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Attendance Flexibility

Understanding Attendance Flexibility

What is this Accommodation used for?

For students with chronic conditions that are episodic in nature, there may be periods of time in which they are too unwell to attend class. The purpose of reasonable accommodations is to ensure access, and this extends to providing flexibility within attendance policies to ensure students with disabilities are not disproportionately penalized for exacerbations of their condition that prevent them from being present for every class session, as their condition may be unpredictable and inevitable despite ongoing health and time management practices. 

Who receives this accommodation?

Students with disabilities who navigate disability-related experiences that are particularly chronic or episodic in nature - such as concussions, gastrointestinal disorders, lupus and other autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, migraines, cancer, psychological disorders, and significant medical procedures - may be approved for this accommodation. Granting Attendance Flexibility ensures that the student is not unfairly penalized for absences due to their disability so long as the absences does not fundamentally alter the essential elements of the class. 

How to evaluate the reasonableness of Attendance Flexibility in a class:

The accommodation for Attendance Flexibility should always be considered on an individual class basis, allowing for a diligent and critical analysis of how attendance is essential to the class learning objectives and pedagogical components. While an attendance policy may be already incorporated into the grading scheme and syllabus, and its value is inherent to student success and learning, this accommodation is intended to modify any stated attendance policies allowing some flexibility beyond that limit to account for the student’s disability-related need. 

The accommodation should be provided unless the accommodation significantlycompromises the integrity of the course as offered. If you believe additional absences beyond the stated policy would fundamentally alter the nature or essential elements of your class, then instructors should consult with a Disability Adviser to determine reasonability. 

To evaluate the extent to which attendance is critical to the essential learning objectives of a class, and to make a determination whether Attendance Flexibility can be reasonably implemented, the OAE will guide the faculty through a discussion of the following points:

  1. What does the class description and syllabus say about attendance?
  2. How is the final class grade calculated? Is attendance factored into the final grade?
  3. Is the attendance policy consistently applied? (i.e.., Have there been any exceptions made to the policy for non-disabled students, such as for athletic travel or religious observances? If so, then these exceptions must also be granted to students with disabilities.)
  4. Is there significant interaction between the instructor and students, and among students? If so, how much?
  5. Do student contributions and participation in class constitute a significant component of the learning process? (i.e., discussion, presentations, role play, group work)
  6. To what degree does a student’s failure to attend class compromise the educational experience of other students in the class?

When is Attendance Flexibility not reasonable?

In general, if the class is mostly lecture based, the in-class experience focuses on reviewing content available in the text or from instructor/peer notes, and involves little student interaction during class, then more flexibility with excused absences and/or participation points is reasonable. 

However, there are various classes in which Attendance Flexibility as an accommodation would not be reasonable. Attendance could be critical to the learning objectives of the class for those that utilize significant in-class participation/interaction as a method of instruction, classes where student learning is created/assessed in the classroom through experiential or conversational means, and classes in which absences would compromise the educational experience of other students in the class. In these situations, less flexibility with excused absences and/or participation points is reasonable.

Considerations to Keep in Mind When Implementing Attendance Flexibility

  • Limits are reasonable; provide clear limits to the number of absences allowed and stay away from blanket “come-and-go and submit work as you please” policies.
  • Make-up tests or missed work due to absences, when reasonable, will typically have short extension windows.
  • The accommodation does not cover non-disability related illness (such as flu) or other non-disability related reasons as to why student is absent.
  • Accommodations are not retroactive; instructors are not obligated to adjust previous penalties for absences if accommodation letter is provided later in the term.

OAE responsibilities in supporting Attendance Flexibility:

  • Reviews documentation and meets with students to better understand their disability-related experiences. Through this interactive process, a Disability Adviser determines if a student needs modifications to class attendance policies to mitigate disability-related impacts throughout the quarter. If so, Attendance Flexibility will be listed as an eligible accommodation on the student’s accommodation letter. 
  • Consults and supports faculty in determining reasonableness of accommodation or how to implement this accommodation in light of essential class elements. 
  • Provides support to students and faculty when questions or difficulties arise related to the accommodation.

Faculty responsibilities when facilitating Attendance Flexibility:

  • Once instructors have been notified of eligibility for accommodations, instructors should determine the extent to which they can reasonably modify any attendance policy for the specific class without fundamentally altering the learning objectives. The OAE is available for consultation if you have questions regarding how the accommodation interacts with essential elements of the class and determining if or what adjustments are reasonable.

If you believe the accommodation is not reasonable in light of your class objectives or pedagogical methods, contact the student’s Disability Adviser immediately as instructors should never unilaterally deny an accommodation. Instructors are expected to clearly articulate why flexibility is not reasonable.

  • The instructor should engage in dialogue with the student or the OAE regarding new attendance expectations: delineate the preferred communication process for when the student needs to notify you of a disability-related absence, any critical dates that cannot be missed, and whether there are any alternatives to missed participation points or quizzes on days in which the student is absent.

It is highly recommended that an accommodated attendance agreement is summarized in writing through email. The email summary helps ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and that any confusion of the agreement can be clarified. Students and instructors are welcome to include Disability Services on these email exchanges for documentation purposes.

  • When a student needs to utilize this accommodation, they are responsible for notifying their instructor in a timely manner. ”Timely” is defined as “as soon as possible.” There may be some conditions and/or circumstances in which a student is not able to contact their instructor prior to the class. Please note: At no time are students required to present documentation to instructors in order to justify a disability-related absence.
  • The OAE is always available to mediate any concerns about Attendance Flexibility, including concerns about academic integrity and logistics of this accommodation. The OAE remains a neutral party in evaluating what is reasonable as an accommodation and is here to support you.

Student responsibilities when eligible for Attendance Flexibility:

  • Students approved for Attendance Flexibility must request their accommodation letters on OAE | CONNECT and distribute their accommodation letters to instructors at the beginning of the quarter, or as soon as they are made eligible for the accommodation. Note:Accommodations are not retroactive.
  • Students must collaborate to determine the reasonability of Attendance Flexibility within the context of each class by either:
    • Initiating contact with your instructor to discuss the boundaries of the accommodation and developing protocols for how it will be used OR
    • Requesting guidance from OAE Disability Adviser. The Disability Adviser will contact the instructor to determine the boundaries of the accommodation and any necessary protocols.
  • Student should clearly understand attendance expectations in light of the accommodation. This entails knowing the finite number of absences that can be allowed, how to communicate with the professor when they need to utilize the accommodation, any critical dates that cannot be missed, and whether there are any alternatives to missed participation points or quizzes on days in which they are absent. 

It is highly recommended that an accommodated attendance agreement is summarized in writing through email. The email summary helps ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and that any confusion of the agreement can be clarified. Students and instructors are welcome to include Disability Services on these email exchanges for documentation purposes.

  • When a student needs to utilize this accommodation, they are responsible for notifying their instructor in a timely manner. ”Timely” is defined as “as soon as possible.” Please note: At no time are students required to present documentation to instructors in order to justify a disability-related absence. 
  • When a student is absent due to their disability, they are responsible for the class content, lecture notes and information presented that day. The student should arrange how they will obtain this information.
  • The OAE is available to mediate any concerns about Attendance Flexibility throughout the quarter. If the student experiences a significant flare of symptoms that greatly impacts their academics, or reaches 50% of the new agreed-upon number of absences, the student should reach out to their Disability Adviser to discuss options and resources. 

For more information, please download our Student Responsibilities for Attendance Flexibility handout.

Student Communication Email Templates

Initial Coordination of Accommodation Agreements

Dear Professor ______,

My name is ________ and I am a student in your _________  class. I am writing to share my OAE accommodation letter with you, and to discuss the accommodations outlined in it. I am hoping to proactively explore how my accommodation for attendance flexibility may work in light of your class policies so as to not fundamentally alter the requirements of your class. 

Generally speaking, I believe that 1 or 2 days beyond the absence policy listed in your syllabus would be adequate to meet my needs in the event that I experience disability-related flares that impact my ability to attend your class. While I cannot always predict the need for this accommodation in advance, I will provide as timely notice as possible.

If this modification to your attendance policy seem reasonable, please let me know. It would also be helpful to know what your ideal protocol would be for when I need to utilize these accommodations, such as the best method to contact you, and any alternative participatory assignments that may be available to me should I miss class.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and please let me know if you have any questions, or concerns. I have also cc’d my Disability Adviser on this message for reference. 

Sincerely,

_____________

 

Email Notifying Utilization of Attendance Accommodation

Dear Professor ________,

I hope this email finds you well. I’m writing to inform you that I am experiencing a significant exacerbation of my disability today, and as such will not be able to attend class. I recognize that I am responsible for all missed content covered in today’s lecture and will coordinate with my peers to get additional information about class. 

If missing a lab section consider possible alternatives to suggest: I am also emailing you with a potential solution/make-up scenario. I would like to request that I be permitted to attend the section on ______ to make up for missing today’s section. 

Thank you in advance for your consideration,

Best,

_____________