In some cases, students have disabilities that require exam accommodations. Most universities will have some sort of disability services office that can answer any questions students or professors may have and that can help coordinate appropriate accommodations. For example, someone with a visual impairment may need to have exam materials transcribed into braille or audio formats and may need to write their exam in a space that allows them to use audio equipment. Or, a student with a learning disability may require a quiet exam room and extra time to write so they can better process the questions without distractions. A temporary impairment, such as a wrist or hand injury, may also require accommodations, such as the use of a scribe or voice-to-text software. Some students may also be eligible for ongoing support from a specialized tutor or learning strategist who can help identify specific study strategies that are best suited to their needs.
It is the university’s responsibility to provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations in cases where students have diagnosed and documented disabilities. In many cases, though, it is the student’s responsibility to provide documentation or proof of a disability if they wish to access accommodations, to follow the appropriate process of requesting accommodations, and to provide the disability services department and their professors adequate time to make the necessary arrangements. There are many students who require accommodations, and some accommodations take considerable time to prepare for, especially if special exam spaces and supervisors need to be schedule, if software needs to be licensed or set up, or if alternate formats need to be prepared. In some cases, getting the necessary proof of a disability requires appointments with health professionals, which can also take time. Therefore, it is extremely important that you contact your professor and your university’s disability services department as early in the semester as possible to get the required paperwork in order. If you do not know what documentation you need, your disability services office should be able to provide you with information. If the semester is already underway and you are faced with a temporary impairment or have only just been diagnosed with a disability that requires accommodation, contact your professor and disability services office as soon as possible after your injury, illness, or diagnosis.
Each university has its own exam deferral policy, but exams are typically deferred only under exceptional circumstances, such as a death in the family or severe illness. You will want to consult with your own university’s policies surrounding exam deferrals as you may need to follow a number of procedures and protocols such as contacting your instructor within 48 hours, obtaining documentation to support the absence, completing official paperwork to apply for a deferred exam, or paying a fee to set up the deferred exam.