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How to come up with sample accommodations

Tips for how to come up with sample disability accommodations that are likely to be approved for an IEP, 504 Plan or Disability file.

When preparing for an IEP meeting, a 504 Plan meeting, or a Disability Services meeting, parents and students will often be asked to come up with sample accommodations that can be used to provide services for students in the classroom. However, it can be very overwhelming to figure out what to ask for, especially if this is the first time a student will be receiving a certain type of accommodation- I often compare it to trying to order at a restaurant without knowing what is on the menu. Here are my tips for how to come up with sample accommodations that are likely to be approved, or that will only need minimal modifications.

Why are sample accommodations needed?

Sample accommodations are a great way for case managers, teachers, or other education professionals to understand student needs and figure out what will be most beneficial for a student so that they can thrive in the classroom. While simple accommodations are great, it helps for students to have more specific ideas of what they will need in the classroom.

As an example, I am unable to read traditional/standard print sizes due to my low vision. Instead of just requesting large print, I did some experiments on my own with different font sizes and discovered that I prefer Arial font in size 32 for printed assignments.

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Look at previous accommodation sheets for the student

When I transitioned from having an IEP in high school to a college Disability Services file, my IEP was a great resource for helping me to figure out what accommodations I would need in college. While my accommodations did change to reflect my new classroom environment and my changing eye condition/neurological condition, it was much easier to change things like how much extended time I received than it was to determine whether I should request extended time.

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Ask about what has been approved in the past

Remember what I said earlier about how requesting accommodations without knowing what to ask for is like ordering at a restaurant without looking at a menu? Well, in many cases there is a “secret menu” that is available that can give examples of accommodations that have been approved in the past. While this should not be considered an exhaustive list of what can be provided, it’s helpful to see what other people have been approved for so that students can consider what will be the best fit for them. Outside of my lists of accommodations that I have posted on my website, I recommend two other sources for sample disability accommodations:

  1. For students wondering what to request for testing environments, the College Board has a list of approved accommodations that are available for SAT and AP tests that do a great job of showing examples of what students can receive for exams
  2. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has a comprehensive list called “A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations” that shares several accommodation ideas for different disabilities and illnesses. While low vision is not listed, blindness is listed on this website, as are several other conditions with a vision loss component

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Consider what activities are the most challenging in the classroom

When my friend had to come up with sample disability accommodations on their own after they were unable to access their disability accommodations sheet from high school, I had them think about which activities were the most challenging for them in the classroom environment and had them write down ways that would make this easier. For example, my friend often gets distracted by background noises in the classroom and has trouble focusing, so we decided that having an accommodation to use earplugs during tests to block out the noise and to have audio recordings of lectures would be helpful for them so that they could focus more easily. This was also a great exercise in self-advocacy, as my friend was able to tell their case manager what they needed.

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Reference accommodations lists from other students

Do you know an older student or someone else who goes to a different school? It can help to look at their approved accommodations to see what they were approved for and to see if it will work best for another student. I openly post my lists of accommodations that I have used over the years on my website, and they can be found under the Accommodations post category.

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Think about challenges that may arise in the future

The day before I took a major trigonometry exam, I ended up developing an eye infection that left me temporarily relying on a screen reader to exclusively access information. Since a screen reader had not explicitly been listed as an accommodation, I had to send an urgent message to my case manager and professor asking for permission to use one, even though with my current medical documentation I would have been approved for one prior to my eye infection. Even if a student may not need a given accommodation every day, it is better to be safe than sorry and have it approved so that they can use it if they need it.

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Talk to medical professionals or other competent authorities

When I was first planning to move on campus, I wasn’t sure what to ask for when it came to disability housing accommodations. My primary care doctor and my neurologist were much more knowledgeable about this topic and went over the accommodations form to figure out what would work best for me- things like buildings with elevators, adjustable beds, and single-occupancy rooms were all helpful for me as a student living with chronic pain. Other competent authorities that can help with determining sample accommodations include state agencies, disability organizations, and special education advocates.

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Other tips for how to come up with sample accommodations

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Updated October 2023; original post published March 2022.

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