Accommodating Purdue Northwest Students

Quality education and student success are our highest values at Purdue Northwest. Accommodations for students with disabilities are not only required by the law, they help our students succeed in their education by providing equal opportunity.

Student in a wheelchair using a computerAccommodations provide modifications to help our students with disabilities be successful in the classroom, similar to how instructors may modify their teaching style or methods according to the needs of a particular class. We know that you want your students to be successful and we are here to assist you!

These materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not to be construed as legal advice. Please collaborate with the PNW Accessibility Center to address your questions, and compliance with accommodations for students.


Defining Reasonable Accommodation

  • A reasonable accommodation is an academic adjustment or auxiliary aid which does not cause a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program or impose an undue financial or administrative burden to the institution.
    • Does not affect the integrity of the course
    • Does not affect the safety of others or the student
  • An effective accommodation may require the student to use means or measures different or in addition to those used by non-disabled students or to work with or consult with others.
  • Provides the student with an equal opportunity to obtain the same benefit, result and/or level of achievement at PNW.

Legal Requirements for Reasonable Accommodations

  • Institutions of Higher Education must make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability, UNLESS doing results in:
    • An undue financial or administrative hardship, or
    • The person poses a direct threat to others.
  • Faculty must make adaptations (reasonable accommodations) to instructional practices: i.e. changes in the delivery of some course materials and assessment of knowledge as long as these adaptations do not affect the objectives of the course or program.

PNW Must Provide Accommodations For

  • Course Materials / Websites
  • Testing
  • Physical Access to Facilities
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Community Events / Entertainment (plays, concerts, athletics)
  • Food Services
  • Housing / Parking
  • Voting
  • Programs and Activities
  • Equitable transportation options

Accommodations Are

  • Modified schedules
  • Auxiliary aids and services
  • Modified policies and procedures
  • Materials in alternative formats
  • Accessible information technology
  • Captioned video (YouTube, DVD, etc.)
  • Modified requirements for procedures
  • Assistive technology

Examples of Reasonable Accommodation

  • Making facilities Accessible
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment/devices
  • Restructuring a task
  • Substituting tasks
  • Changing schedules
  • Modifying work/training site
  • Providing readers, writers, interpreters
  • Testing accommodations
  • Providing transition planning and support

Specific Accommodations at PNW

  • Note-taking assistance
  • Use of a laptop
  • Recording of lectures and discussions
  • Interpreters
  • Textbooks in alternative formats
  • Preferential seating
  • Use of assistive technology (Kurzweil, Smart Pen, etc.)
  • Alternative testing arrangements: i.e. extended time and/or distraction-limited testing environment
  • Coordinated auxiliary services: interpreting, closed captioning
  • Other (student by student basis and based on presenting symptoms of disorders)
  1. Students initiate and provide appropriate documentation pertaining to their disability to the PNW Accessibility Center. The documentation must be current and from a qualified professional who has conducted an individualized assessment of him/her.
  2. Student schedules an appointment to meet with an PAC representative to discuss possible accommodations which are most beneficial and appropriate for the individual.
  3. PAC representative approves or denies accommodations request.
  4. PAC provides students with letters that the student gives to each instructor reflecting approved accommodation.
  • Accommodations are allowed at any time during a semester provided that you as the instructor have received the Access Plan.
  • Students may choose not to utilize accommodations.
  • Accommodations are not retroactive

Provide academic adjustments or accommodations immediately and ensure ample time to provide the opportunity for students to be successful.

Sample Access Plan

  • If the student is approved to receive accommodations, an Access Plan is prepared by PAC.
  • The Access Plan will not disclose the student’s disability due to confidentiality; however, the accommodations the student is approved to receive will be identified.
  • Access Plan’s can be accessed from the AIM Instructor Portal. An email notification will be sent to an instructor to notify them that there is an Access Plan waiting to be read for a student in their course.

Office of Institutional Equity

  • Refer a student to the Office of Institutional Equity if he or she is concerned that there may be potential harassment and/or discrimination.
    • Hammond Campus, Lawshe Hall, Room 231, (219) 989-2337
    • Westville Campus, Schwarz Hall, Room 25D, (219) 785-5545

The ADAA Law States

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act state that otherwise qualified individuals should be permitted to attend institutions of higher learning with reasonable accommodations to eliminate or reduce barriers as it pertains to their disability. This applies to courses AND out of class activities.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as Amended are civil rights statutes that are designed to prevent discrimination against students based on their disability.
  • Section 504 and 508 defined.

PNW’s Requirements for Compliance

  • Purdue University’s Equal Opportunity, Equal Access & Affirmative Action Policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
  • Instructors must provide academic adjustments to qualified students with disabilities.
  • Academic adjustments include modification of academic requirements as described in the letter of accommodation provided to the instructor, including but not limited to:
    • Changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of degree or course requirements;
    • Substitution of specific courses required for the completion degree requirements;
    • Adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.


  • Academic adjustments also include the provision of auxiliary aids and services including (but not limited to):
    • Audio form of texts;
    • Interpreters or other effective methods of making orally delivered materials available to students with hearing impairments;
    • Readers in libraries for students with visual impairments;
    • Classroom equipment adapted for use by students with manual impairments;
    • Other similar services and actions.

We must make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability unless we can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity.

Purdue Web Accessibility Policy

  • System-wide policy adopted March 15, 2010.
  • All official web pages and web-based services developed by or for a college, school, department, program or unit of Purdue University must comply.
  • Also applies to class materials provided online.
  • Policy says materials accessed online must be compliant when first made available to any student.

Applicable Policies and Relevant Procedures

Note: A complaint can be filed against employees and students for violating disability rights.  If a violation(s) of University policy is found, then sanctions, including disciplinary action, can be imposed in accordance to the procedures.

Types of Impairments

Any student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities must receive accommodations, if requested.

The Department of Education (DOE) provides some examples of these types of impairments. However, please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list:

  • Neurological conditions
  • Sense organ impairments
  • Musculoskeletal impairments
  • Emotional or mental illnesses
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Digestive ailments
  • Learning disabilities
  • Organic brain syndromes

As a PNW Instructor, Your Responsibilities Include:

  • Review the access plan.
  • Meet privately with student to discuss accommodations. (Please note: This is a highly protected and confidential matter. It is a violation of the student’s civil rights if you discuss the student’s disability status in front of anyone. You should not ask the student about the specific nature of his/her disability.)
  • Contact the PAC with any questions or concerns about the approved accommodations. Three strategies for meeting the accommodations include adjusting pedagogy, modifying equipment and environment, and utilize technology.
  • Provide accommodations immediately.

Instructor Responsibilities

  • A faculty member’s refusal or assertion of impossibility is not sufficient without full exploration of the availability of academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids and/or alternatives for providing access. Debates about the feasibility of accommodations and/or who is responsible for providing them should not leave students caught in the middle.
  • Collaboration with the trained staff of the PAC is highly recommended.
  • An instructor cannot refuse to work with a student because the instructor is concerned that the student will not be successful in education or employment.
  • Provide an educational environment that is free from harassment.


  • All information about a student’s disability is confidential .
  • PAC staff cannot provide instructors with specific information regarding a student’s diagnosis or disability.
  • The student decides how much information to share with you.
  • It is crucial that any conversation related to a student’s disability be in private in a confidential setting and not in front of the classroom or other students.
  • Instructors must avoid inadvertent disclosure of the student’s disability.
  • If you believe that a student has a disability, you may request accommodation without giving a student’s name.

Keep in Mind That

  • Students with similar disabilities may have very different needs. Individualize the accommodations as needed. Check with the PAC about any changes in the accommodations you are providing.
    • Some disorders may progress with worsening effect and upon review, additional accommodations may be needed within the semester that previous accommodation(s) were granted.
  • The essential components of your course should be the same for students with and without disabilities.
  • Try to select textbooks that come in alternative formats, such as PDF, audio, and/or large print.
  • If your textbook is not available in alternative format, conversion technology may assist, but understand that a student may not have immediate access to the text to complete assignments as posted on your syllabus schedule.
  • The Faculty Senate requires the following on your syllabus: Students who may need accommodations due to disability should contact the PNW Accessibility Center (PAC) to discuss specific needs. The PAC is located at the Hammond campus on the third floor of the Student Union and Library Building, Room 341 and at the Westville campus on the first floor of the Technology Building, Room 101. If accommodations for the student are approved by that office, the student must provide his/her instructor with a copy of the official Access Plan as soon as it is received in order to obtain accommodations.  Students may contact the PAC by calling (219) 989-2455 at or email at
  • Equal access does not mean lowering the academic standards or expectations for students.

Providing Accommodations Does Not Infringe upon Academic Freedom, According to the Office of Civil Rights

  • Faculty have the freedom to conduct research and publish and to teach the subject matter.
  • Faculty have the freedom to speak or write as individual citizens in the community (not university representatives).
  • There is NO academic freedom to discriminate against any student including those with disabilities.

Learn about Assistive Technology at the PAC

This session highlights accommodating students with disabilities with technology including:

  • using a tool called Verbit in online sessions for hard of hearing students & how instructors can use technology in an in-person class
  • the importance of clear face masks or face shields
  • some of the other technology instructors may see PAC students using while in their courses

Link to Assistive Technology Webinar

Making equitable accommodations

Using Alt Text in Brightspace

  • Alt text allows you to provide the content of the image in an alternative text format.
  • All images should have an alt text description that can be read by a screen reader.

Accessible Files

  • Make sure PDFs are tagged for accessibility.
  • Scanned files can not be read by text-to-speech software. Use original text files.

Captioning Videos

More Assistance with Brightspace and Other Instructional Software

Visit the Office of Instructional Technology website for the most update information on Brightspace and other instructional software.

Tips for Creating Accessible Online Material

  • Use standard fonts –sans-serif, 12 points or larger.
  • Provide alternative text for images that are not decorative and are not captioned.
  • Avoid using images of text.
  • Provide meaningful links instead of URLs alone.
  • Provide captions for videos and transcripts for audio recordings.
  • Check color contrast and do not use color alone nor all caps to convey meaning.
  • For PDFs use the Make Accessible Wizard in Acrobat Pro.
  • Use built-in accessibility checkers in Microsoft Office.

Other Tools and Applications

  • Be aware that tools like Prezi and enterprise applications like may have accessibility barriers.
  • Be ready with equally accessible alternatives.

Assistance with Accessibility

Digital Accessibility website