SDS Director’s Memo to Faculty


DATE: September 10, 2021

TO: Faculty/Instructors

FROM: Tawny McManus, Asst Vice Provost for Accessibility & Disability Services

             Director, Office of Student Disability Services (SDS)



Welcome to the Fall semester!

This memo is sent out bi-annually to highlight information from the Student Disability Services office to assist you in ensuring that all students have equal opportunity for access and full participation in your courses.

It is supplemental to the more detailed “Disability Accommodation Guidelines” and resources found on our SDS website located under our “Information for Faculty” menu found at:

ACCOMMODATIONS: Instructors will receive an emailed letter directly from SDS listing the required ADA accommodation(s) if a student with a disability in is your class and has registered with SDS.

  1. If you have a TA or Co-instructor, please share the accommodation letter you receive with them.
  2. If you have a student who reports needing disability accommodations, but you have NOT received a letter from SDS, please refer the student to contact the SDS office.
  3. Be mindful that accommodation letters may come to you throughout a semester. All students are informed about SDS at orientation, but students have the right to request disability support at any time during the year when they are faced with barriers.
  4. Instructors are NOT required to accommodate students retroactively who did not request accommodations and did not have a letter sent from SDS.
  5. Faculty cannot deny a student’s accommodation. Please reach out to SDS staff if there are concerns or questions. Staff will work collaboratively on access solutions for your course(s).
  6. Students with COVID-related concerns and temporary illness are not necessarily students with disabilities and may need to arrange alternative participation directly with their instructors.

TEST ADMINISTRATION: SDS students must receive approved SDS testing accommodations for both virtual and F2F courses.

  1. SDS is proctoring exams in-person for Fall 2021; however, seating capacity is limited.
  2. SDS is NOT proctoring exams for online courses and is not able to provide extended testing hours.

Accommodated testing is available in SDS: MONDAY-FRIDAY 9 AM- 4 PM.

  1. Testing accommodations (e.g., extended time) can be provided online through Blackboard tools. Students can be proctored using the Respondus Lockdown
  2. Do-IT help resources:
  3. Instructors CAN provide testing accommodations using other tools if the accommodation is met appropriately, e.g., ensuring the correct amount of extended time is given, a quiet environment.
  4. Testing accommodations are supported by medical documentation on file in SDS. They do not provide an unfair advantage to students with disabilities. Accommodations allow students to demonstrate their knowledge alternatively given limitations or environmental barriers.
  5. Please consider general accessibility challenges facing all students when testing online, such as poor internet connections that may negatively impact timed testing.


NOTE-TAKING ASSISTANCE: Students with disabilities who have this accommodation primarily use note-taking technologies and audio recording software.


  1. SDS provides access to note-taking technologies to students who require this support. Taking notes in this manner increases active learning, engagement, and study with the course material.
  2. “Recording of lectures” may be listed on the accommodation letter, and an audio recording agreement approved by UMBC’s Office of General Counsel is linked to the accommodation letter for faculty use.

*Recordings are only to be used for academic study and cannot be distributed elsewhere without instructor permission. Students may be subject to conduct sanctions if found in violation.*

  1. If a student cannot use technology and a peer notetaker is necessary, SDS will seek volunteers in the class and coordinate note delivery to students through SDS’s online student portal. Faculty do not make SDS notetaker assignments unless SDS requests assistance.
  2. Instructors CAN provide their own notes as an access solution.
  3. Faculty concerns about audio recording as a required accommodation should be directed to SDS. Students can be asked not to record sensitive discussions where personal disclosure is likely.

ACCESSIBLE COURSE MATERIALS: Accessibility is a shared campus responsibility, and it benefits all students when courses are planned with universal design and inclusion in mind.

  1. ALL course materials and videos must be provided in accessible formats (e.g., captioned videos regardless of whether a Deaf or hard of hearing student is in the class, readable PDFs).
  2. Faculty are advised to attend trainings offered through DO-IT, FDC, & SDS on best practices in hybrid teaching, universal design, and accessibility. PIVOT training is strongly recommended.
  3. USE Blackboard’s Ally tool, which can scan your course content for accessibility challenges.
  4. Run Microsoft Word’s “accessibility checker” on your syllabus and self-created documents.
  5. Choose accessible PDFs and digital textbooks, i.e., texts that can be read by screen readers, not image/picture files or old copies of photocopied documents. Check the library for digital articles and choose Open Educational Resources to adopt when possible.
  6. Record lectures and use Panopto tools for auto-captioning. Host discussions/meetings in Google Meets or WebEx (using WebEx Assistant) to auto caption and have transcripts. Captions/transcripts support students with hearing challenges, noisy learning environments, those with note-taking challenges, & English as a second language (ESL) students.


  1. When disability-related absences occur, students are responsible for contacting the faculty member or SDS as soon as possible to arrange for make-up work or an alternative due date.
  2. An accommodation for a make-up test or an assignment extension is not an automatic extension on all coursework all semester but rather is to be applied when an extenuating circumstance arises from a student’s disability. Therefore, communication between student, faculty member, and SDS is essential.
  3. Any offered or agreed upon new due dates, extensions, or alternative assignments should be documented in writing (email). Typical extensions are between 2-7 days, depending on circumstances.

Faculty should contact SDS staff if there are concerns about excessive absences or extension requests. Faculty should not request any disability documentation be sent to them regarding the absence.

Thank you for assisting UMBC in providing accessible courses to your students. We look forward to working with you to support the diverse learning needs of our students. Do not hesitate to contact an SDS staff member when questions arise.

Office of Student Disability Services (SDS) – (410) 455-2459 –