Classroom Accommodations

With accommodation, the manner in which a student completes course work or exams may be different from the rest of the class; however, faculty should use the same criteria for the grading of students with disabilities as they use with all their students.  Any student who is not meeting course expectations should be graded accordingly.   

The following is a list of possible academic accommodations:  

*Please note the list is not exhaustive.

Note Taking

Note Taking supports are arranged by Student Accessibility Services. See the Note Taking item in the left menu for more information.

Handouts Enlarged or on Coloured Paper

These may be recommended classroom accommodations for students with low vision and/or visual processing deficits. Large print can be very beneficial for students with low vision and this can be accommodated in a couple of ways:

  • An 8.5x11 handout enlarged to 11x17 will quite often be enough to serve a student with low vision, and this is a technique we often use with tests and exams in our office.
  • Also, if you provide students with an electronic text version of your handout, they may be able to increase the font size themselves using their computer technology.

​Coloured paper can often benefit students with visual processing difficulties such as Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. Glare from white paper or the high contrast between white paper and black text can cause physical discomfort and/or difficulty with focus and reading. Some students may self-accommodate with dark or tinted lenses/glasses for reading and writing in class. Often coloured paper will offer similar benefits. When SAS makes this accommodation, we will typically recommend a colour of paper for you to use, typically blue, beige or green coloured stock, all of which are available through Print Plus.

Ergonomic Chair or Preferred Seating

Students with physical disabilities, medical disabilities and/or temporary injuries may require the use of ergonomic chairs in the classroom. These chairs will be placed in your room by Student Accessibility Services, along with a sign reserving the chair for the student. The chair is often placed in an accessible area of the classroom, which is dependent on the students’ needs. Student Accessibility Services will remove the chair at the end of the term. 

Preferred seating will be included as an accommodation where a student’s functional limitations support a need for specific seating in the classroom (e.g. requires seating close to the door). It is the student’s responsibility to request that signage be placed in their classroom(s), and to work with their Accessibility Consultant to identify where it should be located.

Notes/Presentations in Advance

SAS realizes that not all instructors use PowerPoint or similar tools in their classroom lectures. Similarly, we recognize that not all instructors speak from a complete set of lecture notes, nor may these notes be in a format with which the instructors are comfortable to share with students. That said, a number of students, those with and without disabilities, can benefit from having access to lecture notes, outlines or PowerPoints in advance. 

From a cognitive perspective, previewing a lecture in advance can provide a mental map for students and set up a personal context for learning this new material. Students can more easily begin to construct meaning when they already have clear learning expectations in mind. Similarly, note taking becomes an easier task when students already have an idea of what they are learning and can anticipate what is next. (Some of you may have noticed your students printing your PowerPoints and annotating them during your lectures. Other students may annotate the presentation on the computer as .pdf files.) 

SAS understands that some instructors do not like posting their presentations in advance for fear it may deter students from attending class. If this is the case, please consider emailing the presentation in advance of class to the specific students requesting this accommodation.

Laptops/Tablets to Facilitate Note Taking

A number of the barriers created by various disabilities can be accommodated by the use of a laptop or tablet on which to take lecture notes:

  • Students with grapho-motor disabilities may find they can type faster than they can handwrite and that they can read their notes that they type much better than their poor handwriting.
  • Similarly many students with poor working memory can benefit from typing as they can take down more information before it is lost from consciousness.
  • Students with low vision or who are blind are often taught from a young age to type as they can create a set of notes that can be reviewed with the use of a text reading program.
  • Students also find that it is much easier to add to and amend their notes with a computer to ensure that they have an accurate and complete set of notes from which to study.

It is true that time and again research seems to validate that handwriting notes is a more powerful cognitive learning strategy; however, for a number of students with disabilities who can effectively take their own notes on the computer, they will still benefit from actively engaging in the note taking process.

Please note, when this accommodation is recommended for students by their Accessibility Consultant, the students are cautioned to use their computers for note taking purposes only and to avoid distracting themselves and others with browsing the web or social media

Extensions on Assignments

Some students registered with SAS are approved for "Extensions on Assignments” as an academic accommodation. The following provides an overview of this accommodation.

What is this accommodation used for?

The function of this accommodation is to help students compensate for the time they may lose due to their disability-related symptoms while completing coursework. For example, a student with a visual impairment may take longer to complete an assignment simply because using screen reading technology to access written materials is slower than reading with normal eyesight. Similarly, a student with chronic pain may struggle to sit for extended periods of time to complete a task. Providing extra time for assignments in cases like these ensures that students with disabilities are not unfairly penalized for requiring additional time due to their disability-related symptoms. Students with “Extensions on Assignments” have provided SAS with documentation from a qualified professional supporting the need for this accommodation.

Who receives this accommodation?

Students may have a variety of impairments that would warrant this accommodation. Some examples include:

  • students with compromised reading abilities (e.g. slow processing speed or reading impairments) arising from a learning disability
  • students with fluctuating and unpredictable periods of ill-health associated with mental health disabilities or chronic illnesses, such as Crohn's Disease
  • students with attention impairments, making it difficult to organize thoughts, focus and concentrate for sustained periods of time
  • students who need frequent rest periods or who are able to work only for short periods of time, such as those with recent concussions or other brain injuries
  • students with reduced or limited stamina, making sitting, reading, writing/typing for extended periods difficult, like those with physical disabilities or injuries
  • students who rely on adaptive technology (e.g., screen readers or speech-to-text software) to read and/or write

What extra time on assignments as an accommodation does not mean:

  • open ended deadlines or automatic approval of extensions
  • elimination of all in-course deadlines or permission to submit interval-scheduled work all at the same at the end of the course
  • permission to submit assignments at the student's convenience
  • automatic re-weighting of grades to compensate for assignments not submitted

The assignment extension deadline is not meant to be used to accommodate extended absences, unless the absences are also disability-related (e.g. hospitalization) and the student is still able to meet the essential course requirements. If the student is unable to meet essential course requirements due to extended absences, they should contact SAS to discuss alternate options, such as late withdrawal.

What are the student’s responsibilities?

Students must communicate the need for each disability-related extension with faculty and SAS. Requests for extensions may come from the student or from SAS on behalf of the student. SAS will only advocate for extensions that are directly related to a students’ disability.

Students are expected to communicate their request for an extension prior to the assignment due date. In situations where a student is hospitalized, or in cases of chronic or episodic illnesses that may have a sudden onset of symptoms, requesting an extension in advance may not be possible and late requests should be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Students are expected to complete the assignment by the revised deadline. If a student is unable to meet this expectation, additional extensions are to the discretion of the instructor. If additional extensions are required, students and faculty are encouraged to contact SAS with questions or concerns.

Why do students need to communicate the need for individual extensions even if SAS has approved this accommodation?

"Extensions on Assignments" as an approved accommodation requires students to negotiate each and every deadline extension with their faculty. The reason for this is that due dates and deadlines are tied directly to the academic standards and requirements of each individual course.

In responding to a request for an assignment extension, instructors are expected to consider the student's need for reasonable accommodation within the context of ensuring that academic expectations are being met.

How much extra time should faculty grant students with disabilities seeking extensions?

While there is no set formula, the amount of time granted for each extension needs to take into account the stated expectations of the assignments and the course. For example, in courses where lab assignments are due every second Friday, it might be reasonable upon request to permit a student with a disability until Monday to submit their assignment. This short extension takes into account the task expectations associated with the original deadline and the approximate amount of time the student needs to make up for time lost due to impairments arising from their disability. At the same time, the accommodation helps to ensure the student remains on track with the course content and receives the feedback they need to progress. For larger projects like term papers, an additional week or even two might be a reasonable extension, again depending on the expectations associated with the task and the stated timelines of the course. In situations where a student is hospitalized, longer extensions may be requested, so long as the student is still able to meet the essential course requirements.

Additional Guidelines for Faculty about Extensions on Assignments:

Faculty should receive initial requests for extensions by students with disabilities in good faith. This means assuming that the student is making an honest request for accommodation based on their disability, and responding to the request in a timely manner.

When a student’s Letter of Accommodation indicates "Extensions on Assignments", faculty should not request that the student supply any medical or private documentation verifying their need for the extension, as they have already provided this information to SAS.

Faculty will have met the University's obligation to accommodate when they:

  • can demonstrate they received the student's request for an extension in good faith
  • granted a reasonable response to initial requests in a timely manner
  • appropriately linked the granting or denial of an extension to the essential requirements of their course.

Once an instructor has granted reasonable extensions upon request, he or she is within their right to refuse additional extensions if doing so is in contradiction to the essential course requirements.

If a student makes subsequent requests for extensions either on the same assignment or for several assignments in the same course, instructors should refer the student to Student Accessibility Services for additional support. When granted reasonable accommodation, students with disabilities are expected to meet stated course requirements, the same as any other student.

SAS encourages both students and faculty to contact us should any questions arise regarding the request of and response to extensions on assignments.

Adapted from Student Accessibility Services, Queens University (2016) with permission.

FM System

Students who are deaf or hearing impaired may require the use of an FM system: an assistive listening device that transmits speech picked up from a microphone on an FM radio frequency. The professor will be required to wear a tiny transmitter pack with microphone, while receivers are worn by the student so that they can hear the transmitted message.

Student Accessibility Services or the student will provide the FM system.

Digital Recording of Lectures

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ‘Policy and Guidelines on Disabilities and the Duty to Accommodate’ (2001) details the responsibility of the University to provide reasonable academic accommodations to students with disabilities. This includes providing accommodations that will allow for the removal of disadvantage to learning and the demonstration of learning. The accommodations will have been deemed to be reasonable, necessary and supported by documentation provided to Student Accessibility Services. 

For some students with disabilities, audio-recording lectures is a necessary accommodation which enables full access to course and lecture materials that may otherwise be unavailable. Once a student has recorded a lecture, the teaching material remains the property of the instructor and is not to be disclosed unless the professor has otherwise consented. Such recording is allowable under existing Canadian copyright legislation due to the exception of ‘fair dealing’. For more information about copyright law please visit the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) or view the Copyright Act.

Students with disabilities have permission to audio record and, based on the terms defined in fair dealing use the material “for purposes of private study, research, criticism [or] review” (CIPO, 2011). However, the information contained in the audio-recorded lecture is still protected under federal and international copyright legislation and, therefore, may not be published or quoted without the lecturer’s explicit consent and without properly identifying and crediting the lecturer.

Audio Recording as an Accommodation

  • Permission to audio-record classes will only be granted through Student Accessibility Services to students who have submitted medical documentation that identifies audio recording as an appropriate accommodation.
  • The need for this accommodation will appear on the Letter of Accomodation that students present to their instructors at the beginning of the term.
  • Students for whom audio recording is an approved accommodation will be required to complete the Audio Recording Agreement with their Accessibility Consultant, confirming that the recording will be used solely for the purposes of private study.
  • A student is required to only complete the Audio Recording Agreement once, meaning one Audio Recording Agreement will suffice for multiple courses and multiple terms. 
  • The completed Audio Recording form will be kept in the student’s file. 


Classes that involve self-disclosure from students:

In some cases, instructors may object to the use of an audio-recording device in classes (or portions of classes) that involve personal discussion and self-disclosure by students, fearing that audio recorders will inhibit the free exchange of information and potentially violate students’ right to privacy. However, because the use of a recording device is necessary as a substitute for note-taking by the accommodated student, it would be unfair to require the accommodated student to stop recording while allowing other students to continue taking notes. Therefore:

  • At the discretion of the instructor both note-taking and audio-recording may be prohibited during classes or portions of classes which involve personal discussion and self disclosure.
  • As an alternative in such cases, the accommodated student may be provided with copies of notes made immediately subsequent to such discussion by a designated note taker. Such notes should refer only to principles, theories, and techniques demonstrated within the context of those discussions, and not to specific content or personal details that may have been shared in such a forum.

​Other Alternatives:

If there are specific circumstances in which it is deemed inappropriate to audio record a particular class (or portion of a class), students should be made aware of this well in advance, or at least within the first two weeks of the course.

  • The duty to ensure that all students have full access to all lectures/tutorials etc. still remains. An alternative means of enabling this should be negotiated with the student(s) concerned. 
  • If a student is able to access written material, options may include the services of a note-taker or the provision of a full transcript of the lecture (not just copies of the presentation itself).
  • If it is essential for the student to receive information in an audio-format, options may include the provision of the full transcript in electronic format (enabling the student to use text-to-voice software, if applicable).
  • The specific alternative that may be appropriate in an individual case should never be assumed but should be discussed by the lecturer, student and Student Accessibility Services.  Whenever possible, all parties should be clear on which provisions are being made well in advance of the class itself.

Visiting Lecturers:

Visiting lecturers are considered to be ‘agents’ of the University. As such, they should be notified by the inviting party that a student has been given permission to audio record classes in order to prevent them from being at a substantial disadvantage for reasons related to a disability or impairment.

If the visiting lecturer does not grant permission, the responsibility remains with the University to ensure that any existing disadvantage is alleviated. In such circumstances, alternative options, such as those listed above, must be considered.

Document adopted and adapted with permission from Disability Services at the University of Windsor.

Captured Films, Videos, and Transcripts

Students who are deaf or hearing impaired will require any videos and films used in class to be closed-captioned. Transcripts of audio and audio-visual materials may also be required. Many films and the majority of youtube videos are available in this format.

Descriptive Video

Students with visual impairments often use described video to access the visual elements of a film.

If you are planning to use a video and descriptive video is not available, please inform the student and Student Accessibility Services to discuss alternative ways to approach information that the student may miss.

Disability-Related Absences

Punctual and regular attendance is essential for the successful completion of courses at Nipissing University. According to the Academic Policies and Regulations of the institution, absenteeism should not exceed 20% of classes, or the student may be excluded from writing the final examination. Faculty have the right to establish attendance requirements and these are specific to each course and included in the course syllabus. The number of allowable absences depends on the interactive or participatory nature of the course, lab or practicum, and/or is based on department or program rules. 

The university recognizes that some students have disabilities that are episodic in nature with random or cyclical acute episodes, and as a result, the disability may occasionally impact the student’s ability to attend class. However, if regular attendance is deemed to be essential to the course and/or curriculum or if the number of accommodated absences becomes excessive, then the student may be asked to consider alternative options (e.g. course withdrawal, consideration of online course, if applicable, etc.) Note that students are still expected to attend tests and exams. Should a student miss a test or exam for disability-related reasons, additional medical documentation will be required. Students have the responsibility of completing all coursework and faculty are not obligated to re-teach material missed due to not attending class. This accommodation does not apply to practicum unless explicitly stated. For classes with attendance or participation marks, students should not be penalized for classes missed due to disability-related reasons. 

Important Note - This accommodation will no longer be listed on a student's Letter of Accommodation as missed classes should be dealt with on a case by case basis. As indicated below, it is the student's responsibility to contact their faculty and SAS in the event of a class missed due to disability-related reasons. 


  1. A student with a disability who feels that they will have difficulty attending classes due to disability-related reasons must provide documentation from a qualified healthcare professional indicating attendance as a functional limitation related to their disability. Students should consider their disability-related symptoms when scheduling classes, when possible. (e.g. scheduling of classes in the afternoon if symptoms present mostly in the mornings, choosing online courses, etc).​​
  2. The student will speak with each of their faculty within the first two weeks of each semester or as soon as the condition is known, to discuss their situation and to clarify the class attendance policy, including attendance/participation marks, and with regard to meeting course requirements. Please note that the student is not required to disclose specific disability-related information. 
  3. The student is responsible for emailing the faculty member and Accessibility Consultant as soon as possible each time a disability-related absence will occur/has occurred and, as necessary, inform the faculty member when the student will return to class. If the student is unable to contact faculty (hospitalization, etc), the Accessibility Consultant may contact faculty on a student’s behalf. NOTE - The student is responsible for adhering to all scheduled deadlines for class assignments and tests. If the student has missed a deadline due to a disability-related absence, the student, as soon as they are able, should contact the faculty to discuss the possibility of submitting the work. Request for accommodation must be timely and reasonable. Additional medical documentation will be requested in the event of a missed test. 
  4. If at any point during the semester, the faculty member believes that the student’s absences from class jeopardize academic integrity or conflict with the essential requirements, the faculty member should contact the student’s Accessibility Consultant. 

Considerations for Faculty:

  1. Are attendance and participation marks indicated in your syllabus? 
  2. Do student contributions in class constitute a significant component of the learning process? If so, are there other ways an absent student might contribute?
  3. Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method of learning? For example, could students legitimately make up for a class absence through readings, class notes, and/or tutoring?
  4. Is there regular classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among the students themselves? Is this classroom interaction essential to the absent student’s learning and understanding of the course content?
  5. To what degree does a student’s failure to attend class constitute a significant loss of the educational experience of other students in the class? 
  6. What is the method by which the final course grade is calculated? How much attendance leeway can be allowed without altering the essential course requirements?

Should a faculty member have any questions or concerns about this accommodation or a student receiving this accommodation, they are encouraged to contact the student’s Accessibility Consultant.

Possible Adaptive Technology

  • ​Smart Pens/Digital Recorders
  • Laptop for Note-taking
  • Zoom Text /JAWS
  • Dragons Naturally Speaking
  • Kurzweil
  • CCTV (Closed Circuit Television)
  • Spell Checker/Grammar Check
  • Scanner/Scanning Pen