The Flex Plan addresses attendance and assignment related issues for students with disabilities. The Flex Plan is intended to create a reasonable modification, where appropriate, to the classroom attendance and assignment deadlines policies of each course and is not intended to serve as an attendance or assignment submission waiver. Students are expected to attend class and meet deadlines for assignments and tests.
Flex Plan Overview
The accommodation that addresses attendance and assignment related issues for students with disabilities is the “Flexibility with Attendance and Assignment Deadlines Plan” (Flex Plan).
Faculty have the right to establish attendance and late work policies. However, if a student has a disability that is episodic in nature, it may occasionally impact their ability to attend class and complete tests or assignments at the scheduled time. Therefore, flexibility in attendance, assignment due dates, and exam scheduling may be considered an appropriate accommodation. The number of allowable absences and length of assignment extensions depends on the interactive or participatory nature of the course, or is based on department, college, or accrediting agency rules.
Disability related absences are not intended to be used to provide extensions on long-term assignments. For short-term assignments (assigned and due within a 72-hour period), students experiencing a disability related absence should be permitted to turn in work late without grade penalty if this flexibility does not fundamentally alter the learning objectives of the course. A guide for identifying learning objectives can be found on the Center for Teaching and Learning’s website.
A general rule to consider for determining a reasonable deadline extension would be the amount of time equivalent to that which was missed or the degree to which flexibility can be allowed without fundamentally altering course objectives. In some courses, it may be appropriate to consider an alternative assignment, reading, or project to make up for missed class discussions or projects.
We have established a 48-hour extension on assignments for students with an occasional need for flexibility, who have an approved Flex Plan accommodation. If this doesn’t work for your course, please reach out to the Flex Plan team directly (at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Creating a Flex Plan
When a Flex Plan has been requested, the instructor will receive an email with instructions to fill out a Qualtrics form to create a Flex Plan. Faculty are required to login using their CU credentials (email@example.com). If the instructor believes that they should have received a link but have not, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Flex Plan for a course should be completed by the course instructor or course coordinator. If a Teaching Assistant (TA) is the instructor for a course, they may complete it themselves or their supervisor may elect to complete the Flex Plan on their behalf.
The Flex Plan Coordinators have gathered and analyzed the Flex Plans finalized by each department and averaged the responses to create a Proposed Flex Plan for each department. Instructors have the option to choose to utilize this Proposed Flex Plan in their course. We find that the Proposed Flex Plan aligns with the learning objectives for most courses, but still welcome faculty to create a new Flex Plan for their course(s).
This is oftentimes best determined by the instructor of the course, in collaboration with Disability Services. When evaluating how much flexibility can be provided, faculty should consider the learning objectives and requirements of the course. A guide for identifying learning objectives can be found on the Center for Teaching and Learning’s website. Any flexibility given beyond course policy should not fundamentally alter these objectives. For example, if an answer key is released for an assignment, it would be prudent to offer an extension before the date the answer key is released.
Please note that, if Disability Services has any questions or sees discrepancies within the Flex Plan, the office will follow-up with the instructor to engage in the interactive process before sending the finalized plan to both the instructor and the student. If interested, faculty are encouraged to contact Disability Services for course-specific questions before submitting the form.
The University of Colorado Boulder does not endorse unlimited classroom absence and/or assignment deadline extensions as students are still expected to meet the learning objectives of the course. While faculty are able to determine attendance and assignment extension policies for each course, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the University of Colorado Boulder to consider reasonable accommodation if needed to accommodate a student’s disability. The number of allowable absences depends on the interactive and participatory nature of a course, or is based on department, college or accrediting agency rules.
While this number can vary significantly from course to course, the average number of absences provided in the Spring 2021 semester was two additional absences. The data was collected over the course of the Spring 2021 semester from instructors through Qualtrics. Some instructors whose courses are recorded and aren't participatory in nature find that they can be even more flexible. Generally, the Flex Plan should offer similar flexibility to students experiencing a disability-related emergency as would be available to any other student experiencing a crisis (e.x. medical, familial, legal, financial, etc.).
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) provided the following guidelines to be used in considering whether attendance is an essential element of a course:
- Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, or between student(s) and other students?
- Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on student participation as an essential method for learning?
- To what degree does a students’ failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
- What do the course description and syllabus say?
- Which method is used to calculate the final grade?
- What are the classroom practices and policies regarding?
If the course does not allow for additional flexibility in attendance and/or assignment deadlines, faculty are asked to elaborate on why the course does not allow for additional flexibility based on the essential objectives of the course.
Once the Flex Plan approval process between faculty and Flex Plan Coordinators is complete, the student will receive a confirmation email via the Accommodate portal with their finalized Flex Plan. The course instructor will be copied to this email. If a student requires flexibility before a Flex Plan is finalized, they are encouraged to work with their Access Coordinator directly in the interim.
Process and Timeline
Yes. For this specific accommodation, faculty are notified directly by Disability Services, not the student.
To ensure the university remains in compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), timely completion of the Flex Plan is necessary. Faculty have five (5) business days to submit a Flex Plan, once notified by Disability Services. If Disability Services does not receive a plan within five (5) business days, Disability Services will follow-up with the faculty member. If no response is received, Disability Services may implement a Proposed Flex Plan for the course based on departmental data.
No. Students who are only utilizing the Flex Plan accommodation in a course will not be required to meet with faculty. The Flex Plan accommodation is not initiated until the student submits the Flex Plan Request Form each semester regardless of whether the Flex Plan accommodation appears on their Accommodation Letter.
Yes. Students can register with Disability Services, be approved or elect to use their accommodation(s) at any point prior to the last 10 days of classes. However, this accommodation is not retroactive (i.e. implemented prior to being formally notified by Disability Services that a Flex Plan has been requested by the student for this course).
Flex Plan Use
Students approved for this accommodation have disabilities that are episodic or unpredictable in nature. Their disability may occasionally impact class attendance, participation, completing an assignment or taking an exam.
- E.g. A student with Crohn’s disease may experience a flare and miss a test that day.
- E.g. A student with epilepsy may experience a seizure or take medication to mitigate the symptoms of a seizure that has already occurred, resulting in brain fog, fatigue or nausea. As a result, the student may not be able to attend class that day.
- E.g. A student with bipolar disorder may experience a manic or depressive episode and may need to submit an assignment past the deadline.
A disability-related absence occurs when a student is fundamentally unable to attend class, whether in person or online, due to the direct impact of their disability. This accommodation does not apply to absences for other reasons.
No. Disability Services has already reviewed and considered any necessary medical documentation. The student is not required to provide their faculty member with documentation, such as a doctor’s note, to validate their absence. However, the student is required to notify faculty when a disability-related absence has occurred in good faith, based on the honor code.
Academic Affairs has also set forth the following guidance for instructors regarding asking for medical documentation, “Do not require ‘doctor’s notes’ for absences due to illness, quarantine or health care appointments…. Campus health and wellness services (including Medical Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Student Support and Case Management) no longer provide ‘doctor’s notes.’”
When students are sent a finalized Flex Plan, there is a link included that allows them to ask faculty to reconsider the flexibility available for a course. The faculty member and/or student with the accommodation should notify the student’s Access Coordinator to evaluate the situation to determine if additional flexibility may be reasonable.
Faculty & Student Responsibilities
Instructors will receive an email from the Flex Plan Coordinators to initiate the Flex Plan process. When instructors receive this email, they may choose to opt into the Proposed Flex Plan, reuse a previous Flex Plan, or to create their own Flex Plan. Disability Services may contact instructors via email or phone if questions arise. Once finalized, the plan will be sent to the student(s) with the instructor copied on the email. The student(s) requesting a Flex Plan for each course will be anonymous until the Flex Plan has been finalized and sent to the student(s).
Should the student experience a disability-related emergency, the student is expected to communicate that with faculty and move forward based on what was agreed upon in the Flex Plan.
In order to receive a Flex Plan, a student must first register with Disability Services and request a Flex Plan accommodation. If approved, the student must complete a form each semester detailing every course in which they are requesting a Flex Plan. Once the form is submitted, the Flex Plan Team will initiate communication with faculty for the Flex Plan approval process. Should the student experience a disability-related emergency, they are expected to communicate with faculty and move forward based on what was agreed upon in the Flex Plan.