FAQs for Faculty and Staff

Individuals responsible for providing support services to students with disabilities on various college campuses may have different titles and work out of different offices. While all institutions of higher education provide access for students with disabilities to some degree, how that access is achieved may vary from one campus to the next.

At Syracuse University, the staff in the Center for Disability Resources (CDR) is responsible for coordinating access for students with disabilities through an interactive process involving the Center for Disability Resources (CDR), the student, and when necessary, representatives from other University departments.

Following are examples of questions that have been addressed to staff over time. If you have any additional questions or concerns specific to your needs, please contact the Center for Disability Resources (CDR).


Q: What is the Disability Faculty Portal and how do I access it? 

A: The Disability Faculty Portal is an online platform for faculty to use in providing disability-related accommodations for students. Within this Portal, faculty can access the accommodation letters of students enrolled in their courses, sign-ups by students to take their exams at CDR, provide CDR with exams to administer to these students, and view peer course notes if a peer note-taker has been hired for a course. The Disability Faculty Portal can be accessed by logging in through MySlice and selecting the ‘Disability Faculty Portal’ link located in either the Disability Resources pagelet or the Faculty Services pagelet.

Q: At times, use of the Portal can be time-consuming for faculty – what are the benefits that justified this change?

A: The process we use is designed to most closely match what students without disabilities can do.  For example, students without disabilities arrive to class for an exam and take it, whereas students who use accommodations have additional processes they must follow to take an accommodated exam.  This is a burden we try to minimize, and the Faculty Portal is part of that.  We also use faculty input about the features that are most important to them in using our system and alter the process using that feedback as much as the system permits.       

Q: I use an Apple/Mac; will that be an issue when using the Disability Faculty Portal?  Is there a preferred internet browser (or some to avoid)?

A: It has been found that using the Safari internet browser has the potential for causing problems when trying to access the Disability Faculty Portal.  As a result, it is recommended to use Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Internet Explorer for optimal performance.

Q: What should I do when I receive notification of a student’s letter of accommodation?

A: You are encouraged to review the accommodation letter and reach out to the student. Students are also told that they should always reach out to faculty to discuss their accommodations and the implementation of them. If you have any additional questions about the accommodations or how to accommodate the student, please reach out to the Access Coordinator who is listed at the top of the letter.        

Q: Why are there some accommodation letters missing from my Portal?

A: Students can opt out of having our office send their accommodation letter directly to their instructors each semester. Since it is within a student’s right not only to disclose their disability status with an instructor, but also how they prefer to disclose, it is possible that a student might prefer to not have their letter sent to their instructors immediately. If they make this choice, students need to provide their letters to faculty themselves in order to arrange for implementation of accommodations.  In these cases, students may email their letters or provide them to faculty in-person.

Q: Do I have to sign the accommodation letters I receive?

A: This is encouraged but not required.  Instead, we recommend using the signature function as a method of tracking letters that you have reviewed, or that you have followed up with the corresponding student regarding their accommodations.      

Q: Is there a deadline for students to request their accommodation letters be sent to their instructor?

A: No. At any time in the semester a student could disclose their disability status and be approved for accommodations or have changes made to their current accommodation plans.      

Q: If a student drops my course, will their letter be removed from the Portal?

A: No, at this time, these letters are unable to be removed.  

Q: Can I customize my Portal view/functions?

A: No, at this time there are no available options for faculty wishing to customize their Portal interface.

Q: Why do all students show up on the ‘Student’ tab, rather than just CDR students?

A: Since it is within a student’s rights to disclose their disability status to instructors, we cannot simply provide an exhaustive list of CDR affiliated students within the Disability Faculty Portal.

Q: Do you offer an Pre-Welcome to your services for incoming/new students?

A: Yes! We offer a Summer Pre-Welcome program (Access ‘Cuse) for incoming/new students. Not all students will attend the pre-welcome, so students will learn more about the accommodation process by working with their Access Coordinator and during their Welcome Meeting.  

Q: What if I need accommodations?  Does CDR support faculty/staff with disabilities?

A: If you need accommodations as a Faculty/Staff member with a disability, please contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Exam Services:

Q: How do I know when a student signs up for an exam?

A: Every time a student signs up for an exam in one of your courses, you will receive an email notification with the student’s name, course, time, and date. You can also check your Portal.

Q: How do I manage multiple exam sign-ups spread across multiple courses/sections?

A: To access all sign-ups for all sections, you must go through each section.  The course and section will be in the automated email confirmation you receive.  That way, you will know directly where to go if you are looking for a specific sign-up.

Q: Do I have to approve exam sign-ups?

A: Please do.  That way, you are always kept informed regarding who has signed up to take your exam(s).

Q: When a student signs up outside the class time, what should I do?

A: If this is not an agreed upon time or does not fall within their regular class/final schedule, please decline their sign up and contact the student to clarify.  If you agreed on an alternate date/time with the student in advance, it is helpful to include a note to that effect when you approve the signup.

Q: Can I upload the same exam for multiple sections?

A: Yes! Please upload the exam to the main section and/or put “All Sections” in the exam title.

Q: How do I upload an alternate exam for a specific student?

A:  When you approve their pending sign-up, there will be a drop-down for you to select a previously uploaded exam or to upload a new exam.  You should select ‘upload a new exam’ and attach the alternate exam to the student’s sign-up.  The exam will not show to the student – only to CDR administrative staff.

Q: How do I know my exam was uploaded successfully? Do I get a message?  What if it takes too long?

A: When you are in the Exam tab of your course, any exam you have uploaded will be listed there directly under the ‘Add New Exam/Materials’ button. The title of the exam will be listed, along with information regarding the dates and length of exam. Below that is a link that shows as ‘<file>’ – if you select that link, the uploaded exam/materials will open to show that you have submitted the correct file. You will not receive a message. If you are having trouble determining whether you have correctly uploaded the materials, you are always welcome to email CDRexams@syr.edu or call 315-443-6005 for assistance.

Q: What is the difference between ‘submit’ and ‘save’ when uploading exams?

A: The ‘submit’ and ‘save’ buttons both save the information you have entered.  The submit button simply returns you to the page you were on before you hit save, while the save button keeps you on that same page.   

Q: What does “exam length” refer to?

A: The length of time your regular class gets for the exam.  CDR staff will calculate and add the additional time a student gets with their testing accommodations.

Q: Should I upload an exam when I know there is a student with approved exam accommodations in my course, even if the student has not yet signed up?

A: Yes, please! In the case that a student signs-up last minute, we will already have access to the exam, which will save time and energy.  The exam will not be printed unless there is a student signed up to take it.           

Q: Why do I need to provide my contact information when students are taking their exams at CDR? 

A: Students with disabilities, regardless of where they are taking their exam, have the same rights as other students.  This means that they should have access to their faculty if they have any questions during their exams. If this occurs, CDR will call, text, or email faculty with student questions.  For this reason, please provide contact information when uploading your exams using the Disability Faculty Portal.

Q: Does/can the Disability Faculty Portal send reminders to upload my exam?

A: No. If we have not received the exam, we will email you either the evening before, or the morning of the exam.

Q: How and when are completed exams returned to me?

A: Completed exams are returned one of two ways; you or an approved TA/staff member may come to CDR and pick up the exams, or we will scan, email, and then campus mail the exams to you. If you select to have them emailed, they are generally sent back the same day. During midterms and any other exceptionally busy days, you may receive them the next day. During finals, expect them to take several days.  If you need them back sooner during those peak times, the best method is pick-up.

Q: Why do I need to upload my exams to the portal instead of emailing the exams to CDR? 

A: The Disability Faculty Portal makes it easier for instructors and CDR staff to manage exams that need to be administered to students at CDR. By uploading through the Portal, instructors can now keep all CDR related matters in one location, making it much easier to reference if a student signed up for an exam and if an exam was provided to CDR staff. Similarly, the Portal provides a more secure mechanism for our office to receive your exams. The Portal is more streamlined and efficient, as all exams are in one location, and that allows us to keep our inboxes uncluttered so that we can easily access emails that might be time-sensitive.

Q: I would like to drop my exam off at CDR, what time does CDR Exam Services open?  Do you have a ‘Drop Box’?

A: CDR is open Monday to Thursday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm, and Fridays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. If you are coming after 5:00 pm Monday-Thursday, please email CDRexams@syr.edu before 5:00 pm so we know you are coming.

Q: Are students excused from one class in order to take an exam (with accommodations) in another class?

A: NO. Under no circumstances should a student miss a class to take a test, quiz, or exam for another class. If they have a class-related time conflict, accommodations must be made for them to take the exam earlier, later, or on an alternate date.

Q: Do exams have to be taken at CDR? 

A: No. The ideal situation is when the instructor can provide the testing accommodation directly to the student. This ensures that an instructor is there if the student has a question during the exam. If you and the student decide to use CDR Exam Services, please utilize the Disability Faculty Portal.

Q: Why do we have to accommodate students who don’t sign up well in advance, but come to CDR to take their exam?

A: Students with disabilities legally have the right to their accommodation regardless of when they sign up. If you know you have enrolled students with exam accommodations, please upload your exam regardless of whether they have signed up in advance. 

Q: What happens when a student shows up to class and expects extra time on their exam?

A: You may either accommodate your student or you can send them to CDR with a note or email us saying they have your permission to take it at CDR then.  If you do send a student to our office, please make sure you upload your exam and all necessary proctor information.

Q: Do testing accommodations/modifications apply to other assignments? 

A: No. However, if an assignment is a take home quiz, test, or exam, then the extended time and any additional testing accommodations/modifications may apply.  Please contact the student’s CDR Access Coordinator to discuss further if you have any questions about this.


Q: Why am I being asked to provide my course materials electronically and in advance of class meetings?

A: Students with disabilities have the right to receive their handouts in the same time-frame as those provided to students without disabilities. Converting text into larger sizes, Braille, tactile graphics and audio files is time-consuming. Providing materials in advance allows CDR to get those materials to students in a timely manner.

In order to initiate alternative media processing, it is helpful to have the:

  • ISBN of textbooks
  • Approximate timelines of dates for starting each chapter
  • A syllabus for approximate dates of assignments, quizzes, and exams
  • All handouts and supplemental written materials

Additionally, some students need advance access to your PowerPoint slides.  In some cases, CDR will make sure the text and the figures are accessible.  For other students, advance assess to the slides is required for their disability-related learning needs.

Q: What are the student’s responsibilities in ensuring they receive their accommodations?

A: Students are encouraged to contact their instructor to discuss their accommodation letters and how they will be implemented. We also suggest they attend instructors’ office hours.  Instructors can also initiate the conversation with the student when they receive notification from CDR regarding the student’s accommodations.

Q: What happens if a student shares their notes/class recordings/power points with other students?

A: As long as this is made clear as a course specific policy, this is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Students should not share their notes/class recordings/power points unless agreed upon with the instructor.       

Q: What if I do not understand an accommodation or why a student has a certain accommodation?

A: Check out the CDR page called Understanding Accommodation Letter Terms for information about each accommodation potentially listed on an accommodation letter, or contact the student’s Access Coordinator for greater detail. While a student’s specific disability diagnosis is confidential, if you want clarification about a certain accommodation as it pertains to your learning objectives, please contact the student’s CDR Access Coordinator.  

 Q: If a student says they have accommodations (from CDR) but I have not received anything from CDR, what should I do?

A:  Please check the Accommodation Letters tab within your Disability Faculty Portal.  If you have not received an accommodation letter, please ask the student for a copy.   If the student does not have a copy, please have the student contact CDR directly for assistance.           

Q: What if I have concerns about students recording my lectures?

A: You always have the option to contact the student’s disability Access Coordinator in CDR to discuss this accommodation.         

Q: Some accommodations require faculty input – if I am not privy to the student’s disability, how would I be able to provide input?  For example, how many absences should a student be allowed without a grading penalty?

A: These accommodations relate more to a course’s particular learning objectives, i.e., how much learning occurs in the classroom as interactions with peers and instructor, how much of a student’s grade attendance is worth based on these objectives, etc.  CDR can provide additional guidance in terms of decision making as well.

Q: What is the difference between ‘peer note-taker’ and ‘note-taking assistance’?

A: A peer note taker is another student who attends the class and takes notes for the student who has a “peer note-taking” accommodation. Note-taking assistance is when the student with the disability is taking their own notes by using a laptop or a recording device.      

Q: Why do we not require all students to handwrite notes, and to accommodate, instead provide peer notes, rather than make an exception to our ‘no technology’ policy?

A: This has to do with individual students’ learning styles and can be disability-related.  For example, many disabilities are not readily apparent.  They may significantly impact handwriting but not the ability to benefit from being more active in the process.  One example of this is to use the smart pen to occasionally write something down that they can then go back to with the recording to fill in specific details they might not have caught or been able to capture the first time.  This reinforces learning in a way that being provided peer notes does not.  With peer notes, students are getting other students’ perceptions of what is important rather than using their own judgement and engaging in more active listening.

Q: Where can I find information on making my exams/course materials more accessible?

A: ITS offers support workshops for faculty and staff to learn how to make materials more accessible. You can learn more by visiting their Technology Accessibility at SU page.

Q: How can I make my course more inclusive for all students?  Where can I find information on Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

A: The Center for Teaching Excellence (CTLE) provides a variety of services for faculty to support inclusive pedagogy and course design.  Providing individual consultations, classroom observations and feedback session that promote Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  For more contact Dr. Martha Diede, CTLE Director, or visit the CTLE website.