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:  a) has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; b) has a record of such an impairment; or c) is regarded as having such an impairment.  Major life activities include, but are not limited to:  walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, and learning.  A person may have a visible disability (e.g. a person who is deaf or uses a wheelchair) or a hidden disability (a person with a learning disability, psychological disability, or chronic health impairment).

What are the types of disabilities students might have?

The types of disabilities students at CofC have include

  • 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 in the Disability Information section of the Faculty/Staff/Advisor area of our webpage 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 strategies and advantageous to any student.

What are a student’s responsibilities when working with the Center for Disability Services/SNAP?

  1. Self-disclose as a student with a disability.
  2. Present appropriate documentation of disability and request accommodations.
  3. Meet with a CDS 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 semester.

What are a faculty member’s responsibilities when working with a student with a disability?

  1. Maintain the same standards, including behavioral expectations, for students with disabilities as are applied to all students.
  2. Inform all students of procedures for accessing accommodations at the beginning of each semester, preferably through a statement in the syllabus.
  3. Provide and arrange for accommodations addressed in the Professor Notification Letter (PNL) in a timely manner.


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 challenges, a plan is developed, outlining the most appropriate acommodations. 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:  alternate format textbooks, readerse, note-taking assistance, recording lectures, use of laptop/computers, or sign language interpreters. 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 Center for Disability Services/SNAP is committed to assisting 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 connect with the Center for Disability Services/SNAP. They will assist you in getting the resources you may need to participate fully in this class. You can contact the Center for Disability Services/SNAP office at 843.953.1431 or at You can find additional information and request academic accommodations at the Center for Disability Services/SNAP website.

How am I notified that a student has accommodations?

We create a Professor Notification Letter (PNL) for each student affiliated with the Center for Disability Services (CDS). THe letters list the student's name and approved accommodations. If the student would like to use any of their accommodations in your class, they might email you the letter or share it with you before/after class, or during office hours. If a student mentions they have accommodations, but does not provide you with a letter, please contact CDS.

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 college and individual faculty members must provide appropriate exam accommodations to students with disabilities.

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.

How do I know if a student is connected with the Center for Disability Services/SNAP?

Upon student request and verification of eligibility, a Professor Notification Letter (PNL) is prepared by the Center for Disability Services/SNAP.  Students are responsible for meeting with instructors, providing the PNL and making arrangements for accommodations for the course.  If a student requests accommodations without providing the PNL, you should advise the student that the PNL is necessary.  

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 the student needs were before they started having difficulties?

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 CofC 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 themselves, 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 CDS staff member to help identify the problem areas and recommend strategies for success. You can also refer students to our Center for Student Learning for tutoring, academic coaching, and/or supplemental instruction.

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 Alternative Testing Site proctoring service?

Students will complete an ATS form for each test they wish to take in CDS. Once the student has electronically submitted their ATS form, a CDS representative will review it and will then email faculty for their completion of the ATS form. Faculty should review the form, complete their section of it, and let CDS know if there are any changes. It is important to provide CDS with a copy of the test in advance of the reserved date and time.

Do tests have to be taken in the ATS?

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 test date. As long as the student’s required accommodations are met, it is not necessary for the student to take the exam at ATS.

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

Yes, it is appropriate to alter the content as needed, if you have legitimate concerns about the security of the test (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 test as a late exam is that the school must give a test of no greater difficulty in a format that is no more difficult than the earlier test, and the professor must not apply a more demanding grading system to that test. However, CDS would recommend you do not routinely give different tests to students with disabilities, as a rule. Giving different tests 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 student who receives extended time?

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 CDS 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 CDS's ATS.  If you are not comfortable giving advance notice, take on the responsibility of scheduling the space and proctor for the student and direct the student 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 CDS for more discussion on solutions, given your particular circumstances and challenges and your student’s accommodations. 

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 Professor Notification Letter (PNL) I received is “Permission to audio 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:  Recording/Transcribing Lecture Agreement Form.

Sometimes class comments/discussions are not suitable or essential for class notes. This might be when sensitive/personal information is being shared. If this is the case, a professor might say "pens down, recorders off" to alert everyone in the class that notetaking in any form is not appropriate at that specified time.

Some students have shared with me that they are using a software to audio-record their lectures. Could you tell me more about the software that students might use?

We are fortunate to be able to offer students the opportunity to use a variety of notetaking technology tools for the purposes of recording in-person or online lectures. Some students use their laptop for the purposes of recording (particular software or application such as Glean or MS OneNote), but it can also be done using an application on an iPad or phone. Some students use a digital recorder or Livescribe Pen. CDS staff supports students on how to use accessible technology as effectively as possible. 

For more information, please visit: Accessible Technology

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 (e.g. laptop; digital recorder) 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 or audio-record the class 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 him/herself to others just by using his/her 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?

Some professors provide their presentations (e.g. powerpoint) 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 Center for Disability Services/SNAP recruits fellow classmates as notetakers.  Students are expected to discuss their request for notetaking services with their professor(s) as early in the semester as possible. In addition to the Professor Notification Letter (PNL), students should provide their professors with the Professor Notetaker Letter which outlines specifically how a notetaker can be recruited and what steps to take once that occurs. 

Students are provided information regarding their responsibilities when approved for this accommodation.

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 will have quizzes and/or tests that students will have to take via OAKS. How do I set up extended time for students on these quizzes/tests?

This article in the IT Knowledge Base section will provide you with instructions on how to easily set that up.

You can also watch this video which will go over the step-by-step process to extend the time in OAKS.

If you'd like more information about ways to make your course in OAKS accessible, please visit this page.

I have a student who has requested an accommodation for exams (e.g. extended time, testing in a room with less distractions).  How do I arrange for these accommodations?

If you are providing a timed assessment (e.g., test or quiz) via OAKS or using another online tool, and you have a student who has provided you with a PNL and has indicated that they will need extended time on it, you simply need to allot them additional time (typically 1.5x or 2x). If you are allowing all students to complete the assessment outside of the classroom (e.g. library or home) than students registered with the Center for Disability Services/SNAP should be able to do the same.

If you are administering a timed assessment (e.g. test or quiz) in the classroom or providing a Zoom proctoring experience, and you have a student who has provided you with a PNL and has indicated that they will need extended time on it, they have the option to complete the assessment with you (if you can provide the additional time), a space within your department if that is feasible, or the Center for Disability Services/SNAP Alternative Testing Site (ATS). Students will need to follow our ATS sign-up process.

This faculty training resource touches on a variety of areas relevant to teaching online. Also, this online test proctoring matrix developed by IT can assist you when deciding what tool is most appropriate for you and your students.

I understand that the Alternative Testing Site processes for students testing at SNAP has changed. How has my role changed?

Please visit the Information for Faculty Section. If you have further questions, please let us know: or 843.953.1431.


I am working with a student advisee who has been approved for foreign language and/or math alternatives. While the course options a student can select from are listed within DegreeWorks, are there other resources that can be useful when I advise them?

Yes, you can use the following links:

Advisors can access the list Foreign Language Alternative courses to assist students that have been approved for the accommodation.

Advisors can access the list Math/Logic Alternative courses to assist students that have been approved for the accommodation. 


I am concerned about a student’s behavior.  I am aware that the student has a disability because he/she presented me a Professor Notification Letter (PNL) earlier in the semester.  How do I handle his/her 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 the Center for Disability Services/SNAP for further assistance or with questions: 843.953.1431.

Another resource to consider when you are concerned about a student is utilizing the Faculty/Staff Assisting Students in Trouble (FAST) Referral.

How does the College of Charleston 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 Center for Disability Services/SNAP will work with students to ensure that the campus is as accessible as possible, but may only be able to provide limited assistance.  Students with temporary impairments are encouraged to talk with their professors about their situation and meet with a Center for Disability Services/SNAP staff member, if necessary. Professors should work with students, in these circumstances, to the greatest extent possible.

What are some ways I can create a positive learning environment for all of my students?  

  1. Provide students with a detailed course syllabus.
  2. Include a disability/access statement in your syllabus
  3. Clearly set out expectations before the course begins (e.g., attendance policy, materials to be covered, and due dates).
  4. Start each lecture with an outline of material to be covered that period.
  5. Present new or technical vocabulary in written form.
  6. Give assignments both orally and in written form to avoid confusion.
  7. Point out if a study guide is not comprehensive or lacks new subjects that may be covered in a test.
  8. Provide study questions for tests that demonstrate format as well as content. Explain what constitutes a good answer and why.
  9. If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide or software programs for optional student use.
  10. Provide adequate opportunities for questions and answers, including review sessions.