Postsecondary institutions must comply with federal requirements regarding disability services and ensure that courses are accessible for all students.
To ensure that your institution is complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for students with underlying health conditions, consider the following actions:
1. Allow students to create virtual appointments with campus Disability Support Services representatives.
- Virtual appointments allow for the socially distant provision of services to all students, regardless of whether your institution has implemented face-to-face, hybrid or fully online courses for the Fall 2020 semester. Virtual appointments are especially important for students who are at high risk for COVID-19 and unable to meet in-person.
2. Prepare to accommodate students who are at a higher risk for COVID-19-related complications.
- Identify specific accommodations required for students who are at a higher risk for COVID-19-related complications due to underlying health conditions, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Reasonable accommodations should continue to be made for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions should prepare for the likelihood that some students who did not require accommodations prior to COVID-19 may now need and request them, and students who previously had accommodations might need to request changes.
- As noted in the open letter from the Accessible Campus Action Alliance, the CDC’s criteria for “high-risk” categories do not always align with ADA-protected disabilities. Disability services personnel should review requests for accommodation on an individual basis to help support the health and safety of all students and consult legal counsel as necessary in making a determination regarding accommodations.
- The Maintaining Access to Opportunity In the Face of the Coronavirus Crisis report from the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) compiles a wide variety of ideas and resources from disability resource professionals across the country that focus on how best to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some topics covered in this report include:
- Online teaching accessibility best practices
- Taking exams online
- Online accessibility for students who are deaf or hard of hearing
- Preserving relationships/communication between disability services professionals, students, faculty and other stakeholders
3. Ensure that online courses and learning management systems are accessible.
- Federal law requires covered educational institutions to provide equal access for students with disabilities to programs, benefits and services. Colleges and universities must continue to adhere to this requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many courses move to an online format, it is critical for institutions to ensure that their online learning management systems and online courses meet accessibility requirements.
- Common accessibility accommodations include timed exams, captioning for videos, sign language interpretation and provision of alternatives to inaccessible course components.
Explore Access at the University of Arkansas has a toolkit to help campuses incorporate accommodations in the transition to virtual learning.