Faculty Information

DAO's Process and Student Responsibility

Eligibility decisions for academic accommodations are made through an individualized, interactive process, and are based on the impact of the students’ disabilities, not the specifics of each of their courses. Students are advised that due to the unique nature of each course, they are responsible for discussing with their faculty how their accommodation plan can be  implemented. This direct conversation is an essential aspect of the accommodation process, as it identifies how the norms/culture/goals of a class may create or eliminate barriers to access. The Disability Access Office (DAO) is available to assist faculty and students if and when conflicts between course design and accommodations are identified.

Faculty Notification Emails 

Academic accommodations are shared with faculty through official DAO notification emails at the start of (and at times, throughout) each semester. It is important to know that this notification system is not fully automated. Students must log into the DAO portal and select specific accommodations for each course based on their needs and the course design. For example, students who are eligible for test-taking accommodations would not select this option for a course with no traditional assessments. If students are unsure of which accommodations they will need to utilize at the time of this selection, they may opt to include language for accommodations even if they are not fully aligned with the course structure. Due to this being a student-driven process, faculty may receive notifications at different times for different students.

Accommodated Exams 

Some students receive exam accommodations that are intended to make exam administration fair and equitable for all students taking the same course. The implementation of accommodations for in-class timed exercises, including midterm exams, is the responsibility of the Course Head. DAO does not have staff available to proctor exams.

The Assistive Technology Center can provide the necessary technology needed for some accommodations including internet-disabled computers and documents with alternative text, such as large-print formats. They can be reached via email at atc@fas.harvard.edu 

Final Exams, including exams for students with DAO accommodations, are managed by the FAS Registrar's Office. 

Managing Course Flexibility 

“Course Flexibility” accommodations will look different in each class due to faculty expectations surrounding student engagement. While we expect students to initiate conversations regarding flexibility once they have generated their faculty notification email, we understand it’s also often difficult for students with certain disabilities to articulate their needs in advance of a crisis. If you have not heard directly from a student after receiving an DAO faculty notification email, please write to or meet with the student to discuss what level of flexibility is reasonable in your course. We emphasize to students that flexibility will apply differently to each class, depending on the structure of the course.   

It is important to set clear expectations about communication, including who the student should contact if they need to request an extension on a deliverable, and in what timeframe. Additionally, please consider options such as reduced on-screen (face) time, individual vs. group work, flexible deadlines, and alternative forms of participation when reasonable. The goal of course flexibility is to provide options that do not alter the essential requirements of the class.

Assisted Notetaking 

Many students require assistance with in-class notetaking due to the physical or cognitive impacts of their disabilities. While supplemental audio recording software and other technologies may be useful for some students, others may require peer notetakers. 

DAO can recruit, hire, and fund peer notetakers to provide supplemental notes for these students. The peer notetaker will attend each lecture in your course and compile clear, detailed, and organized notes that they will share with the student immediately following every class. We also ask that they retroactively take notes on any content that has been previously recorded in the course prior to their start date. We ask that you please provide the peer notetaker access to the course’s Canvas site.

Audio Recording Etiquette 

Audio recording can be an appropriate tool for some students to assist with their notetaking process. Audio recordings are to be used for educational purposes only and they are not to be publicly distributed or shared in any way. 

We understand instructors may have concerns about confidential or sensitive peer-to-peer discussions being recorded throughout the semester. Thus, we recommend you bring up these concerns to the DAO so we can jointly discuss ways in which students can tailor their use of this technology accordingly. For example, we may ask them to only record during lectures or class discussion that will be assessed or needed for retrieval for course work and individual feedback.

Other students should be made aware that they may be recorded during class discussions. We recommend you email the entire class to let them know that Zoom breakout rooms may be recorded. This way, you’re not singling out any particular student or inadvertently disclosing they are eligible for disability accommodations. Additionally, you won’t need to target communication to any one particular discussion section, as the message is going to the whole class.