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Exacerbation in Symptoms Accommodation Authorization Guidelines

This accommodation is intended to accommodate students with disabilities who may experience periods of exacerbated symptoms associated with their disability, which may necessitate recurrent absences, and where there will be periods of reduced symptoms.  For example, when a student has a chronic condition with random or cyclical acute episodes, or a need to seek treatment at less than convenient times, modifications to attendance policies may be appropriate as an accommodation. 

Students receiving this accommodation may need special consideration in meeting attendance requirements, deadlines for assignments, and possibly rescheduling of exams due to this exacerbation in symptoms.  

Accommodation Guidelines

  • Letter of accommodation:  Students should request the accommodation as early as possible in the semester in order to notify faculty in a timely manner.
  • Nature of Condition:  The student is not required to describe the nature of the condition.  Please be sensitive to the student’s level of comfort sharing information. 
  • Method of communication:  The student and faculty member should agree on the method and timing of communication if there is a disability-related absence.  It is recommended that the DSS Advisor is copied in this communication.  Please be aware that the student should not be required to provide a doctor’s note related to an absence or need for an extension, since flare-ups may not necessitate a doctor’s appointment.
  • Caps/Limits:  The faculty member should be clear about the cap on absences or partial absences and have a rationale for this cap.
  • Access to course materials:  The student and faculty member should discuss how the student will have access to course materials (class notes, explanation of paper assignments, etc.). 

Student Responsibilities

  • The student will notify each instructor of any period of disability-related illness if this illness requires that the student miss class or impacts their ability to complete an assignment within stated deadlines.  Instructors should be notified in advance of missing class when possible or within 24 hours (one business day) if this illness occurred during class time.
  • The student shall obtain a new due date (for exam or assignment) from each instructor within 24 hours (one business day), and the request for an extension must be made in advance of the original due date.  The student has been advised that failure to obtain a new due date within the specified timeframe may compromise the student’s grade on coursework. 
  • These disability-related accommodations are considered reasonable as long as they do not alter the essential features/requirements of the curriculum.  
  • If attendance is an essential course requirement, and the number of class absences is deemed excessive by the academic department/instructor, then the student understands that it may be necessary to withdraw from the course(s) or seek an Incomplete if appropriate.
  • This accommodation will not occur “retroactively”, since the student must facilitate communication with the instructor about why they are unable to attend class or complete coursework within the specified time frame due to disability-related reasons, and the accommodation letter must be provided to instructors prior to the provision of these accommodations.
  • DSS will contact instructors to facilitate the provision of accommodations when necessary, and/or if questions arise.
  • If the student fails to communicate with faculty and/or DSS within the stated time frames, the result may be the inability to make-up assignments and/or exams.

Legal Guidelines for Flexible Attendance

Although it is not mandated by law that faculty members change their attendance policy for students with disabilities, there is the expectation that modifications in attendance policies will be provided when such changes do not fundamentally alter the curriculum.  It is likely that courses with heavy participation may have much less flexibility in altering their attendance policy, such as labs, practicums, and studio art courses.  Legal guidelines do suggest you (1) inform students of your attendance policy, (2) meet with students who wish to discuss the attendance policy, and (3) explain why you will or will not adjust your attendance policy and rationale(s) for this decision.

The Office for Civil Rights offers the following guidelines in determining whether attendance is an essential aspect of the course

  • Are there classroom interactions between the instructor and student, and among students?
  • Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  • Does the fundamental nature of 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 the class? 
  • What do the course description and syllabus say?
  • Which method is used to calculate the final grade?
  • What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?

Each institution is legally required to consider whether any policy or procedure in place is discriminatory on the basis of a disability and alter it if it is found to be discriminatory.  Willingness to consider the possibility is legally required.  Whether this leads to a decision to modify attendance should only come from a thorough discussion based on numerous factors particular to each course and faculty member.  This accommodation does not sanction unlimited absences. If the faculty member believes the absences are becoming excessive, please contact DSS to discuss the matter.  Note that students are given a set of responsibilities to follow regarding this accommodation.

DSS hopes that encouraging students and faculty members to discuss this accommodation early and before any disability-related absences have occurred can help reduce absences and minimize confusion as to how to handle these absences. 

In order to lessen the concern of abuse of this accommodation, an agreement created ahead of time can make the semester proceed more smoothly. 

If any parties have questions about how to implement an agreement, please contact DSS for assistance.

I agree to the terms and conditions outlined by Sonoma State University, Disability Services for Students (DSS) and am bound to the agreement.


Revised 6-20