Information for Instructors: Frequently Asked Questions?


What is an accommodation?Image of an instructor and a student.

An academic accommodation is an arrangement that is put in place to support a student with a disability. Accommodations are provided to “level the playing field”, while protecting essential course requirements. They are available because the disability may put the student at a disadvantage compared to other students who don’t have a disability. VIU recognizes the legal duty to provide reasonable accommodations to students with a documented disability.

Who can access services?

Students who are registered at VIU and have provided Disability Access Services with current documentation of a disability.

A student in my class is having difficulty and I suspect it might be disability related. What can I do?

Refer the student to Disability Access Services, discuss teaching and learning alternatives, and what supports you may be able to provide while the student explores registering with DS.

Is the information about a student’s disability and their academic accommodation confidential?

Yes. Please be careful not to identify the student as a "student with a disability" to others in the class. If you have received an accommodation letter, the student has provided consent for us to have discussions with instructors about accommodations, but we do not share diagnosis. Please do not ask students to share their diagnosis
See: BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

How do I know if a student is qualified to receive disability accommodations?

The student should bring you an Accommodation Letter at the beginning of term that indicates he/she has provided our office with documentation of disability (completed by a health care professional).  The letter outlines what accommodations the student is approved to receive.

Is there anything I should do at the beginning of term?

Please make an announcement about Disability Access Services during the first week of class. Let students know you are aware and supportive of services. Include a welcome statement in your course syllabus such as:

VIU's Disability Access Services provides services to students with Learning Disabilities (LD), psychiatric/mental health disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), chronic medical conditions, and impairments in mobility, hearing, and vision. If you have a disability requiring academic accommodations in this course but are not yet registered with Disability Access Services, please contact them at or visit them in BLDG 200 (2nd floor). If you are already registered with DAS, please provide me with your accommodation letter, either in person during my office hours, or by email. 

I’ve never been around students with visible disabilities. Are there language or terms I should be aware of?

Attendance as an Accommodation

In some situations, disability-related symptoms can impact a student's ability to attend class. Please see Attendance as an Accommodation for more information.

I have a student with a disability in my class who is receiving accommodations but is doing poorly and at this point, and is not passing the class. Do I have a right to fail a student with a disability?

 Reasonable accommodation (as per Accommodation Letter) must be provided, but all students should be marked on work submitted and meet the learning outcomes. Discuss your concerns about the student’s performance with the student just as you would with anyone else in your class who is experiencing difficulty. Accommodations are not a guaranty of success; a student with a disability has the same opportunity to fail as anyone else.

I have a student with an accommodation letter who is being disruptive in class. What should I do?

 All VIU staff and students have the right to a learning and work environment that is “free of disruptive and intimidating behavior” ( Policy 31.06 Disruption-Free Learning and Working Environment) . VIU’s Student Conduct Code (Policy 32.05) asserts that students are “expected to behave in a responsible manner respectful of the learning environment inside the classroom…”. If instructors are concerned about the behaviour of a student who is registered with Disability Access Services, please consult with the Access Specialist listed on the student’s accommodation letter. It may also be appropriate to reach out to Student Affairs (Student Conduct Support


What if my exam is scheduled during the evening and a student with a disability needs accommodation?

It depends on the student’s approved accommodations, your thoughts regarding exam security, and what time the rest of the class starts the exam. You may be able to accommodate the student yourself. Please contact  to discuss your situation.
Please see the Instructors Exams for more information

How does Disability Access Services protect exam security?

Exams are coordinated and invigilated by Assessment and Exam Invigilation Services (AEIS). Before an exam, the invigilators will lock any personal items not required for the exam (backpacks, purses, cell phones, electronics, etc.) in a cupboard. They may also ask students to show us the contents of pockets, hoods, or pencil cases. If a student is approved to use a computer as an accommodation, they use an account that blocks internet. When a student has back-to-back courses, the Exam Coordinator may slightly adjust an exam start time if the student's "extra time" accommodation would otherwise interfere with their next class. In these cases, maximum overlap with the class is maintained. If the student ends up finishing an exam before the rest of the class starts, the invigilators would have the student remain in the exam area with no access to phone/internet until the class exam start time.

What do I do if a student requests an accommodation that was not listed on their “Accommodation Letter?”

The student should be referred back to Disability Access Services. Giving an accommodation that has not been approved could set a precedent and/or lower academic standards. It may also go beyond leveling the playing field by providing an advantage over other students. Therefore, it is best to have the request reviewed by Disability Access Services.

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology (often abbreviated as AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. This may include screen readers, speech to text or a variety of other technology for assisting individuals learning.
Student registered with DS may have access to assistive technology through Assistive Technology of BC
The Accessibility Stations in the VIU Library have some AT available for all students and staff.

I have heard about students who need accessible text. Is there something I can do to help support these students?

Yes.  Some PDF documents are not readable by screen readers. Visit our UDL page for speech to text friendly documents and other tips for accessibility.

Who should I contact if I have further questions about accommodations?

 Email: or 250-740-6446