Faculty FAQ

What is a disability?

An individual with a disability is defined as any person who “has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.” More information can be found on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website

What does “substantially limiting” mean?

Substantially limiting is defined as being unable to perform a major life activity or being significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which a major life activity can be performed, in comparison to the average person or to most people. More detailed information may be found in the U.S. Department of Justice Guide to Disability Rights Laws.

What is a major life activity?

A major life activity can be defined as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

The ADA Amendment Acts of 2008 expanded this list to include eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, reading, bending, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. The ADAAA also includes major bodily functions (e.g., "functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions"). More detailed information can be found in the Department of Justice Guide to Disability Rights Laws.

What are the rights and responsibilities of a student with a disability?

Students with disabilities have the right to equal access to courses, programs, activities, services, and facilities offered at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). Students with disabilities also are entitled to reasonable accommodations. All information about the student’s disability is to be kept confidential. Students with disabilities have the responsibility to provide appropriate documentation of disabilities and to register with ESDS if they would like to receive accommodations. If students deem it necessary to receive accommodations for a particular class, students have the responsibility to inform the instructor, deliver the accommodations letters that verify their approved accommodations, and participate in the discussions about how their needs can be met.

Please visit Student Rights and Responsibilities for a more detailed list. 

What are the rights and responsibilities of an instructor when working with students with disabilities?

An instructor has the right to confirm a student’s request for accommodations and to communicate with the ESDS school liaison and ESDS to ask for clarification about a specific accommodation. Instructors do not have the right to refuse to provide an accommodation or to review a student’s documentation including diagnostic data. Instructors have a responsibility to work with the ESDS school liaison and ESDS to provide reasonable accommodations, keep all records and communications with students confidential, and refer a student to ESDS who discloses a disability and/or requests accommodations but is not currently registered. Instructors do not have to provide accommodations for students not registered with ESDS. 

Please visit Instructor Rights and Responsibilities for a more detailed list. 

Why does an instructor have the responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities?

An instructor has the responsibility to coordinate reasonable accommodations because accommodations make it possible for a student with a disability to overcome barriers, enabling the student to communicate what they know. Accommodations "level the playing field" for students with disabilities. The instructor also has a legal responsibility to provide appropriate accommodations. For more information, please visit to the Americans with Disabilities Act website

How are appropriate accommodations for a student determined?

To determine appropriate accommodations for a student, the student must first disclose their disability and submit appropriate documentation to the ESDS office. The ESDS staff engages in an interactive process with the student and the school liaison to determine specific barriers to access and appropriate accommodations based upon the substantial limitations of the student and the essential elements of the program and courses therein. All accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis according to individual need and may change from semester to semester.  

Who is responsible for actually coordinating exam accommodations, the instructor or ESDS?

The ESDS staff has been given the responsibility of determining appropriate accommodations, based on documentation, individual needs, and the interactive process with the student and the school liaison. However, ESDS, the school liaison, and instructors jointly provide the accommodations. Instructors can verify student requests through the school liaison and/or ESDS, and then coordinate the exam accommodations within their school. 

Students attending classes at the Universities at Shady Grove will coordinate exam accommodations with the Center for Academic Success.

If a student needs a "reduced distraction testing environment," is a classroom with other students quiet enough?

It's important to talk with the student regarding their needs. Some students with ADHD, for example, may be easily distracted and many do need an environment much quieter than the typical classroom. The instructor and student should work together to find a suitable location. That location should not be in a hallway or in an office with a phone ringing or other interruptions. It  also is not appropriate to move the student from one location to another during the test, as the move itself becomes a distraction.

If an instructor thinks that a particular student may have a disability, to where should they refer the student?

If an instructor thinks that a particular student may have a disability or need support from ESDS, they should refer the student to ESDS immediately. 

What if a student with a disability is disruptive in class?

A student with a disability who is disruptive in class should be treated as an instructor would treat any student who is disruptive in class. If an instructor thinks there is a medical reason for the student’s behavior, they can refer the student to the Student Counseling Center and ESDS

What if a student with a disability is failing?

It is important for instructors to remember that providing reasonable accommodations to a student with a disability does not guarantee success in the course. Students with disabilities may not master the course material, just like any other student. Students with disabilities have the same right as other students to fail as part of their educational experience. However, the instructor is encouraged to refer the student to any academic support services in their school and/or refer the student back to ESDS for coaching services or further assistance.

Why am I notified about some students at the beginning of the semester and others at the middle or end of the semester? Wouldn't it be better if I knew what their needs were before they started having problems?

Students have the right to register with ESDS at any time. However, accommodations are not retroactive. Many students receive accommodations letters and communicate with their instructors at the beginning of a semester. Students are encouraged to notify their professors during the first two weeks of classes. However, some students may want to begin their education at UMB without what they may feel to be a stigma or label of having a disability; therefore, they may try to forgo requesting accommodations until the last possible moment. Some students who are newly diagnosed may present their documentation to us later in the semester. The student must advocate for themself, thus timing may vary. We strongly suggest that instructors require students give them seven days' notification for any accommodation in order for you to make appropriate arrangements.

What are general modifications I might consider to make my courses more accessible?

Here are a few examples of modifications:

  • Provide lecture notes and other course materials in electronic format. Text in electronic form can be paired with screen-reading software, which makes printed material accessible for students with learning disabilities, visual impairments, or limited mobility. Additionally, students who qualify for use of note takers can access electronic notes independently, instead of relying on classmates to make copies of notes.
  • Provide clear copies of physical handouts. When handouts are copied clearly, they can be easily scanned onto disk for use with screen-reading or Braille-conversion software. This software is made available to students by ESDS.
  • Consider creating learning objectives for each lecture. Therefore, all students have a clear understanding of what they should understand by the end of the class. This also will assist students as they organize information for assignments and examinations.
  • Include information about obtaining accommodations on your syllabi. It is UMB’s obligation to inform students of the existence of ESDS. An example of a Syllabus Statement may be found in the For Faculty section of the ESDS website. 
  • Consider students’ diverse learning styles when developing lectures and assignments. Any one of your classes may include students with reading difficulties, auditory processing deficits, and other learning disabilities. You can contribute to the success of your students by incorporating multiple media into your lectures and varying the formats. For example, consider presenting a topic orally and reviewing it with an activity or with a written handout.

Visit the Faculty Resources page for more information.  

Where can I find more information to best accommodate my students?

The ESDS office encourages faculty to reach out for consultation on how to best work with a student with a disability. Faculty are welcome to contact the ESDS office for any particular questions, concerns, or student case.  

Faculty also are encouraged to visit the For Faculty section on the ESDS website for more information and resources.