Skip to Main Content

Foreign Language GEP Requirement

Procedures for Requesting a Foreign Language Course Substitution

While UMBC views the learning of a foreign language to be an essential component of a liberal arts education, it recognizes that otherwise qualified students with language-based learning disabilities, deafness, or hearing/speech impairments may find the conditions of the 201 level Foreign Language General Education Requirement to be a barrier to degree completion due to the functional limitations of a disability.

When a documented disability would significantly interfere or prevent a student from being able to learn a foreign language, he/she can formally request to be considered for a foreign language course substitution through the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS). A foreign language culture course substitution is an accommodation that is approved by SDS on an individual basis through an interactive process between SDS and the student.

In order to establish eligibility for a foreign language course substitution as a disability accommodation, students may refer to the procedures outlined below.

  • The student must be registered with the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS) and have on file documentation of their disability diagnosis and limitations that demonstrate clearly how their disability impacts their speech/language skills.

Appropriate documentation of a language-based learning disability is typically in the form of a psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment report that includes data on the student’s skills in phonological awareness, decoding, auditory information processing, working memory and comprehension. Preferred documentation includes specific discussion and assessment of the student’s ability to learn a foreign language.

  • The student should submit their request for a foreign language course substitution in writing to SDS, or this information can be shared verbally with an SDS disability specialist during an appointment. The request should:

1) State the difficulties the student has had with learning a foreign language due to their disability limitations,

2) Identify any and all attempts to take foreign or secondary language courses, including American Sign Language (ASL) course attempts, and

3) Describe support services and accommodations utilized during foreign language course attempts (e.g. tutoring, meeting with instructors one-on-one).

  • Supporting documentation in the form of a student’s transcript should be submitted to the University Registrar, if foreign language or ASL courses were taken at other institutions, so that an official record of the course attempts and grades earned are noted and part of the course substitution review.

** If a waiver or substitution of foreign language was granted in high school, please submit the corresponding documentation to SDS as part of the request (this information may be noted on a student’s high school IEP).

  • Supporting documentation from a student’s prior foreign language instructor can accompany the student’s substitution request. Such a letter should outline the student’s progress or lack thereof with the course material, the student’s foreign language achievement as compared to peers, and any additional pertinent feedback (such as having met with the student during office hours for assistance).


  • Documentation from UMBC’s Learning Resources Center (or another institution’s similar academic success center) regarding participation in tutoring for foreign language courses, or any other learning supports related to achieving success in a foreign or secondary language course, may also be useful to review.


  • Upon submission of the student’s course substitution request, all relevant information will be reviewed by an SDS Disability Specialist who will respond to the student within two weeks of the status of the request. If additional information or documentation is needed to complete the processing of the request, such as insufficient disability documentation, the Disability Specialist will notify the student as such. Follow up with the student may be necessary to gather additional information.


  • The SDS Disability Specialist and SDS Director will complete a final review of all requests, taking into account all supporting documentation and information obtained, in order to make a determination of whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a foreign language course substitution as an accommodation for a disability that has impacted speech and language abilities. The Disability Specialist will notify the student of the decision.


  • If the substitution request is granted, the Disability Specialist will notify the University Registrar in writing and also note the student’s advising record. The student will be advised to meet with their Academic Advisor to plan for registration of their substitute course and to discuss degree requirements.


  • The student must select from an approved substitute course that carries a culture general education designation in order to meet UMBC graduation requirements. Please note that a foreign language substitution is not an option if a foreign language is deemed essential to a student’s major program or course of study (or is a prerequisite for a required class).