Modified Attendance


Only the faculty member in charge of a class may excuse a student from class attendance. Appropriate reasons for students to make up missed work include: religious holidays, selective service or obligations, illness, death of close relatives, participation in recognized university events, and field trips for other classes.  

The instructor is the judge of the validity of the reasons for absence and of what arrangements, if any, are to be provided for the student to make up class work. Instructors may require students to provide documentation for excused absences. It must be recognized that not all learning activities and exercises related to a class can be replicated.



What is It?

Modified attendance is defined as occasional exceptions to absentee/tardiness policies when educationally feasible.

Students with chronic health-related conditions that are episodic in nature and periodically worsen or "flare up" may experience legitimate barriers to class attendance and may need flexibility in the application of attendance. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Students with autoimmune disorders such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis; Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis; sickle cell anemia; seizure disorders; forms of arthritis; cancer; and/or conditions requiring debilitating treatment (e.g., chemotherapy, dialysis).
  • Students with mental illness who are experiencing an acute exacerbation of symptoms
  • Students with mobility impairments who may have particular difficulty with physically traveling to campus during stormy weather

Based upon the nature of the medical condition, it may be known in advance that absences could occur; however, some students could experience unexpected exacerbation of their condition, resulting in acute symptoms.

While some of these conditions require treatment and, in some cases, hospitalization, the majority of such students typically do not go to the doctor when feeling poorly and might not be able to provide a doctor’s note for each absence. 


What is it Not?

This accommodation is not intended to cover the following:

  1. Absences due to seasonal illness (e.g., flu), temporary impairments, health conditions not on record with the DRC, or non-disability related absences (e.g., car trouble).  These are specifically covered by the CPP Policy on Class Absences, as stated above.
  2. Absences due to regularly scheduled medical appointments. Some students with disabilities may seek flexibility in attendance policies when they need to miss class because of scheduled appointments with specialists. While this may be a legitimate need, it does not seem different from the needs of other students who are in school but also have a life and commitments outside, particularly when the appointments might have been scheduled at other times.  For students with disabilities who may have to attend regularly scheduled appointments with specialists that cannot be changed, such absences may best be negotiated with faculty, as they would be for any other student.
  3. Absences due to personal organization and time management difficulties. For example, a student with an Attention Deficit Disorder might request a modified attendance policy for an early morning class, claiming he or she does not function well in the morning or is not organized and may forget to come to class. While this may be related to the student’s disability, the University does not have to excuse the student’s failure to satisfy basic responsibilities.
  4. Unlimited absences.  This accommodation is not a "free pass" from attending class. Students are expected to keep up with the class and complete all required coursework. If absences become excessive, it may be necessary to petition for a Course Withdrawal or an Incomplete Grade. Students are responsible for initiating such requests with individual instructors, who shall consider them on a case-by-case basis.  
  5. Retroactive requests.  Accommodations are not granted retroactively and do not excuse any prior unexcused absences. Any such consideration or provision would be an exception, at the discretion of an instructor. Some students may register with the DRC later in the term or wait to give professors notification of their eligible accommodations. Faculty are not obligated to adjust the class attendance policy retroactively.



Federal law requires universities to consider whether any policy or procedure in place is discriminatory for students with disabilities and alter it if found to be so. The willingness to consider the possibility must be demonstrated through a deliberative process. Whether such consideration leads to a decision to modify course requirements in particular circumstances is a separate question that should be answered in light of numerous factors.

In determining whether modification of a class attendance policy is required to accommodate a student’s disability, two questions must be answered:

  1. Does the student have a documented disability that may impact class attendance? Based on appropriate documentation from a qualified professional and through an interactive process with the student, DRC determines if the accommodation is appropriate in relation to the documented medical condition and resulting functional impacts.
  2. Is attendance or in-class participation an essential element of the course? That is, would modification of the class policy regarding attendance result in a fundamental alteration of the course design? DRC will make this determination in collaboration, when appropriate, with the professor, Department Chair, or College Dean. 



  1. To be considered “reasonable,” an accommodation must be an appropriate response to the disability-related need without compromising academic standards or essential requirements of the course. In spite of legitimate barriers to attendance related to the disability, there might be classes or specific instances when modifying attendance requirements will not be possible without resulting in fundamental changes to the course or learning and/or assessment activity.
  2. In general, courses that involve significant in-class participation as an essential method of learning, or in which student learning is sequentially and directly assessed in-person, may limit what adjustment options are available. Examples include, but are not limited to:
    • Classes that rely on project-based learning, where students utilize class meetings to work as a group would compromise the educational experience of other students.
    • Lab courses that often meet for long blocks of time but with relatively few classes per term. Each lab builds on the experience of the one before it. If a student misses too many classes, he or she may miss not only a significant portion of the hand-on experience, but also the skills and techniques taught that will be necessary in future lab sessions.
    • Studio art classes, in which the primary purpose is to provide ongoing feedback from faculty and fellow students as work progresses. A student is not participating in the exchange if he or she is not there.
    • Clinical practicum classes, in which the student is supposed to gain a given number of hours of experience in a clinical setting over the course of the term. A student who misses too many sessions clearly will not have fulfilled the expectations of the class.
  3. Extended or excessive absences may limit workable adjustment options. Students who are absent for an extended time period and/or have missed too many scheduled tests may find that a make-up plan is not workable. If absences become excessive, it may be necessary to petition for a Course Withdrawal. Alternatively, the instructor may be able to grant an Incomplete Grade to allow an opportunity to complete course requirements, such as through independent study or by attending class lectures the following semester.
  4. Accommodations are not reasonable if they create an administrative burden to the University. For example, while instructors are encouraged to consider whether there are opportunities for the student to mitigate or “make up” their absence, they are not obligated to create extra work for either the student or themselves as a substitute for in-class participation. This includes re-teaching material that was missed or creating another test.


How Does it Work?

This accommodation cannot be provided without a discussion between the professor and student. A discussion is necessary in order to allow the student to make an informed decision regarding alternatives. If modifications are educationally feasible, the student and instructor should have a clear understanding of how class absences due to the impact of a disability will be handled. To this end, we wish to clarify the role and responsibilities our office, students, and instructors in this process:


  1. Determines if the student has a disability that may impact attendance. If so, our office authorizes Modified Attendance as an eligible accommodation. (Note that at no time are students required to present documentation of their disability to instructors in order to justify the need for modified attendance accommodations.)
  2. Informs the class instructor if adjustments to attendance policies may be necessary to accommodate a student’s disability via the Faculty Notification of Accommodation. This is electronically delivered to the instructor's CPP email address within 1-2 business days upon receipt of the student's request.
  3. Mediates accommodation concerns between students and instructors upon request in order to determine if or how the attendance policy may be modified for a particular class. If adjustments are educationally feasible, DRC is available to assist the instructor and student with developing and implementing a specific plan.



Click here to print a checklist of the Student Responsibilities

  1. Carefully review the syllabus for each course to be aware of requirements, including those regarding attendance, making up missed work, and submitting late work. Regardless of the medical condition or disability, the student remains responsible for keeping up with the class and completing all required coursework, including material covered or work that was done during an absence. Understand that, even with reasonable adjustments or accommodations, content learning and course grades could be negatively impacted by missing class meetings.
  2. Provide instructors with timely notice of their eligibility for the Modified Attendance. At the start of, or as early as possible in the semester, log on to DRC Online Services to select Modified Attendance for each class in which it is needed. This will allow DRC to email professors notification letters of students’ eligible accommodation and provide additional guidelines.
  3. Follow up with each instructor to discuss the accommodation in detail. The following checklist is offered to guide the conversation:
    • Are adjustments to the class attendance policy possible without making essential changes to the course?
    • Why would an adjustment to the class attendance policy not be feasible?
    • If a modified class attendance policy is feasible:
      • What is the maximum number of disability-related absences I am allowed without penalty? 
      • Is there another section of the class I may attend to catch up on missed material?
      • What allowances can be made if I am absent on a day that an assignment is due or test is scheduled?
      • Is there a timeframe within which a missed test or assignment must be completed?
  4. Notify the instructor as soon as possible when a disability-related absence will or has occurred, and provide the expected date of return to class. Designate an individual who has permission to contact the instructor on your behalf in the event that you are unable.
  5. Make specific arrangements to make up missed work, if possible. Unless agreed upon beforehand, an extension will not be automatically granted for work that is due on a day that the student is absent.
  6. If absences become excessive, students are responsible for initiating a request for a Course Withdrawal or an Incomplete Grade from individual instructors, who shall consider them on a case-by-case basis. An Incomplete Grade may allow an opportunity to complete course requirements, such as through independent study or by attending class lectures, the following semester.



Click here to print a checklist of the Instructor Responsibilities

  1. Consider adjustments to the class attendance policy without making fundamental alterations to the course design or essential components.
    • The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has provided the following questions to determine if attendance is an essential part of a class:
      • What does the course description and syllabus say regarding attendance, making up missed tests, and/or accepting late work?
      • What elements of the class experience are used to calculate the final grade?
      • To what extent is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among students?
      • Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student in-class participation as an essential method for learning?
      • To what degree does a student’s failure to attend class constitute a significant loss of the educational experience for other students in the class?
  2. Request consultation with the DRC to determine if modifying the class attendance policy would result in fundamental alterations to the course design or essential components of the course. Instructors should never unilaterally deny a student's eligible accommodation.
  3. Discuss the accommodation with the student.
    • Be prepared to provide a rationale if, in consultation with the DRC, it is determined that modifying the class attendance policy is not educationally feasible; that is, explain how adjustments would result in changes to essential components of the course.
    • If reasonable adjustments are workable, provide the student – in writing and clarified as needed through further discussion – clear expectations of how classroom absences will be handled. For example:
      • If attendance is factored into the final course grade, what adjustments can be made?
      • Is there another section of the class the student may attend to catch up on missed material?
      • What allowances can be made if the student is absent on a day that an assignment is due or a test is scheduled?
      • Is there a timeframe within which a missed test or assignment must be completed?