Rights & Responsibilities

Providing equal access for students with disabilities is a shared University responsibility. An open mind and positive attitude promote the implementation of creative alternatives such as Universal Design for Learning that allow all students to achieve their full potential.

Students who feel comfortable with you and trust that you will keep their concerns confidential are more likely to self-identify early in the quarter. Students with disabilities indicate that your inclusion of a syllabus statement about AccessibleNU and your making it a point to reference the statement during class contribute to that sense of comfort.

Rights and Responsibilities of Northwestern University

Role of AccessibleNU

AccessibleNU reviews and maintains documentation to confirm eligibility for services and determines reasonable accommodations based on the documentation provided and its functional impact. Accommodation determinations are made based on the individual student's condition and the nature of your course.

AccessibleNU implores students to notify you early about their need for accommodation. We cannot, however, automatically notify you on behalf of a student without the student initiating that specific request. If it helps for planning purposes (such as planning for accommodated exam-proctoring), AccessibleNU can pull your class roster and let you know the number and the accommodations (but not the identities) of the AccessibleNU students in your class, although they may not all ultimately request accommodations.

Keep in mind that the main reasons students wait to notify you isn't necessarily out of disorganization or forgetfulness but that they typically hope not to need accommodations, feel uncomfortable self-identifying, or may have only recently been diagnosed with their condition. 

As Northwestern University faculty, you have the following rights:

  • Receive information/verification from AccessibleNU regarding the need for an accommodation in advance of that need (typically in the form of a student's accommodation email)

  • Identify and make visible (e.g., on your syllabus) essential functions, abilities, skills, knowledge, requirements, and standards for courses, programs, services, and activities, and to evaluate students on this basis

  • Consult with and receive support from AccessibleNU staff regarding any disability- or accommodation-related questions or concerns you may have

If you are concerned about a student's behaviors (such as frequently missing classes), please contact AccessibleNU to gather and maintain any relevant documentation and to advise you on reasonable considerations regarding absences or other requests that concern you. Moreover, if you feel that a student's request for an accommodation would fundamentally alter the essential elements of your course or require you to create additional or modified course materials, please review the interactive process for addressing accommodation concerns and contact us right away at 847-467-5530.

Limitations to faculty rights

On the other hand, it is not your right to know a student's diagnosis or nature of their condition or to request documentation of disability-related information such as verification of doctor visits. It is also not your right to determine whether an accommodation is reasonable or not or to recommend an alternative accommodation to a student. Any discussions of this nature should be directed to AccessibleNU.

As Northwestern University faculty, you have the following responsibilities:

  • Provide or arrange for the provision of reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and auxiliary aids and services for students with disabilities who are registered with Accessible NU (meaning you should have received a notification email from AccessibleNU on behalf of the student) in courses, programs, services, and activities

  • Ensure that courses, programs, services, and activities, when viewed in their entirety, are available in the most integrated and appropriate settings

  • Engage in a collaborative process with AccessibleNU to develop creative, reasonable modifications that do not interfere with essential course or program elements and allow you to evaluate students on their abilities, not disabilities 

  • Apply the same grading criteria to students with disabilities as those without (e.g., a student's extra time shouldn't be "taken into consideration" when grading) 

  • Honor students' legitimate need for accommodations, recognizing that they will likely be needed in some form throughout students' lives

  • Maintain appropriate confidentiality of accommodation notifications and disability-related communications except where permitted or required by law or when the student requests that such information is shared

If you are interested, please learn more about the primary laws that govern reasonable accommodation at the postsecondary level.