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Determining if an Accommodation is a Fundamental Alteration

Whether a requested accommodation would fundamentally alter an essential requirement of a course or program will generally need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The goal is to separate out general expectations and what has always been done from what are the truly essential objectives and components of the course or program. Methods of instruction and assessment can be examined to determine how information is taught and what alternative opportunities are available for teaching and learning the information, the format of materials, skills etc. Flexibility in achieving outcomes may be appropriate depending on the nature of the course and its requirements.

The following deliberative process must be followed if an instructor believes that an accommodation would fundamentally alter an essential requirement:

  • The DRO Access Consultant is contacted to discuss concerns.
  • In general, individuals involved in a deliberative discussion may include the Instructor, Department Head, DRO staff and other administrators deemed appropriate to determine the reasonableness of the request and any possible alternative solutions, if needed.
  • The DRO Access Consultant notifies the student of the final decision regarding the request for accommodation.

Determining Essential Requirements

Essential requirements are the core learning outcomes (including skills and knowledge) all students must demonstrate, with or without using accommodations, which are part of a larger interconnected curriculum related to a program or degree.

Established Essential Requirements:

  • Clearly articulate the overall purpose of the course/program.
  • Identify required mastery of specific skills, knowledge, principles, and concepts.
  • Convey the framework used to set academic and program standards.
  • Ensure a fair deliberation when determining if a requested accommodation would be a fundamental alteration.

To determine the essential requirements, instructors should consider the following:


  • What is the purpose of the course?
  • What are the prerequisites or other background knowledge needed?
  • What core outcomes/expectations are stated on the syllabus and required of all students?
    • What specific knowledge, principles, skills or concepts must be mastered and demonstrated?
  • What aspects/requirements constitute a significant component of the learning process?
    • Could an alternative achieve the same result?
  • What are the essential methods of instruction which are fundamental to the nature of the course?
    • Are any methods of instruction non-negotiable? Do other sections use other methods of instruction?


  • What skills or competencies will be needed within the field after graduation?
  • What are the requirements for licensing or professional accreditation?

Need More Help?

If, at any time, you have questions about any accommodation and the determination process you are encouraged to contact the DRO at