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Disability Related Illnesses

The disability-related absences accommodation balances the rights and responsibilities of the student, the faculty, and the institution. It requires a fundamental alteration determination for certain courses. Students with a documented disability related absence accommodation are NOT required to provide medical documentation for absences due to a barrier. Students may have this accommodation if they have:


  • Hospitalizations related to a disability
  • Episodic illnesses, such as sickle cell anemia or a seizure disorder
  • Systemic health conditions, such as lupus or cystic fibrosis.
  • Psychiatric conditions, such as severe depression
  • Co-morbid conditions, such as Chrohn’s disease or anxiety disorder
  • Disability-related treatment processes, such as chemotherapy

Fundamental alteration of a course or program

As a professor, you are not required to lower or modify standards for accommodation purposes, or to fundamentally alter the nature of your course. You also cannot unilaterally decide that any accommodation for which a student is eligible will not be provided. The determination as to whether an accommodation fundamentally alters a course must be made through a documented deliberative process within the department.

A determination as to whether disability-related absences fundamentally alters the nature of a course or program requires consideration of the following:

  • Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, and among students?
  • Does 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 class?
  • Is attendance factored in as part of the final course grade?
  • What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
  • Is the attendance policy consistently applied?
  • Do different faculty teaching the same course make different “fundamental alteration” determinations, and why?

Absenteeism is not expected to be excessive, but a reasonable amount of time, as needed. SDS does not excuse students with disabilities, nor does it establish attendance policies. Faculty determines the weight and importance of class attendance and participation. Similarly, faculty establishes practices regarding make-up work and missed quizzes and exams, and defines a reasonable number of disability-related absences. Students have the responsibility to inform the faculty member each time an absence is related to his or her disability, and must initiate the discussion of making up tests or assignments. It is the responsibility of the student to communicate regularly with their instructors about absences and make-up work.

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