• Photo of the Office of Accessibility Services' lobby and common area

Academic Conflict Resolution

The Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) serves as a resource for students, faculty, and staff of the university in relation to the provision of reasonable accommodations for the unique needs of students both in and out of the classroom. Through the provision of services, OAS offers an opportunity for all students to achieve their academic and personal goals. In order to offer a good faith discussion in conjunction with Florida State University’s course and/or program requirements, the following conflict resolution processes will be followed as required:

Student: Accommodation not being provided by instructor Conflict Resolution

The following process applies to students who have been approved to receive accommodations and believe that an instructor or staff member has not provided an approved accommodation.

Initial Process:

  1. If an informal discussion with instructor/staff member have not resolved the issue, the student should contact their assigned Accessibility Specialist.
  2. The Accessibility Specialist will send standard (student conflict resolution) email to student confirming receipt of the issue within one business day.
  3. The Accessibility Specialist will attempt to resolve the issue by communicating with the instructor/staff member. Other OAS personnel and/or the OAS Director may be consulted in order to develop a resolution.
  4. The issue should be resolved in two business days of reporting the issue to OAS. If there are more people involved, the resolution should take no longer than 5 business days. If a resolution is not reached within 5 business days, the student may submit an appeal to the OAS Director.

The Appeal Process:

  1. The appeal should be in writing and should clearly state that basis and rationale for the student’s concerns, and should be transmitted as a confidential document. Appeals should be directed to the Assistant Dean of Students/ Director of the Office of Accessibility Services. The appeal must include the following information: (1) The requested accommodation, (2) Details explaining how the accommodation was not provided, (3) Any other pertinent information that the student would like to share.
  2. After receiving an appeal, the Assistant Dean of Students/Director of OAS will send standard (student conflict resolution) email to student confirming receipt of the appeal within one business day.
  3. The Assistant Dean of Student/ Director of OAS will contact the faculty member and/or student, as needed, to fully understand the concerns outlined in the appeal. The Office of the General Counsel may be consulted. The Assistant Dean of Students/Director of OAS will make every reasonable effort to resolve the concerns expressed by the faculty member, while complying with the ADA and other federal and state laws.
  4. If the appeal is not resolved with the Assistant Dean of Students/Director of OAS, the faculty member may initiate a second-level appeal in writing to the Senior Associate Dean of Students/ ADA Coordinator for Students in the Department of Student Support and Transitions.
  5. The Senior Associate Dean of Students/ ADA Coordinator for Students will consider the appeal, and may contact the faculty member and/or student, as needed, to fully understand the concerns outlined in the appeal. The Office of the General Counsel may be consulted. The Senior Associate Dean of Students/ADA Coordinator for Students will render a final decision regarding the accommodations, which will be communicated to all parties.
  6. During the appeal process, the student is entitled to receive all accommodations recommended by OAS.
  7. It is important that concerns are addressed promptly so that the student's participation in the course, program, or activity is not affected.

Student: Accommodation Request Denial Conflict Resolution

The following process applies to accommodation requests that are denied by the Office of Accessibility Services:

  1. The student must provide a written appeal to the OAS Director, seeking a formal review of the request. Because the nature of accommodation at the college level is to ensure equal access, the appeal must include the following information: (1) the requested accommodation, (2) the functional limitations of the student’s disability that would be remedied by the requested accommodation, and (3) any other pertinent information that the student would like to share.
  2. The assigned Accessibility Specialist will present all pertinent information (i.e., student’s documentation of disability, history of academic accommodations, the accommodation request, course information and/or course syllabus) to the OAS Director or designee.
  3. The OAS Director or designee will review the request and accompanying documentation with a selection of individuals who are trained, knowledgeable, and experienced in the relevant area. Consideration will be given as to whether the accommodation requested can be offered to this specific student, or if other effective accommodations exist.
  4. Following the review process, the student will be informed, in writing, of the decision by the OAS Director or designee. If the accommodation is denied, the reasons for the denial and an offer of alternative accommodations (if available) will be provided.
  5. The student will be offered an opportunity to respond and provide additional documentation to support the accommodation request.
  6. Notice will be provided to the student of the right to file an appeal with the Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Department of Student Support and Transitions.

Faculty: Accommodation Concerns/Fundamental Alteration

DESCRIPTION / RATIONALE:

The Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) serves as a resource for students, faculty and staff of the university in relation to the provision of accommodations for the unique needs of students both in and out of the classroom. Through the provision of services, OAS offers an opportunity for all students to achieve their academic and personal goals.

PROCEDURE:

Reasonable and Unreasonable Accommodations

A reasonable accommodation includes actions to eliminate or reduce physical or instructional barriers to learning. Accommodations are individualized to a student’s needs, which can include physical accessibility and participation in course activities.

Accommodations are reasonable unless they:

  • Alter or remove essential requirements.
  • Fundamentally alter the nature of the program.
  • Impose undue financial or administrative burden.
  • Pose a threat to others.

Determination of Fundamental Alteration

If a reasonable basis exists to believe there is a legitimate fundamental alteration question, OAS will verify that the instructor, department, and/or program have articulated the essential requirements for the course and/or program and provided notice of them to students.

OAS will identify a group of objective persons knowledgeable about the academic area, any related licensing requirements, any applicable accreditation for the course of study, the student’s disability, and accommodation methods. The group should not be limited exclusively to individuals from the department that provides the course or program.

The group should identify the objective of the requirement, taking into consideration the information provided by the instructor, program or department concerning essential requirements, including curriculum approval or course creation documents. The group will ensure that the requirement is not simply based on tradition or routine practice without direct connection to essential requirements.

The group should consider whether the requirement is consistent with similar programs at other educational institutions, and with relevant national and expert guidelines; and whether there is any unique justification for a requirement that is not generally adopted by other educational institutions.

The group should consider information provided by the student relevant to determining whether notice of the essential requirement in question has been provided to the student, and whether the accommodation requested by the student would invalidate the objective of the requirement.

The group should determine whether the accommodation requested by the student would invalidate the objective of the requirement. If not, the accommodation will be implemented.

If the requested accommodation would invalidate the objective of the requirement, the group (or designated members) will promptly and diligently search for alternate accommodations in consultation with the faculty member, OAS, program and the student.

The group should address the following:

  • Are there alternate ways that the student can acquire or demonstrate mastery of the skill that would meet the same fundamental objectives of the course or program?
  • Have we diligently searched for potential alternatives?
  • Have we included all the necessary people in this search?
  • Have we identified whether other postsecondary institutions have identified alternatives that achieve the objectives of the College without fundamentally altering requirements? 

If the group has explored this issue in a well-reasoned manner, without resort to a pretext for discrimination, believes the accommodation would fundamentally alter the essential elements of the course or program and no reasonable alternative accommodations exist, then the accommodation can be denied.

The determination that an accommodation is unreasonable is an institutional decision that must meet legal and educational requirements. Though the academic judgments involved in such decisions are typically the prerogative of the academic unit involved, those judgments must be made within legal parameters. Therefore, such determinations require collaboration between faculty, the academic department, OAS and General Counsel, if needed.

Faculty Accommodation Concerns

The Initial Process

  1. First, the faculty member should contact the Office of Accessibility Services to speak with the student’s Accessibility Specialist preferably within one business day after receiving the accommodation letter. 
  2. Second, if the accommodation issue/concern is not resolved, OAS or the faculty member may require a meeting with the student involved, the instructor and/or college representative (i.e., department chair, academic dean, and other involved parties).
  3. Finally, if an agreement concerning an accommodation request is not reached after OAS, the student and the faculty member have met at least once, then the faculty member can initiate a formal appeal by submitting the request to both the Faculty Senate President and OAS.

Appeal Process

The appeals process outlined below may be utilized to address circumstances in which: 

  1. A faculty member disagrees that the accommodation does not constitute a fundamental alteration, or
  2. A faculty member does not take issue with the accommodation, but disagrees with the decision of how the accommodation will be implemented.

For those complaints that cannot be resolved during the initial process, then a formal procedure shall be initiated within two business days of the unresolved complaint.  The procedure is initiated by the submission of a written document from the faculty member to both OAS and Faculty Senate President (see below), outlining which of the grounds above is applicable and providing a brief recitation of the complaint.

For any dispute related to the application of an accommodation in a particular course, the faculty member shall present to the panel his or her concerns about the accommodation and shall have the opportunity to present any information or documentation that the faculty member believes is relevant. The panel can request additional information relevant to the appeal.

The Panel will be comprised of 4 people:

  1. a faculty member appointed by Faculty Senate President who will serve as chair,
  2. a faculty member from the College/department for which the course is approved, 
  3. Office of Accessibility Services representative, and  
  4. Office of the General Counsel representative.

Within five business days a decision will be made by the panel.  The report including recommendations and any dissenting opinions will be submitted to the Vice President for Faculty Development and Advancement.

During the appeal process, the student is entitled to receive all accommodations recommended by OAS.  It is important that issues/concerns are addressed promptly so that the student’s participation in the course, program, or activity is not affected.

Additional Resources:

Wynne and Guckenberger have good guidance on a process for evaluating fundamental alteration:

Wynne v. Tufts

Guckenberger v. Boston University