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Attendance Flexibility Guidance

What is This Accommodation Used For?

For students with chronic conditions that are recurrent in nature, there may be times in which they are unable to attend class due to flares or required medical appointments/procedures. The goal of this reasonable accommodation is to ensure access, by allowing for flexibility within the outlined attendance policies. This ensures that students with disabilities are not unduly penalized for disability related concerns that may prevent them from being present for every class session. 

Who Receives This Accommodation?

This accommodation may be granted to students with disabilities who manage chronic or episodic disability-related conditions, such as gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune diseases, fibromyalgia, migraines, cancer, psychological disabilities, and significant medical procedures. 

How to Assess Reasonable Attendance Flexibility in a Class?

Once instructors have been notified of eligibility for accommodations , instructors should assess the extent to which they can reasonably amend any attendance rules for the particular class without fundamentally altering the learning objectives or core components of the course.

Consider the following factors when determining the extent to which attendance is critical to the essential learning objectives of a class:

  • What is the attendance policy stated in the course description and syllabus?
  • How is the final grade for the class determined? Does the final grade take attendance into account?
  • Is the attendance policy followed consistently? Have any exceptions to the policy been made for students without accommodations, such as for athletic travel or religious observances? If so, then students with disabilities must also be given access to these exceptions.
  • Is there significant interaction between the instructor and students, and among students? If so, how much?
  • Does student participation in class constitute a significant component of the learning process? (i.e., discussion, presentations, group projects, performances)
  • To what extent does a student’s absence from class impact the educational experience of other students in the class?

If you have any concerns about how the accommodation affects the class's core components or how to determine what amendments are reasonable, the SAA office is available for consultation.

When is Attendance Flexibility Not Reasonable?

In general, if the class is primarily lecture based, the in-class experience concentrates on reviewing material available in the text or through instructor notes, and involves little student interaction during class, then more flexibility with excused absences may be reasonable.

However, attendance flexibility as an accommodation may not be reasonable in every class. Classes that heavily rely on in-class participation as a method of instruction, classes where student learning is created/assessed in the classroom through experiential or conversational means, and classes in which absences would jeopardize the educational experience of other students in the class may make attendance essential to the learning objectives of the course. In these situations, less flexibility with regard to excused absences is reasonable.

Things to Keep in Mind When Implementing Attendance Flexibility

  • Limits are reasonable; be specific about the maximum number of absences permitted rather than adopting a general “come-and-go and submit work as you please” policy.
  • Short extension windows are common for make-up exams or missed work due to absences, when reasonable.
  • Non-disability related illnesses (such as the flu) and other non-disability related reasons for a student's absence are not covered by the accommodation.
  • Accommodations are not retroactive; instructors are not obligated to adjust previous penalties for absences if accommodation letter is provided later in the term.
  • It is strongly advised that a written summary of an accommodated attendance agreement be sent via email. The email summary helps ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and provides an opportunity to clarify any confusion in the agreement. Students and instructors are welcome to include SAA on these email exchanges for documentation purposes.

If you believe the accommodation is not reasonable in light of your class objectives or the essential elements required for your course, please contact the SAA office immediately at 817-257-6567 or