Flexible Attendance

Important Note: 

We would like to let you know of an important change to the accommodation of flexible attendance.  After much thought and review of current best practices across the country, we have decided to change the process for flexible attendance as an accommodation for chronic illness and disability.  In the past, we have asked students to email or call the DREAM office if they had a disability related absence, and then we would contact faculty members.  Using this model, the  student’s ability to advocate for themselves is enhanced through a more direct relationship with their professors.  We want to empower students to speak and act for themselves as much as possible as this is a skill required in order to access disability related accommodations throughout their adult lives.

From this point on, we have asked students to email their professors directly regarding disability related absences and cc (carbon copy) our office.  This will allow us to track the number of disability related absences they have and to spot teachable moments and problem solve quickly if issues arise.  We will be monitoring the number of absences and will contact students if we or the faculty member have concerns about how much they have been ill.  This information is also used for statistical tracking and planning.

We have asked students to include the following in their email:

  • Let faculty know the absence was due to disability – you can give as much information as you would like
  • If you missed turning something in, attach it to the email if possible
  • Ask faculty if you missed any assignments or any information (like if they moved a test)
If a student is hospitalized or otherwise does not have access to the Internet, we have asked them to call us and we will notify faculty.  

We hope these changes will encourage better communication between students and faculty.  As always, we are here to help you work well with students with disabilities. Please remember to consult with DREAM before issuing a V grade when a student has flexible attendance as a part of the accommodation strategy.

Explanation:

Flexible attendance is considered an appropriate accommodation for students with functional limitations impacting their ability to attend class. This accommodation does not allow a student to capriciously skip class; instead, it is designed to be a process that is designed to meet the disability needs of the individual student. Professors and students must discuss the possibility of the student missing class, plan to discuss the situation if the absences become excessive, and discuss how the student will make up work missed while absent. It is not appropriate to adhere strictly to the University absence policy without regard for the student's accommodation.

This accommodation is interactive and unique for every student, professor, and course. It requires interfacing with the student and with the DREAM office. It is always advised that professors try to flex attendance for students with this accommodation; however, we understand that the student may become too ill to continue in the class. If you believe this is the case, you should initiate a conversation with the DREAM office and the student if possible. Some classes are sequential, with each class building on the information in the previous class, such as many math and language courses. Flexing attendance in these kinds of courses may be more difficult, but as long as the student understands the material and is passing exams, they should be allowed to remain in the class. If a class is primarily lecture based, it is hard to defend adhering to a pre-determined number of absences.

Possible Reasons for Accommodation

Below is a brief and non-exhaustive list of disabling conditions that may impact attendance:

Diabetes: blood sugars may be too high or low, causing the student to feel too ill or fatigued to attend class. Diabetics, in general, may take longer to recover from conditions like cold or flu, or heal from injuries, such as a broken limb.

Epilepsy: when a student has a seizure, they may feel extremely tired for several days.

Bi-Polar Disorder: students with this disorder may experience more rapid cycling at certain times of the year, even when they are taking medication. Stress may reduce the effectiveness of their medication as well.

Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, and Lupus: students with any one of these diseases are severely affected by weather conditions (primarily extremes in heat and cold), fatigue, exposure to cold and flu due to reduced immune system response, and stress.