related material during class. However, for students who need to take notes on their laptops as a disability-related accommodation, the issue becomes sticky. We recommend against professors making a statement such as “No one may use laptops except those with disabilities.” This essentially requires a student with a disability to identify himself to others just by using his laptop. You want to avoid putting students in this position. If you are considering prohibiting laptops, one professor used the following wording in her syllabus:

“The use of Laptops/Netbooks/iPads, etc. is strictly prohibited for use during all  class sessions…Failure to follow this technology policy without prior approval of the Instructor can result in dismissal from that class session.”

This professor then met with students individually and discussed their issue. If there was a documented need for laptop usage, she allowed it and had them sign an agreement that laid out the expected behavior (use only for class related purposes, wireless internet will be turned off, will sit on an aisle or front row in order to be less distracting to other students). She can then enforce her classroom policy, while still providing the appropriate accommodation. If someone asks why others are allowed to use laptops, she simply says that they made special arrangements with her, with no details given.

What is my role in accommodating students who request a copy of peer notes or have an accommodation for notetaking assistance or access to lecture content?

Some professors provide their PowerPoint presentations to the class which, while helpful, may not always be an appropriate substitute for class notes. If the information being provided during the lecture is substantively different from the typed or written content being provided, the student may need to use audio-recording or class notes to mitigate any barriers with acquiring the relevant information for later use.

The Student Office for Accessibility Resources recruits fellow classmates as note takers and distributes the notes to the appropriate students. The professor is not responsible for this process. There may be times where SOAR contacts the professor for suggestions for a note taker.

Should I evaluate students with disabilities any differently than I do the rest of the class?

All students, including those with disabilities, should be evaluated at the same level.  The requested accommodations are not in place to give the student an extra advantage or to raise or lower academic expectations.  Accommodations are designed to “level the playing field” and compensate for any deficits to the educational environment experienced by the student. Accommodations may present an alternative manner in which a student fully participates in your class or gains access to information.

I am concerned about a student’s behavior. I am aware that the student has a disability because I received an accommodation letter.   How do I handle their disruptive behavior?

If you are concerned about a student’s behavior in class (e.g. monopolizing classroom discussion), consider having a conversation with the student about the issue.  A solution might be to allow the student a certain number of questions or comments per class.  Creating these kinds of boundaries can be helpful for many students.  Regardless, all students should be held to the same standards of conduct. Certainly contact SOAR for further assistance or with questions: 864-294-2320.

I understand that there are a growing number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who attend college. What are the main features of this condition?

People with ASD (Formerly known as Autism and Asperger’s Disorder) lack the social understanding that comes more intuitively to the average person. They have difficulty interpreting social cues from others, such as facial expressions and tone of voice, and can be unusually literal in the way they interpret communications. Engaging in a reciprocal conversation can be challenging for them, as they find it hard to start and maintain a two-way conversation; they may unintentionally monopolize discussions. They are often highly intelligent, and may have an unusually intense interest in a particular subject. Structure and routine are found to be helpful to individuals with ASD. For more information, visit the class strategy page.

What types of accommodations are available to blind and visually impaired students?

Unless they are newly blind, most college students will already have developed a range of techniques for accessing visual materials. Increasingly, blind and visually impaired people are making use of adaptive technology. They make use of devices such as talking calculators, computer programs with speech-output such as JAWS or Voiceover.  Some students may also use a note-taker in class, usually a fellow student who takes particularly detailed notes or types their notes on a laptop. If you have a student who is blind enrolled in your course, you will be contacted before the semester begins. A SOAR representative will review important information with you and work out the details of how the student will participate in your class. When possible, the student will be included in the meeting as well. Please refer to Classroom Strategies for Teaching Students with Visual Impairmentsfor additional information.

Do I need to do anything special for a visually impaired student if I use handouts or put material online?

If you utilize many handouts in your class, it would be extremely helpful to keep in touch with the student about getting the materials in advance so they can use technology to adapt the handouts. Keep in mind that if a blind student comes to class and the instructor has decided spontaneously to give a handout, that student will not have access to the information during class. When dealing with posting materials on websites, it would be best to have multiple versions of the files that are being used to ensure the highest level of accessibility. Blind students will most likely be using screen reading software that can access the website, but the program might not be able to read the material posted depending on the file type. If the student couldn’t access the file, emailing a MS Word file to the student could help. Please refer to Making Accessible Documents for more information.

What types of accommodations are available to deaf or hard-of-hearing students?

Unless they are newly deaf, most college students will already have developed a range of techniques for accessing auditory materials and communicating. Students may use a sound amplification system, remote captioning of lectures or a sign language interpreter. Some students may also use a note-taker in class, usually a fellow student who takes particularly detailed notes or types their notes on a laptop. If you have a student who is deaf enrolled in your course, you will be contacted before the semester begins. A SOAR representative will review important information with you and work out the details of how the student will participate in your class. When possible, the student will be included in the meeting as well. Please refer to Classroom Strategies for Teaching Deaf or Hard-of Hearing Students for additional information. All videos should be captioned.

How does Furman University accommodate students with temporary impairments (e.g. broken legs, hand)?

Students with temporary impairments such as a broken or sprained dominant arm/hand are not covered by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA Amendments 2008, or Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. However, the Student Office for Accessibility Resources will work to provide temporary academic accommodations. Students with temporary impairments are encouraged to talk with their professors about their situation and meet with a SOAR staff member, if necessary. Professors should work with students, in these circumstances, to the greatest extent possible.