The Thread: Accommodations for Online Programs

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

I wanted to share with you a question posed by a DO-IT Scholar in our Internet discussion forum and some of the responses so that you can get the flavor of the many rich conversations the DO-IT community has online. Some forum posts are edited for clarity and brevity.

I am currently thinking about applying to Full Sail University's online program. As I was reading and going through the application, it said that if I have a qualified disability (dwarfism, hearing loss, etc.) I need to contact their Student Success Team. I know that if I was going in person, I would need to go through that process, but should I still, even if I'll be studying from home? What are your suggestions?

Photo of 2012 Scholar Garrett wearing a blue shirt types on a laptop.
Accommodations can be helpful, even for online study.

DO-IT Mentor: If you might need accommodations during the school program, I'd recommend contacting their department. I can think of a couple cases where accommodations might still be desirable, even though you're studying online; sometimes, online courses utilize videos, etc., so if hearing is an issue for you, you might want to have it on record that you need accommodations, or if you need extra time to complete tests/assignments.

My guess is that even if you contact the Student Success Team, your classmates and maybe even your teachers won't automatically know you have a disability. When I was on campus, it was up to me whether I divulged my disability to my teachers or just used the school's resources without letting my teachers know or asking for accommodations from them. Because I attended classes in person and my disability is visible, this was a moot point for me. But if I was attending online classes, I think I'd get myself in the system, so to speak, so I had the option of getting accommodations if the need arose.

DO-IT Ambassador: I take lots of online classes because with them, I don't need any accommodations. The online format is perfect for me. If I took the same classes in a normal classroom I would need several accommodations. Three community colleges don't even know I have a disability because I have never needed to tell them. It's great!

DO-IT Ambassador: I think it is always a good idea to contact the Disability Services office (in your case, the Student Success Team), even for an online course. It does depend on what accommodations you use, though. In college, I receive extended time for writing assignments, which would still apply to an online class. Another benefit to contacting them is that you will have a support system within the school. I have found that the Disability Services is a great resource because you can contact them if you are having trouble or need advice. Lastly, it is always best to be safe and register with them, because if you decide mid-way through the quarter that you need accommodations, it would be too late.

DO-IT Mentor: I took an online course myself a while ago. I could not access the blackboard due to it being very graphics-based and needed to ask for an accommodation. All in all, it helps. Should an instructor choose to neglect my request for reasonable accommodations, the Disability office is already there to advocate on my behalf.

DO-IT Pal: Academic accommodations can be useful in online settings. I receive disability services at Everett Community College. In hybrid courses I have completed, I have received extended time on quizzes and exams. I suggest you apply for accommodations if you think they would help you.

DO-IT Ambassador: I have never taken an online class at a college. However, I would still recommend that you contact the disability resource center. Even studying from home, there may be certain aspects you need assistance with. For example, I am visually impaired and would need assistance with interpreting graphics on the screen. Students with hearing impairments would likely need closed captioning or possibly an interpreter. The disability resource center could work with your instructor on making the online class accessible.