Faculty and Instructor FAQs

How do I add extra time for CAL registrants’ exams on Canvas?

Please refer to our instructor resources page for detailed instructions: http://www.sfu.ca/students/accessible-learning/faculty/resources/canvas-extra-time.html

How would an instructor know when he or she is providing adequate accommodation vs. overcompensating?

A basic guideline is that the student should be able to meet the core requirements of the course without adjustment. The instructor should not change the curriculum for the course or modify assignments to the degree that they alter the course’s core requirements. For example, changes in test formats or giving extended time to a student for whom such an accommodation has been approved would, in most cases, not alter the requirement of learning course material, and are therefore within reason. If, however, a requested accommodation would violate the integrity of what is being taught and assessed in the course (e.g., a recommendation for extended time in a practical emergency medicine course), then the instructor should feel free to discuss this request with the CAL.

If you feel uncomfortable with any accommodation recommended by the CAL, you are encouraged to discuss your concerns with a CAL staff member. Contact Us.

What should I do if an accommodation recommended by the CAL will not work for my particular course?

In these instances you should contact the CAL as soon as possible, and discuss the issue with a Disability Access Advisor. Depending on the nature of the problem, the CAL may be able to identify an alternative acceptable accommodation.

Do I have to provide disability related accommodations for students who request them but do not have an Accommodation Form from the CAL?

No. At SFU, the CAL is regarded as the sole authority that is charged with certifying that a student has a disability and qualifies for academic accommodations. The CAL has the authority to request primary source documentation that specifically identifies the student’s disability and the impact of that disability on academic pursuits.  As such, it is in the best position to determine a student’s entitlement to accommodation as well as the University’s obligation to act on that entitlement. 

As a faculty member, you are required to respond to requests from students who provide you with a medical note indicating that there is a medical reason for the student failing to meet some course requirement (e.g., missed exam, late submission of paper).  If at any time you feel that you would benefit from the assistance of the CAL (e.g., should you have concern regarding the appropriate means to accommodate), you should feel free to refer the student to the CAL, with an indication that in order to ensure that you are properly accommodating the student, you prefer to follow the guidance of the CAL.

What do I do if a student hands documentation of a disability directly to me?

While requirements vary from department to department, in general, it is expected that instructors will respond to notes provided from physicians indicating that a student has a medical reason for a failure to meet some requirement (e.g., absence due to illness).  Generally the CAL is not involved in accommodating the impact of routine illness (e.g., absence due to colds).  Where the request involves more significant medical conditions, or more extensive accommodation, the student should be directed to take his or her documentation to CAL. You have no obligation to review a student’s disability documentation. Unlike instructional staff, the CAL has authority to request clarification of documentation which can assist in the accommodation process.  

Should I extend deadlines or grade students with disabilities differently?

Generally, no. Students with disabilities are expected to meet the same standards as other students and should not be graded differently, unless they have been specifically approved for accommodations such as spelling and grammatical allowances due to a learning disability.  In some cases, depending on specific needs or disability, deadlines may need to be extended, but this will typically be specifically recommended by the CAL on the student’s Letter of Accommodation.

Are faculty and instructors required to approve the accommodations recommended by the CAL?

NO. The responsibility to determine what accommodations the student is legally entitled to resides solely with the institution's designated authorities on issues of disability and
access, the CAL. While the CAL “Accommodation Form” has a place for the Instructor’s signature, this is used simply to confirm that the Instructor has been made aware of the specific accommodations that the student is entitled to. Faculty, as agents of the University, have the legal responsibility to provide the accommodations to qualified students with disabilities once informed of that need through this process. 

In the rare instance when the CAL determined accommodation clearly violates an integral element of the course, or where the request creates an undue burden, the Faculty member should contact the CAL to discuss the issue further.

A student with a disability has asked me for a copy of my notes and overheads. Do I have to give this to the student or will the CAL provide a note-taker instead?

Due to a variety of reasons, some students with disabilities have difficulty taking notes, so the provision of lecture material may be recommended by the CAL on the student’s Letter of Accommodation. Even though the CAL assumes responsibility for providing note-takers to students who require them, it is extremely helpful when you assist the student in getting access to class notes (provided that they are not already being posted on Canvas or another website).

Sometimes faculty notes are only a brief outline of the actual lecture given and therefore these notes may not be sufficient to address the student’s needs. If you feel your notes are good, sharing your notes would be a reasonable option. If you have a TA in class to assist you and if this person takes notes, these notes may be another option. If neither of these options are available, you may be requested to help the student find a volunteer note-taker by making an announcement in class. It is essential that you do not reveal the identity of the disabled student who requires the note-taker. One final option would be to allow the student to tape record the class. These options should be discussed with the student, as not all options will work for every student.

What should I do if a student approaches me about an accommodation that was not included in the Accommodation Form from the CAL?

Faculty should refer students to the CAL to evaluate the student’s new request. The CAL will review their new request along with their disability information to determine if the student is entitled to the desired accommodation.

I have concerns about audio recording of classes as an accommodation. Do I have to allow this?

Audio recording of course lectures/presentations/discussions is a common accommodation in post-secondary settings.

All students authorized to make and use audio recordings as an accommodation sign the CAL Audio Recording Agreement, which outlines their entitlement and responsibilities.  The recordings are for the students’ personal academic use only and cannot be distributed or shared in any format with any other person.

The use of audio recording during class activities is a cause for concern for some faculty members.  The arguments put forward in support of why the accommodation of recording should not be approved have been vetted by the institution and listed below are some of the common concerns and responses to those arguments.

1) “The nature of the discussions in the course are very personal and I am concerned about the privacy of the class members”:

  • According to the University Privacy and Protection Officer (Ian Forsyth, Coordinator of Information and Privacy) class members do not have a right to privacy in this context.  There may be instances where an instructor may, due to the personal nature of the discussion, wish to preclude all students from taking notes.  In those instances, adjustments can be made to the entitlement to record (see number 4 below).

2) “Do I have a say regarding who can audiotape or videotape my course under Copyright or assertion of intellectual property?”

  •  Instructors do, under normal circumstances, have the right to preclude any recording of their course.  However, the Human Rights Office, the Office of Legal Affairs and the University Copyright Officer have confirmed that the entitlement for fair and reasonable access under the Human Rights legislation supersedes any general argument associated with copyright or intellectual property.  The authorized recording can only be used for the personal instruction/learning of the individual with the disability and the accommodation provides no authorization for dissemination of the recording or alternate use.

3) “I am concerned that, should any aspect of my lecture be released, it might be taken out of context”.

  • Given the increasing ease with which materials can be disseminated online, this is an understandable concern.  As is the case, whether the recording is formally authorized by the CAL or surreptitiously acquired, any release or use other than that explicitly authorized is a direct violation of Code of Academic Integrity and Good Conduct (S10.01).  Instructors may wish to ask University Audio/Visual Services (http://www.sfu.ca/itservices/technical/av_services.html) to record their lectures so that they can retain a complete record of what is said in the class.  The student who is authorized to record can also be required to provide the instructor with a full copy of the recordings for their records.

4) “The use of audio recording will inhibit the free exchange of information in the class” or “I have guest speakers who will not agree to present if they are informed that the presentation may be recorded in order to ensure access for a person with a disability”.

  • If there are portions of the course, where the instructor would typically stop all class members from making notes, this stipulation can apply to the student with disabilities as well.  However, in order to ensure fair access, the accommodated student must be provided with copies of notes made immediately subsequent to such discussion by a designated note taker (this can be the instructor/TA or some other designated agent).  Such notes would typically refer only to the essential 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. It is important to note that full access to the learning experience cannot be unreasonably withheld; as such, the instructor should use such alternate approaches as those described above only in exceptional circumstances.
  • If an instructor believes that there are specific grounds unique to their course, which might not have been previously entertained, they are encouraged to contact the CAL directly so that the issue can be taken under consideration.  Except in rare cases, the accommodation authorized by the CAL will remain in place while the issue is adjudicated. Where a satisfactory resolution cannot be identified between the CAL and course instructor, the matter will be referred to the Executive Director, Student Affairs.