Students with disabilities that affect memory, information processing, and analytical reasoning may face challenges in specific courses, such as foreign language and math classes. They may need accommodations in order to be successful in such classes. If accommodations are insufficient to level the playing field with the other students in a class, the institution may consider a course substitute. For example, an institution might allow a computer science course to replace a math course for a student who needs hands-on and interactive activities to grasp the subject.
Substitution policies and procedures are unique to the institution. For example, Northwestern University provides this statement on their website about course substitutions:
All students must be qualified to participate in any program of academic study with or without reasonable accommodations. Therefore, students with disabilities are not excused from course prerequisites, GPA requirements, or degree requirements. However, in some limited circumstances it may be appropriate for a substitution, not a waiver, of a peripheral academic requirement such as a course. Such accommodations are made only when it is clear that the student's condition makes completion of the requirement impossible and that such an accommodation does not alter the integrity of the academic program.
Consideration of a substitution is done on a case-by-case basis, and the final decision rests with the dean of the student's college or school. Evidence of a disabling condition affecting the skills needed for the required course must be provided to AccessibleNU, and the Director of AccessibleNU will work with the deans of the academic colleges and schools. Course adaptation or accommodation must be considered before a substitution is granted.
An institution may be more likely to allow a substitution for a general requirement than for a course that is required for the student’s major. It is best for a student to consult with a counselor in the disability services office regarding the rules and regulations for a specific institution and for guidance through the proper steps for arranging a course substitution.