Disability Services (DS) has been charged by the university to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities as outlined in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In determining who is eligible for accommodations, DS reviews relevant medical and psychometric documentation of the student's disability. If a student requests a disability-related accommodation and has supplied DS with appropriate documentation of the disability, DS will supply the student with a letter to give to his/her instructors verifying the disability, listing the necessary accommodations, and describing how these accommodations can be provided.

While many of the same accommodations for students with disabilities are necessary for students taking distance education courses, classes taught in this manner create some challenges for DS and faculty in properly accommodating students with disabilities. The information below addresses accommodation needs and issues for students with different types of disabilities. Additionally, suggestions are offered for working with students with disabilities in the distance education setting.

Please include our disability statement in your syllabi. Also, keep in mind that designing your class in a way that is accessible to persons with disabilities may also be beneficial to persons without disabilities. If you are creating or using technology in your classes, please consider how a student with a disability would access that program. If you are creating a website for use in any of your classes, it is necessary that the site be accessible to students with disabilities. Ball State has terrific resources to ensure computer access. Contact Carlos Taylor, Adaptive Technology Specialist, (RB 168, 765-285-6124) to learn about Braille, enlarged script options, voice-activated computing, specialized keyboards, and much more.

To ensure access to video for students who are hearing-impaired, contact Jeff Bowers (765-285-2766) at University Media Services to get assistance with captioning or a script. Because captioning video is very labor-intensive, adequate lead time is important. Additionally, if you will be using multimedia presentation software such as Mediasite or IHETS Interactive for your class, it is important to schedule captioning services before you record material in this software. Due to the nature of these software applications, captioning can only be effectively added to these presentations at the time the recordings are made.

With an increasing number of students taking online courses, it is imperative that appropriate disability accommodations be provided for these students.  Typically in online courses, the primary accommodation needed is extended time on exams.  Information is provided below on the process for ensuring that students with disabilities receive accommodations for exams administered online.


If you use Blackboard and a student needs extended time for an exam, there are two ways you could do this.

A) If you do not choose Force Completion for your exams, you can simply permit the student to continue taking the exam for the extended time. Please let the student know this and advise that a prompt will still pop-up saying that the time has expired. The student must then hit “Cancel.” The prompt disappears and the student can proceed with their extra time.

B) The other option is to set Adaptive Release settings for the specific student. Here is the new way to set the Adaptive Release settings in Blackboard 9.1 SP 13:

  1. In the Test Options, the timer must be set for the exam.
  2. Then scroll down to Test Availability Exceptions.
  3. Click on Add User or Group.
  4. From that screen, you can check the box next to the specific student. If you have multiple students needing extended time, you can choose them all at once. Then click OK.
  5. The student(s) should now show up under Test Availability Exceptions. From there, you can add the extended time under the Timer heading.
  6. Scroll down to the bottom of the page & click Submit for the changes to take effect. 


If you use Canvas and a student needs extended time for an exam, follow the instructions below.

  1. Login to the Canvas course page and select Quizzes from the left panel.
  2. Select the quiz to be edited and then choose the Moderate This Quiz link in the upper right hand corner.
  3. Locate the student to be given additional time and then select the Pencil/Edit button near the student name.
  4. Enter the number of minutes of additional time in the box for extra time, then press the save button. 

Joel Whitesel from iLearn (jawhitesel@bsu.edu; 765-285-7200) can assist with this if needed.

Faculty members are under no obligation to provide any accommodations to a student until the student presents the faculty member with a letter of accommodation from the DS office. Before determining what accommodations would be appropriate for a student, DS meets with the student and reviews disability documentation that must be age-appropriate, comprehensive, and must clearly diagnose a disability.


Additional Points

  • The best resource is the student with the disability.  Open communication can lead to good solutions.
  • For post-secondary institutions, the guiding principle is: “What is available to any of your students must be available for all of your students.”  This includes courses offered through distance education.
  • You are encouraged to contact DS if you have questions.  Both the failure to accommodate and over-accommodating are to be avoided.  Communicate with DS early in the process.
  • Please remember that all information relative to disability must be handled in a confidential manner.