Accommodations are practices and procedures in the areas of presentation, response, setting, and timing/scheduling that provide equitable access during instruction and assessments for students with disabilities. Accommodations are intended to reduce or even eliminate the effects of a student’s disability; they do not reduce learning expectations” (United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, 2005). For homeschooling families, accommodations should come naturally as you set up an environment, schedule, and curriculum that best suits the needs of your children.

Modifications, on the other hand, change, reduce, or lower the expectations. This occurs when using standards, texts, and/or curriculum at a grade level lower than the chronological age of your child. Using modifications may have more long term effects on post-secondary education or career decisions since skills and content may have been eliminated. Remember, this involves, reducing expectations, eliminating work that is too difficult, and learning less material.

Accommodations level the playing field;                                                                                                          Modifications change the field you’re playing on.

The following are examples of accommodations specifically appropriate for a homeschooling environment since typical challenges that occur in school classrooms simply aren’t present when working with children one-on-one in the home.

For Reading Difficulties:

  • larger print
  • audio books to reinforce and strengthen comprehension
  • frequent questioning & discussion for comprehension
  • highlighters for the most important information in texts
  • colored rulers to assists in tracking across the page
  • buddy reading to get through large portions of content
  • reading pen (C-Pen, Livescribe, Hot Dots) to read unknown words
  • screen reading
  • descriptive video
  • altered test format (multiple choice instead short answer)

For Math Difficulties

  • calculation devices (calculator, Ipad, cell phone).
  • visual organizers (use of graph paper to align problems)
  • graphic organizers
  • math tables and formula sheets
  • number lines on desk
  • math manipulatives (physical objects) for calculation

For Writing difficulties

  • express response to a scribe through speech
  • type on or speak to word processor
  • speak into tape recorder
  • use spelling and grammar assistive devices (e.g., electronic spelling device such as Franklin Speller, spell check on computer)
  • use written notes, outlines, and instructions
  • use thick pencil or pencil grip

Attention and Organization Difficulties

  • use books on tape or recorded books to help focus on text
  • give short and simple directions with examples
  • write in test booklet instead of on answer sheet
  • monitor placement of student responses on answer sheet
  • use materials or devices used to solve or organize responses
  • use visual organizers
  • use graphic organizers
  • highlight key words in directions
  • have student repeat and explain directions to check for understanding
  • use template
  • use graph paper to keep numbers in proper columns
  • color code materials, notebooks by subject area, and calendar


The Accommodations Manual: How To Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities. United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

Accommodations for College Students

Federal Laws 

1. College is not like k-12 schools

  • There are no IEPs and only some colleges provide a 504 plan
  • There is no special education
  • There is no case manager
  • There is no parent involvement

2. Colleges operate under two Civil Rights Laws

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (504, 1973)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990)
    • See Special Education Law page for descriptions of laws

These laws require colleges and universities to make reasonable and necessary modifications to rules, policies, and practices to prevent discrimination and ensure equal access and opportunity available to the general population.  Furthermore, the law does not require post-secondary institutions to lower standards, change the nature of their program or expectations, make assignments easier, or waive assignments. Students still must meet the demands of the academic program in which they are entered. These two laws define a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities.

Student Self-advocacy

When applying for college, it isn’t necessary or even advisable for the student to indicate a disability on application paperwork. This information is strictly confidential and those processing the application are not concerned. After the student arrives on campus, the first order of business is to visit the office of disability services and follow the steps below.

  1. Locate the Office of Disability Services (may be called Support Services, Office of Equity, Accessibility Office, etc.).
  2. Read the school’s website for instruction on applying for support services.
  3. Make an appointment with the director of disability services for an intake interview.
  4. Complete and submit an application with disability services office.
  5. Submit most recent documentation of diagnosis, whether from school or medical professional. Some schools require documentation to be less than three years old.
  6. At the student’s discretion, he/she may want to talk with professors, disclose the disability, and discuss accommodations if this seems to be advantageous. 

Disability Services:

  • Gives a decision as to whether the student is eligible for accommodations.
  • Provides a letter explaining accommodations that is either sent to the student’s professors or given to the student to take to the professors.
  • Offers someone to talk with about needs and services.
  • Provides workshops, training, and tips for a successful college experience.
  • Serves as a mediator to resolve academic, emotional, or physical space issues if needed.


Under FERPA and HIPAA laws, the Office of Disability Services will not and cannot disclose the student’s disability if the student is 18 or older; only the student can do that. If a parent wants the right to talk with campus faculty and/or administrators, the student must sign a waiver giving the school the right to talk with their parents.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 1974) gives parents the right to their children’s education records, to seek to have the records amended, and to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. However, when a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student. 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA, 1996) includes provisions to safeguard details of your  child’s healthcare information, including how and with whom medical professionals can transmit and share these records. If your child is receiving medical services and/or counseling services, it is confidential and he/she must give permission for parents to have access to the records.

ACT Accommodations

Classroom Accommodations Available (typically)

  • note-takers or scribes who write what the student dictates
  • written or guided notes to lectures
  • converting textbooks or course packs into accessible mediums such as audio recordings
  • giving extended time on tests
  • alternative forms of tests (i.e., using scribes, tape recorders, computers, or oral administration of the test)
  • alternative locations for tests (such as a quiet room for one person)
  • a lessened load of courses while having full-time status
  • course substitutions

Others accommodations may be available depending on the disability, what the school can reasonably provide, and what the director of disability services deems necessary.


  • Applications are processed and decided upon by either one administrator or a committee/board of professionals. This varies from school to school.
  • Each college/university has their own policies concerning accommodations; some are more willing to accommodate students with disabilities than others.
  • Not all professors will cooperate with accommodation plans. This is where a mediator, such as the director of disability services, may be helpful.
  • If a professor is using Universal Design for Learning with the entire class, specific accommodations are not necessary since they may implement closed caption on videos, larger text in Power Points and handouts, assignments given in print, online, and verbally, etc.