What is a reasonable accommodation?

"Accommodation" is a term coined from disability and employment legislation, and it refers to any modifications that need to be made for a person or within an environment to minimize the discriminatory effect of a person's physical, emotional, or learning disability. "Reasonable" means the provision of the adjustment should not cause undue burden on the setting or the institution. In academia, reasonable accommodations may be called academic adjustments, and they might include classroom adjustments, exam modifications, or administrative accommodations.

Individual academic adjustments are not specifically mandated by law; the idea is that the adjustment match the individual need of the student and does not change the essential requirements of the class or course. The student should be able to perform the role of a student with or without the adjustment; the adjustment should have the effect of reducing the handicapping effect of the disability in the academic environment. The goal of reasonable accommodations and academic adjustments has been referred to as "leveling the playing field" for people with disabilities. For a person with a sensory neural or physical disability, this might mean having an ASL interpreter or moving a class to an accessible location. For a student with a psychiatric disability, it might mean taping lectures, having beverages in class, or having priority registration to optimize times when medication side effects are least intrusive.