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FAQs for Students

Top Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Students

The following are the top Frequently Asked Questions related to the disability accommodation process at Sonoma State University. If your question is not listed on this page, click on the article page links at the bottom of the page or try our Search All FAQs page. Students are urged to call (dial 711 for Relay), or email with any questions or concerns.


1. "How do I start the process of registering (signing-up) for disability services, so that I may receive accommodation services?"

Students initiate registration with DSS by completing the steps outlined at our link How to Register for DSS - SSU Disability Services for Students, which includes completing the Student Intake Form, Providing Documentation, and Scheduling an “Intake Appointment.” If you need to check on your status with DSS, you may contact us at 707-664-2677, Diall 711 for Relay, or stop by the office in Schulz 1014A.

2. "What is an Accommodation Letter?"

An Accommodation Letter is a letter from an Adviser in DSS, which lists the specific academic accommodations for an individual student.  A student who has an Accommodation Letter, dated in the semester in which the class is taking place, is currently registered with DSS and has provided the DSS office with medical documentation related to his or her disability.

3. "Who is responsible for determining appropriate accommodations?"

The DSS office is the campus office designated to work with all SSU students to put in place the appropriate accommodations at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  DSS provides a wide array of support services, accommodations, and programs to remove barriers to full participation in the life of the University.

4."What does reasonable accommodation mean?"

A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment designed to mitigate the impact of a student’s disability without compromising the integrity of an academic course or program.  Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • assistive technology
  • auxiliary aids such as sign language interpreters
  • test-taking accommodations to complete exams
  • alternate media

Providing reasonable accommodations allows students with disabilities to have equal access to education and services at the University.  Students with disabilities are required to meet the same academic and technical standards as their non-disabled peers, using reasonable accommodations.

5. "Do faculty have access to my records and know about my personal situation?"

No.  Faculty do not have access to personal records and only know that you are registered with the DSS office when you provide them with an Accommodation Letter from DSS. The student, if registered with DSS and after providing documentation that DSS determines supports the accommodation, is provided with a letter that details the required accommodations to which they are entitled so long as they do not fundamentally alter an essential component of the course. For every student registered with DSS, the office has a file with documentation of the disability. For reasons of confidentiality, the nature and specifics of the disability are not disclosed to faculty.

6. "When is a student required to notify faculty of a need for accommodations?"

DSS encourages, but cannot require, registered students to provide instructors with their Accommodation Letter at the beginning of each semester. A student can register with DSS or present his or her Accommodation Letter to faculty at any time during the semester.  It is important to understand that accommodations are not retroactive, so students cannot retake exams prior to when accommodations were not in place.  Accommodations begin at the point the student has provided faculty with their Accommodation Letter.

7. "Do I need to present faculty with an Accommodation Letter each Semester even if I have had this faculty for another class or another semester?"

Yes, the student is required to provide faculty with an Accommodation Letter dated in the current semester for each course. Faculty cannot assume that once a student is eligible the first time, he or she is eligible the next time. Also, a student's accommodation needs may vary from semester to semester or from course to course.

8. "Will faculty provide accommodations to a student who does not present an Accommodation Letter?

No.  If a student asks for an accommodation, but does not provide an Accommodation Letter from DSS verifying eligibility for academic adjustments, then faculty are strongly encouraged to direct students back to the DSS office.  Similarly, faculty are not obligated to provide a student with an accommodation that is not listed in the letter from DSS.  

9. "Are faculty required to provide exam accommodations to students who request it?"

Yes, if such accommodations are set forth in the student's Accommodation Letter from DSS (see Questions #1 & #2).  The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act protect students with disabilities. These laws require that qualified students with disabilities must have equal access to an education, including exam accommodations.  If faculty believe that the recommended accommodations fundamentally alter an essential component of a course, see the answer to Question #15 below, then other accommodations may take place.

10. "Are faculty allowed to request disability documentation from the student?"

No. SSU has designated the DSS office as the repository of all disability documentation for students with disabilities. Documentation stating and describing a student's disability is confidential information.  Faculty must recognize that most students feel very vulnerable in disclosing their accommodation needs to faculty.
While faculty may be able to surmise the condition on the basis of the accommodations, probing for disability information is inappropriate.

11. "Do faculty have to keep the student's disability information confidential?"

Yes! Faculty should always keep disability-related information confidential. For many students with disabilities, disclosure of their disability is a very personal and sensitive matter.  Inappropriate disclosure of disability information must be avoided.

12. "Do faculty have to allow students to use technology in their courses?"

There are instances when the DSS student will need to use various technologies during class. These will be outlined in the Accommodation Letter. This may include, but is not limited to, a laptop to take notes, a recorder to audio record class lectures, and other types of technology as needed

13. "What if faculty have a policy specifically banning the use of laptops?"

If a laptop is an approved accommodation, a policy modification for the student with a disability is reasonable. In order not to publicly identify the student with a disability the instructor is encouraged to state on the syllabus something like the following:  "Exceptions for the use of a laptop may be granted for compelling reasons at the discretion of the instructor."

14. "Are faculty required to lower the standards of a required assignment because the student has a disability?"

No. Standards are the same for all students; however, some students with disabilities may use accommodations to exhibit their knowledge, their production, and their meeting of other course expectations differently than their peers. For example, a student with low vision may produce an essay exam by using a computer rather than writing out an answer. The quality of the work should be the same.

15. "What if faculty believe an accommodation listed in the Accommodation Letter fundamentally alters an essential element of their course?   Do they still have to provide the accommodation?"

Academic adjustments listed in the student’s Accommodation Letter are open for negotiation. Faculty can and should bring up concerns about specific accommodations to the DSS Advisor working with the student. It may be that a different accommodation would be better suited for this particular course and the DSS Advisor can help develop an alternative.

16. "Do faculty have to alter their attendance policy?"

No. Faculty are under no obligation to alter or waive their attendance policy. However, faculty are strongly encouraged to identify and determine how much attendance is considered an essential part of courses. The DSS office may make recommendations to faculty about unique circumstances where attendance considerations would be beneficial. Attendance considerations for students from DSS always carry a "standard of reasonableness" with them. It is always good practice for faculty to clearly state attendance requirements on the course syllabus.

17. "Why does the DSS office keep asking for my textbook information and whether I need alternate media for the upcoming semester?"

 Textbook conversion is a time-consuming, labor-intensive task. Every semester the DSS office Alternate Media staff creates screen-readable text (e-text) or other formats for students.
Students need to be able to access their textbooks at the same time as others in the class. The DSS office may not be able to get material converted to an appropriate format in a timely fashion if there is a  delay in providing this information. This means students may have to start the semester without access to their textbooks.

18. "I am having difficulty in my class and I think that I may have a disability. What should I do?"

It is not unusual for high ability students to be identified with a learning disability or other conditions at the college level.  Often the compensatory strategies used at the secondary level are no longer adequate in a demanding university setting. Students may call the DSS office at (dial 711 for Relay), to schedule a “Prospective Student” appointment to discuss options, including referral to campus and/or community resources.

19. "What happens if I violate the SSU Honor Code?"

All students are expected to abide by SSU’s Honor Code.  Faculty will follow through with the usual reporting procedures established by the Office of Student Conduct should a student be suspected of violating the Honor Code.

20. "Is there ever a cut-off for when I may seek accommodations during the semester?  Do faculty have to provide these accommodations?"

There are numerous reasons why a student makes a late request. Perhaps he or she could not get documentation of his or her disability any earlier and, therefore, could not initiate accommodations earlier. Some students try to take a class without accommodations, but find that they aren't doing well and need accommodations. Whatever the reason, students may make requests for accommodations any time during the semester.

On the other hand, there may be some situations where students make a request for accommodations so late that appropriate arrangements cannot practically or reasonably be made. An example of such a request might be a student requesting an entire textbook be converted to alternate format at the end of a semester.

The University is obligated to provide accommodations only at the point when a student makes a request, and faculty and the DSS office are able to make appropriate arrangements. The student is too late if he or she reveals a disability after the completion of a class and requests a change in grading basis to Credit/No Credit or a deletion of a poor grade, for example.  Accommodations are not provided retroactively.

21. "A student has missed a number of classes and has not handed in several assignments. Although the student has taken a midterm and used accommodations, the student received a D for the midterm. At this point, the student is not passing the class. Do faculty have a right to fail a student with a disability?"

The student with a disability has the same right to fail as anyone else. Their work should be equivalent to his or her peers. A faculty member may discuss their concerns with this student, just as they would with anyone else in their class who is experiencing difficulty.

FAQs for Students