The Office of Disability Services (ODS) works to ensure access for students with disabilities by developing and coordinating accommodations. Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on each student’s needs.  Under the ADA, accommodations must be “reasonable,” meaning that they cannot compromise the learning objectives or essential components of a course, program, or activity, or fundamentally alter their nature.

Spring 2023 Greetings

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New(ish) Year and welcome back to campus!  We hope your first week went well, despite the uncooperative weather.

Here’s contact information for the Office of Disability Services (ODS):

  • For accommodations and accessibility issues, contact Colleen Caffery, Coordinator of Disability Services: cafferyc@gcc.mass.edu; 413-775-1812;
  • For learning support and accommodations for dual-enrolled students, contact Cindy Kunz, Learning Specialist: kunzc@gcc.mass.edu; 413-775-1393;
  • For scheduling student appointments, contact Beth Sessions, sessions@gcc.mass.edu, 413-775-1332;
  • https://www.gcc.mass.edu/ds/

We apologize for the length of this email—most of the topics are covered each semester to ensure that folks new to GCC are informed.  We’re going to start off with some Disability Services news items.  Then we’d like to share some important information related to accommodations for students with disabilities, highlighting some accommodations which may raise questions.  If you don’t find the answers to your questions in this email, as always, we welcome your calls, emails, and visits.

The following topics are included in this email.  We’ve bolded content that is new.

  • Disability Services Updates
  • Providing Accommodations to Students with Disabilities
  • Needing your Assistance: Note-taking Support as an Accommodation
  • Accommodation for Assignment Extensions
  • Accommodation for Flexibility in Attendance
  • Accommodation for Audio Recording

Disability Services Updates

  • Landmark College is coming to GCC for the Student and Academic Affairs Meeting from 2:30-4 p.m. on Monday, March 27th.  They will be presenting on Supporting Autistic Students in Higher Education.  The workshop is designed to address many common questions about autism, as well as provide suggestions for strategies to create inclusive and welcoming environments for autistic students.  We are still working on specifics regarding whether we can provide the workshop both in person and virtually.  Landmark is also providing curated content to review prior to the workshop.  More information to come as soon as available.
  • Study Cafés for spring–Cindy Kunz will be working with others on campus to rethink and possibly redesign the Study Cafés that were offered both in the Library and virtually in the fall semester.  Stay tuned for an update on that.
  • Long COVID—FYI.  Long COVID includes a wide range of new or ongoing health problems that individuals can experience one to three months after being infected with the COVID-19 virus.  The Department of Justice and the Office of Civil Rights consider long COVID to be a disability if the symptoms substantially limit one or more major life activity.  If a student discloses to you that they are continuing to experience effects from COVID that impact their ability to participate in their classes, please refer them to the ODS.

Providing Accommodations to Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities requesting accommodations must provide the faculty member with an Accommodation Agreement (AA) from the Office of Disability Services (ODS).  When a student presents an AA, you are assured that the accommodations listed in their AA are based on confirmation of disability by the ODS.  If a student identifies their need for accommodations without an AA, please refer them to the Wellness Center. You are not expected to accommodate a student without an AA to avoid any possible conflicts or liabilities that could arise.

Accommodation Agreements now specify that students need to renew their AA at least every two years.  We are flagging students with older agreements as they come in for copies, but if you happen to notice that a student has presented you with an AA older than 2 years, please encourage them to make an appointment for a review and update.

Needing Your Assistance:  the Peer-Note-taker Accommodation

If you receive an Accommodation Agreement that includes a peer note-taker, please read on!

 If you are teaching online rather than face-to-face, a peer note-taker for students with that accommodation may still be necessary.  If lectures are recorded and posted on Moodle, students may still need the summarization provided by notes.

Please assist the student (in a confidential manner) in gaining access to a peer’s notes.   If you know of a student in the class who you think would be a good candidate for a peer note-taker, you could approach that student directly if you are comfortable.  Alternatively, below is a sample announcement that you could share with your class:

Disability Services is in need of a volunteer note-taker to assist a fellow student.  All you need to do is attend class, take reasonably good notes, and be willing to share your notes. Volunteers who share their notes for the entire semester will receive a $50 gift card to the bookstore at the end of the semester; shorter lengths of time will be prorated.  You can share your notes by email or Google Drive if you are taking notes on your computer, or by scanning or taking a picture of your notes if you are handwriting them and share them via text, email, or Google Drive.  If you are willing to share your notes, please contact me and we will make the necessary arrangements.  First response gets the job!  Thank you.

Please protect the privacy of the student who is eligible for this accommodation.  If a student volunteers to take notes it is fine to introduce them unless the student receiving the notes has requested anonymity.  In that case, the ODS will serve as a conduit for getting the notes from the note-taker to the student needing them.  Please refer the volunteer to Disability Services or send an email with their name to the ODS so we can facilitate the note-sharing and keep track of our gift card obligations.  If you have any trouble enlisting a note-taker volunteer, please let me know as soon as possible.  We are happy to help with the recruitment effort if no one comes forward!

 Accommodation for Assignment Extensions

When extensions on assignments, papers, projects, etc. are recommended on a student’s AA, you play an important role in determining whether or not an extension is reasonable and, if so, how much of an extension is appropriate.  An extension is considered reasonable when it doesn’t compromise any essential learning objective or fundamentally alter the nature of the class.  Some extensions beyond two days, for example, might impact satisfactory progress in your course while for other assignments it would be reasonable to grant an extra week.   And, there may be cases when any extension is not reasonable.  Please establish a clear deadline for any extension granted.  If students without disabilities are held to a deadline so should students with disabilities, even if it is an extended deadline.  It might be helpful to encourage students requesting an extension to seek help from Peer Tutoring.

Accommodation for Flexibility in Attendance

This is another accommodation for which your input is necessary to determine “reasonableness”.  We likely all agree that attendance is an important factor in student success.  Some students with chronic medical conditions, however, are not always able to adhere to a course’s attendance requirements.   Also, flexibility in attendance is a particularly important accommodation for some veterans, who are often dealing with complex medical issues requiring VA appointments whose timing they have no control over.  We understand and make clear to students that there are limits to flexibility, and there may be classes for which this accommodation is not reasonable.  We encourage students to reach out to faculty members BEFORE the beginning of the semester, if possible, to discuss whether or not flexibility in attendance can be accommodated, and if so, what the limitations and logistics are.  Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about implementing this accommodation in your class.

Accommodation for Audio Recording

The AA of any student who has an accommodation for audio recording (either with a smart pen or another device) includes an Accommodation for Audio Recording Agreement.  The final provision of that agreement specifies that the instructor will notify the students and any guests in the class that the class may be recorded, while protecting the identity of the student who has the accommodation for recording.  Massachusetts state law requires informing parties that they are being recorded.  Here is some simple language you could use for notifying your class:

“Please be aware that our classes may be recorded.”

You have the right to prohibit both recording and note-taking during classes or portions of classes which involve personal discussion and/or disclosure.


Thanks for taking the time to read this email (apologies again for the length!), and always feel free to contact us with your questions, concerns, and/or suggestions.  Thank you for all you do to support students!

Wishing you a stimulating and satisfying semester and looking forward to seeing you soon!

Best wishes,

Colleen, Cin, and Beth