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Information About Student Accommodations

August 03, 2023

Accommodations are adjustments designed to eliminate or reduce access barriers to the college environment for students with disabilities. They are not intended to provide an academic edge or advantage. Reasonable accommodations are determined through an interactive process with the student and CASS, and are based on a student's functional limitations related to their disability.

Guidance on common academic accommodations:

  • Notetaking support (audio recording, access to digital notetaking tools)
  • Alternative format (Braille, enlarged font, screen reader compatible)
  • Real-time captioning or ASL translation

If you have questions about implementing any approved accommodation, or if a student is requesting an unapproved accommodation, please feel free to reach out to CASS.

Note: Students may register for accommodations at any time while they are at Caltech, but completed registration requests may take up to 30 days to process. Approved accommodations are not retroactive, meaning that they will not apply to any tests, assignments, or absences, or other situations prior to when the student was approved by CASS.

For students whose disability impacts their ability to complete timed assessments within the standard time limit, accommodations such as extra time, breaks, or minor deadline adjustments may be reasonable in order to provide them with an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their full abilities and knowledge.

Approved additional time accommodations are usually given as a percentage - e.g. 25% (time and 1/4), 50% (time and 1/2), 75% (time and 3/4), or 100% (double-time). In very rare circumstances, additional time beyond double-time may be reasonable.

Breaks are intended to allow students to step away from their assessment for a period of time to rest and recover, and are considered "stop the clock." There are no strict time limits for such breaks, but students are informed they are not to study or do any other work during their break time, and that they are expected to complete their assessment within the same 24-hour period they began.

In practice, because most tests at Caltech are in a take-home format, students are responsible for keeping track of their time and following the guidelines of their accommodations as part of their honor code agreement.

Students are responsible for planning their schedules so that they can submit their completed tests within the same deadline as the rest of the class. Having accommodations does not automatically necessitate any adjustment to test submission deadlines; however, if a student has several exams due the same week (such as midterms or finals) and is approved for significant test accommodations, CASS may, in consultation with faculty and the student, approve a small adjustment of the testing deadline on a case-by-case basis.

In rare cases when a timed assessment is conducted in person, additional accommodations, such as a reduced-distraction environment may be needed. While CASS does not typically provide proctoring services, please feel free to reach out to us if you have any concerns about proctoring an accommodated test and we will be happy to work with you to figure out a solution.

Some students may need to be able to briefly step out of class on occasion beyond the standard breaks allotted for your class. The purpose of this accommodation is to inform instructors of this possibility, so that students are not penalized for participation or otherwise given undue attention.

Students, for their part, are asked to leave and returning from breaks as quietly as possible.

If you have concerns that a student approved for this accommodation is taking excessive classroom breaks, or taking breaks in a disruptive manner, please do not hesitate to reach out to CASS.

For students whose disability may flare up unexpectedly and severely to the point where they may not be able to do much work for a day or longer, this accommodation provides reasonable extensions on assignments. If a student needs to use this accommodation, they should email the faculty and any other relevant instructional staff before the deadline to request an extension. CASS should be CCed, and the message should include the following information:

  • That this request is due to a disability-related exacerbation (no details are necessary)
  • How much of the assignment they have completed so far
  • When they expect to be able to turn in the completed assignment

Reasonable extensions typically fall into the 1 to 3 day range; students requesting longer extensions should first contact CASS.

This accommodation is not intended to allow students to catch up on prior missed work, or in cases when a student has a lot of work due all at once and has not sufficiently planned ahead.

For students whose disability may flare up unexpectedly and severely to the point where they may be unable to attend a class session, this accommodation provides a reasonable number of excused absences. If a student needs to use this accommodation, they should email the faculty and any other relevant instructional staff before, or shortly after the missed class session. CASS should be CCed, and the message should specify that this request is due to a disability-related exacerbation (no details are necessary).

Whenever possible, please provide the student with an opportunity to make up any work or obtain notes/slides from the missed class.

CASS does not have a strict limit on the number of absences a student may miss per term, but as a very general rule of thumb, if a class has required attendance and meets twice a week, up to three excused absences (beyond whatever you allow in your syllabus) may be reasonable.

If you are concerned that a student registered with CASS is missing an excessive amount of class, or falling behind on material due to absences, please reach out to us.

Some students may require additional support with taking notes due to their disability. In the past, this was most commonly accommodated through peer notetaking. In recent years, Caltech and many other post-secondary schools have shifted to digital tools, such as apps and software that allow students to audio record lectures, as well as color code, transcribe, take snapshots of the whiteboard, and organize their notes more efficiently.

The most commonly used notetaking tool currently used by students at Caltech is the Notability iPad app, which can simultaneously record audio while a student is handwriting their notes using a digital pencil onto the tablet. After class, students can go back to their notes, and by tapping on a word they wrote, play back the audio in that timeframe. Other notetaking tools used by students may include audio recording/transcription apps such as Otter or Glean, voice memo apps on smartphones, or Livescribe pens.

Students approved for audio recording lectures are permitted to use such tools/apps in class, but must first sign a notetaking agreement with CASS prohibiting the sharing of their recordings, and requiring them to erase the recordings once they have completed your class.

In rare cases when a student is unable to use digital notetaking tools, CASS may approve a peer notetaking accommodation. If needed, we may reach out to faculty to identify students in classes who may be interested in volunteering as peer notetakers.

For classes being delivered via Zoom, CASS highly recommends that faculty turn on the automatic transcription feature. For assistance with Zoom transcription, please contact Caltech Academic Media Technologies.


Assistance with finding collaboration peers

Notes in advance

Why these are informal vs required