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Opinion: Accessibility Servicesʼ extension policy leaves too much up to professors

Approval of requests are arbitrary — they should be guaranteed
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Photocap: Extension requests should not have their own deadlines.SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY
Photocap: Extension requests should not have their own deadlines.SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY

Accessibility services are essential to a host of students. One such academic accommodation enables them to receive extensions on assignments. However, the current state of the policy makes it so the accommodation is almost rendered useless.

Currently, in order to receive an extension on an assignment for a particular course, a student must first email a request to their professor. The professor chooses whether to accept or reject the student’s request. Considering the currently overloaded nature of coursework in online classes, there are several issues with this process of requesting accommodations. 

Since the current policy requires students to wait for confirmation of their extension requests, it is difficult for students to request extensions at the last minute. If the extension is meant to increase accessibility for those who struggle with stress in their life, making it so the extension cannot be requested up to the moment assignments are due strays from the extension’s original purpose.

For example, I have an extension accommodation because I have exceptional difficulty with time management, so I often find myself realizing just before an assignment is due that I need more time to complete it. An extension policy that makes receiving extensions at the last minute challenging is not helpful for students who, like myself, struggle with time management. 

Expanding this to students with mental illnesses or disabilities, creating a time frame for when you are able to request an extension asks students to manage their struggles in a way that would make the necessity of an accommodation null and void. 

Another issue with the current extension policy is that professors, rather than Accessibility Services (AS) itself, get to decide whether students get extensions. From my perspective, the people who work at AS — people who have been trained to understand disability and accessible education — should be the only people responsible for making decisions related to student accommodations. 

Most of my professors have accepted my extension requests without any issue. However, I have had two occasions where a professor has turned down my extension request. On both occasions, the reason for turning down the extension was that the professor had decided that extensions were not something they would allow for anyone in their course. 

The fact that professors can choose to deny students extension requests based on their personal views on extensions means that accommodations only increase accessibility for students who are lucky enough to have a professor who understands the use of extensions.

Understandably, this is not the case for everyone, meaning there’s always a chance that necessary extensions are not guaranteed because of their dependence on each professor’s opinion. The extension accommodations are supposed to alleviate anxiety, but the ambiguity around whether or not one will get their extension is anxiety-provoking. 

Especially now when time management and organization is completely left up to the students themselves amidst an increased workload, extensions not being guaranteed restricts the ability for some students to succeed with online learning.

Test accommodations — such as extra time on tests — are scheduled directly through AS and do not require a professor’s approval. Test accommodations are also guaranteed to students who schedule them by the required date, so there is no ambiguity around whether or not students will receive their test accommodation. 

I propose that AS adopt a similar system for extension accommodations: extension requests should not have their own deadlines or require the approval of a professor and they should be guaranteed.

 

Talia Shafir is a second-year cognitive science, mathematics, and writing and rhetoric student at Innis College.