Q&A For Faculty About Access to Lecture Slides in Advance As An Accommodation

The following questions and answers assume that the ARC student has sent their accommodation letter to the professor and that the accommodation letter includes access to lecture slides in advance.

Q-1. I can see why a student would need this accommodation if they are blind or visually impaired, deaf, or have limited use of their arms or hands. But I received a letter for a student who doesn’t have any of those challenges as far as I can tell. So why else would a student need this accommodation?

Most ARC students are given this accommodation because they have an invisible disability that significantly impacts how they process verbal and/or written information. In general, except where universal design features are being incorporated, college classes are taught in a way that assumes that all students can process information in very specific ways. For instance, it is assumed that the student can continuously and efficiently shift their attention and focus between listening to the professor, looking at slides, and writing notes, while simultaneously sorting and digesting the material and assimilating the new information into their existing fund of knowledge.

However, many students with disabilities are not able to process information in the way just described. For example, many of our students are not able to quickly shift their attention from one learning modality to another, such as from listening to reading and back to listening. Many of our students find it extremely difficult to perform certain tasks simultaneously, such as listening and writing, or harder yet, listening, writing, and digesting information.

All learners need to have cues about the most important points in a lecture and about how ideas are scaffolded so that they can identify key concepts and then put them into an orderly arrangement that allows the student to absorb and comprehend what is being taught. A student with a processing disorder benefits from having a framework for organizing ideas in advance, because during the lectures, they have to work so hard to follow the information that they can't arrange the ideas in a logical progression or distinguish between key takeaways and supporting details. It's a little like finding your way through a forest without a map and compass. Having the slides in advance offers them something to follow as they go through the forest.

ARC also promotes and encourages universal design, and along those lines, There are quite a few students who have no disability but would also benefit from having lecture slides in advance. These are students who have difficulty processing information efficiently due to a variety of backgrounds and life circumstances impacting them on a daily basis. Some examples include students for whom English is a second language, nontraditional students who have been out of school for a while, single parents and family caregivers whose attentions are pulled in multiple directions based on their loved ones’ needs, and students working fulltime who have to divide their finite mental energy between work and school.

Q-2. I don’t post my lecture slides at all, so does this accommodation still apply?

Yes, the accommodation must be provided even if a professor does not post their slides. In such a case, the accommodation requires that a professor provide the slides to the student with a disability, even if they are not providing the slides to the rest of the class.

Q-3. If I give the slides to an ARC student, I don’t want the slides to be posted anywhere or shared with other students. How does ARC address these concerns?

The Accessibility Resource Center shares faculty’s desire to protect academic integrity. We ask every student for whom we approve the accommodation of access to lecture slides in advance to sign the Lecture Slides Agreement form. This agreement indicates that the slides are to be used only for personal use in studying the material, are not to be shared, and must be deleted when no longer needed.

If an ARC student violates the Lecture Slides Agreement and a professor becomes aware of such a violation, it is our expectation that the professor will promptly inform ARC and report the student’s behavior to the Dean of Students as a conduct violation. The Dean of Students office will treat the violation in the same way that it would treat any other conduct issue.

Q-4. My slides are copyrighted, or, I consider my slides to be intellectual property. Do I still have to provide the slides to the ARC student?

Yes, the accommodation must be provided even if slides are copyrighted or considered intellectual property.

Regarding intellectual property: Lecture slides give all students in the class cues about the most important points in a lecture and about how ideas are scaffolded so that they can identify key concepts and arrange them logically. The presumption is that the students will be copying the slides into their notes during the lecture. Even if slides are not posted, if the slides are shown to the class and discussed, then anyone can copy the information down verbatim. Therefore, showing the slides to the class automatically involves the sharing of intellectual property with the entire class. If the slides are not being posted, then the students who benefit most from viewing the slides during the lecture are the ones who can write the fastest to copy the slides. This puts students with disabilities at a clear disadvantage when the disability impacts information processing and prevents them from efficiently copying down the slides.

Regarding copyrighted material: There is a provision in copyright law called the Chafee Amendment that promotes accessibility for copyrighted works. The Chafee Amendment (17 U.S.C. § 121) permits an authorized entity to reproduce or distribute copies of previously published nondramatic literary works if the copies are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities. "Authorized entities include nonprofit organizations or governmental agencies "whose primary mission is to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities."

Q-5. I revise my slides before each lecture, and the slides are not ready until right before each lecture begins. How could I possibly provide the lecture slides in advance to the ARC student?

ARC understands that some professors are revising their slides until just before the lecture starts. What we would ask is that the professor collaborate with the student to identify a workable solution for this scenario. For example, the professor could email the slides in their final form to the student during the five minutes before class starts, and the student could bring their tablet or laptop with them to class so they have ready access to the slides during the lecture. This is not an ideal solution, but it would allow the student to still be able to import the slides into OneNote or a similar app so they can take notes directly on the slides, which is a strategy we frequently recommend to students. Alternatively, if the student prefers to have the slides further in advance to help them prepare, even if the slides are not in their final form, the professor could email the slides to the student earlier in draft form and then email the final version as soon as it is ready.

Sometimes when we share the above suggestions for how to provide the accommodation, professors respond by saying that we are asking too much of them and that what wea are asking is a major inconvenience. ARC understands that professors have many responsibilities and numerous demands on their time. Nonetheless, the University has a legal obligation to provide needed accommodations to give students with disabilities equal access to class materials. It takes 30-60 seconds at most to compose a simple email to a student and attach a file with “slides attached” in the subject line; ARC fails to see how sending such an email constitutes a major inconvenience, and the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights would not accept this as a viable reason for denying a needed accommodation to a student with a disability.