What Are Reasonable vs. Unreasonable Accommodations?

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As discussed earlier, accommodations are like step-stools, lifting you over barriers so that you can effectively learn and prove to your teachers that you know the material. Remember that federal regulations require that higher education institutions must offer accommodations to students if needed.

However, the law says that eligible students with disabilities are entitled to “reasonable” accommodations.  You may not always get everything you ask for! So what is a “reasonable” accommodation?

reasonable “academic accommodation” is a change in routine, method, approach, or access that gives students with disabilities an equal opportunity to:

  • See, hear and understand the instruction that is going on;
  • Get around physical or sensory barriers to come to the classroom or other place where instruction is going on;
  • Complete assignments; and
  • Take tests

Reasonable accommodations might include:

  • Note takers
  • Extended time allowed to take tests or finish assignments
  • Changing a classroom to a more accessible building

Reasonable accommodations could be technological or non-technological changes:

  • A non-technological accommodation might be a change in the procedure or the requirements of a class. Extended test time is an example of this. Or moving the class to a different room so that a student with a wheelchair can get in.
  • A technological accommodation, often called “assistive technology,” is a device that helps the student with a disability to learn. There are many examples of this, but not all of them are fancy computer based devices. For example, a student with dyslexia (whose eyes perhaps can’t follow the line of print on a page) can use a blank piece of paper with a hole the size of a line of print, to help read accurately, line by line. Or, a student with a learning disability might be better able to learn the reading material by listening to an audio version of the book.

In addition to reasonable accommodations, some institutions might also offer additional services and supports. Remember, these services are different from reasonable accommodations because the law does not require higher education institutions to provide them to students with disabilities. Your school may provide these services if they have the money or additional resources to offer them. Common additional services include:

  • Study skills classes
  • Free tutoring
  • Self-advocacy training (like this one!)

Along with reasonable accommodations, the law also defines unreasonable accommodations. The law says an accommodation is unreasonable if:

  • The Accommodation would cause a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
  • The Accommodation would change an important part of the curriculum.
  • The Accommodation would cause an excessive financial or administrative problem for the institution.

We have provided a checklist which gives you more information about reasonable and unreasonable accommodations.This will help you further understand the difference, and also will help you think about possible accommodations you might want to consider.

You have just learned the Knowledge You Need about requesting accommodations.

Now let’s learn the skills you need to put your knowledge into action!