Flexibility with Attendance Policy

If a student has a disability that is episodic or cyclical in nature, where acute symptoms flare up and impact the student’s ability to attend class, or where treatment and hospitalization may be required, an accommodation for flexible attendance may be necessary to ensure equal access. 

As attendance requirements are often an important part of a course, this is a carefully considered accommodation that can provide an alternate way for a student to complete essential course requirements. Typically, it is recommended that students receive a minimum of one additional day of flexibility for attendance beyond what is allowed for the course. However, as both student need and course requirements vary widely between courses, requests are considered on an individual basis, often in collaboration with the instructor. Accommodations are intended to remove barriers to access, however, they may not change or lower the essential learning objectives of a course. In some instances, attendance and participation may be fundamental to the course objectives, and therefore, an accommodation will not be appropriate.

Accessible Education is available at any point to provide support to students and faculty in navigating this accommodation, including helping students explore alternative options when necessary. 


Determining if an Accommodation is Reasonable:

If a student is approved for a flexibility with attendance accommodation through the Office of Accessible Education, the next step is to identify potential barriers in a particular course and determine what, if any, accommodations might be reasonable. In some cases, a course might be designed in a way that eliminates, or significantly reduces, barriers related to attendance and participation, and, therefore, the implementation of an accommodation might not be necessary. The following, based on questions developed by the Office for Civil Rights (Department of Education), are guidelines that the instructor and Accessible Education will use to determine whether attendance is an essential function of a course and what, if any, accommodation is reasonable:

  1. How much interaction is there between instructor and students and among students in class?
  2. Do student in-class contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  3. Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on in-person student participation as an essential method for learning?
  4. To what degree does a student’s failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
  5. What do the course description and syllabus say?
  6. How is attendance calculated in the final grade?
  7. What are the classroom policies and practices regarding attendance?
  8. Is flexibility in the attendance policy available for other reasons, such as athletic travel?
  9. Is there a reasonable modification to the attendance policy? If so, is there a limit to the number of classes that can be missed?
  10. Is there an alternative way to meet the participation requirement?

Developing an Accommodation Plan:

If it is determined that a flexibility with attendance accommodation is appropriate for this course, the student and instructor will work together to develop a plan. The plan should include considerations related to exams, a communication strategy, and any other details related to the implementation of the accommodation.  If in-class assessments are a component of this course, be sure that your plan addresses makeup assessment procedures should the student be unable to attend class on the day of the assessment.  Students and instructors may find it useful to use this worksheet in developing their accommodation plan. 

Instructor Responsibilities

  • If the accommodation is appropriate, meet with the student to develop a plan.
  • Ensure that expectations and limits are clearly articulated and check-in if student is approaching threshold
  • Document communications relating to accommodation requests.
  • Consult with AE as needed

Student Responsibilities

  • If an accommodation is determined to be appropriate, schedule a meeting with your instructor to develop a plan within the first week of class or sooner.
  • Maintain regular communication with your instructor throughout the semester.
  • Consult with AE as needed

Important Notes

  • Most courses will have an absence limit that, once exceeded, makes it impossible to meet the learning objectives. In this instance, a student may wish to talk with their Student Support Advisor about considering a medical withdrawal from the course.
  • An accommodation for flexible attendance is not an automatic extension for work that is due on the day a student is absent. Due dates and exams should be discussed by the student and instructor as part of the accommodation plan. 
  • Like any accommodation, flexible attendance is not retroactive, meaning an agreement must be in place prior to any absences. Any consideration or provision of a retroactive accommodation would be an exception, at the discretion of the instructor.
  • If an absence is required affecting a final assignment or assessment, a course deferral might be required.  Students should connect with their Student Support Advisor for assistance.