Generally, we expect students to follow established classroom attendance policies. Some disabilities, however, are episodic in nature and may result in a student having to miss class for a disability related concern. While we want to encourage instructors to be flexible with the attendance policy, instructors are not required to alter any essential functions of the course. 

SDS determines the need for an attendance accommodation through a thorough review of the disability documentation and only grants the accommodation where there is clear evidence that the disability may directly affect attendance. The accommodation of reasonable flexibility in attendance is not an automatic extension for work that is due on a day a student is absent. Students must still make every attempt to complete and submit their work. We expect the student to complete missed assignments, quizzes or tests in accordance with the flexible attendance agreement discussed in advance with the instructor. 

This accommodation is not appropriate in some classes.  Guidelines for making this determination follow below.  The attendance accommodation is not retroactive. An agreement between the instructor and the student must be in place prior to the absence(s) for the accommodation to apply.  Instructors and students must discuss how and when the student will notify an instructor of an absence, if and how the student will make up the missed content, and any allowed changes in deadlines for assignment completion or dates for examinations or quizzes. A plan must also be in place to discuss the situation if the absences become excessive. If the student does not complete the coursework or does not meet the course expectations in accordance to the attendance agreement, instructors should grade the student accordingly. 

Discussions about attendance expectations may cover a variety of points.  We recommend that any oral communication is followed up with a written confirmation of the agreement to protect both parties. An email is sufficient for this purpose.

When Flexibility is Appropriate

The following, based on questions developed by the US Office of Civil Rights, are guidelines instructors can use when determining whether attendance is an essential function of the course:

  1. How much classroom interaction is there between the instructor and students, and among students?
  2. Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  3. Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method for learning, e.g. foreign language?
  4. To what degree does a student's absence constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
  5. How do you calculate attendance in the final grade?
  6. What is the classroom policy regarding attendance?

The Interactive Process

Student Responsibilities:

  • Initiate conversation early with your instructor. Be clear in communications. Understand that not all classes can offer flexible attendance. Do not just hand your instructor your Letter of Accommodation and expect to receive the accommodation. A conversation must occur between you and your instructor.
  • You are still required to complete all coursework. When you miss class, notify your instructor as determined in your attendance agreement. The accommodation of flexibility regarding attendance does not mean that you will automatically get an extension for work that is due on a day that you are absent. You should still make every attempt to turn in your work. If you will not be able to complete an assignment or if you miss a quiz or exam, it will be your responsibility to contact your instructor in accordance with your agreement. 

Instructor Responsibilities:

  • Be available to discuss the accommodation with the student.
  • Determine how essential attendance is to your course. If you determine, through a deliberative consideration (using the bullet points listed above), that attendance is an essential requirement this accommodation may not be applicable.
  • Be very clear in your expectations when you meet with the student. Feel free to contact SDS for assistance with this discussion.
  • Sometimes student absences become excessive. While you should always have a plan for this with the student, you are welcome to contact us to discuss possible options for the student if this happens.  Please have the student name and ID number available if you call SDS so we can connect you with the correct Accommodations Coordinator for the particular student. 

Student Disability Services Responsibilities:

  • Approve this accommodation only when appropriate.
  • To assist instructors in determining how to implement this accommodation in the class.
  • To provide support to students and instructors when questions or difficulties arise in implementing this accommodation.


Instructors who need assistance in making this accommodation work for their students without compromising academic standards or who believe the attendance policy modification requested does constitute a fundamental alteration of an essential element of the course should contact SDS to discuss their concerns at 319-335-1462 or

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