Course Substitution Policy and Procedure for Students With Documented Disabilities


Lawrence University is committed to providing modifications (e.g. course substitution) for specific courses or academic requirements when appropriate based on a case-by-case review. Such review considerations shall be based on the ADA provisions as indicated below. Modifications will not be allowed when they would involve the omission of essential elements particular to the field of instruction.

ADA Background Information

The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the person’s major life activities, a history of such impairment, or being regarded as having such impairment. Section 504 Regulation at 104 CFR, 104.44 (a) regarding academic adjustments requires post-secondary institutions to make such modifications to academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate against qualified students with disabilities. The regulation also states that academic requirements that institutions can demonstrate are essential to programs of instruction being pursued by such students, or to any directly related licensing requirement, will not be regarded as discriminatory. The ADA requires reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disabilities, unless the institution can demonstrate that making modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the services, programs, or activities.

Underlying Identification Responsibilities

  • Determinations as to whether a required course is essential to a major, minor, or interdisciplinary area shall be made by Academic Departments and Programs.
  • Determinations as to whether a required course is essential to general education requirements shall be made by the Instruction Committee.
  • The Office of Accessibility Services will provide consultation regarding potential modifications based upon the disability and the impact that functional limitations will have in the fulfillment of the requirements described above.


This document describes (a) the protocol for students with disabilities to petition for a course substitution; (b) the protocol for Accessibility Services to follow when it receives such petitions; and (c) the process a Review Committee will follow to rule on the petitions.

Course substitution approvals are unique to the specific program at issue and do not follow students should their program of study be changed. Therefore, students who change a field of study and desire subsequent course substitution must submit a new petition for an academic modification.

Because petitions for course substitution(s) may take up to 60 days for a decision to be rendered, such petitions should be made a soon as possible.

  • For students petitioning a course substitution for the foreign language competency requirement, petitions must be submitted no later than Friday of 4th week in the term that is 4 terms before the anticipated graduation date

A substitution for a course does NOT automatically entitle students to register for classes for which the original course is listed as a prerequisite (process described below).

Student Responsibilities

Students must initiate the process of petitioning academic course substitutions to their program of study. To be eligible to file such a petition based on a disability, a student must have registered and have an open case with Accessibility Services. An open case means completing an Eligibility Form, supplying appropriate disability documentation, and engaging in the interactive process with Accessibility Services.

Working with the Office of Accessibility Services, the Dean of Academic Success, and their academic advisor, the student should complete an academic petition form requesting the course substitution being sought and address it to the Chair of the Faculty Subcommittee on Administration (FSOA).  The student’s petition should:

  1. State that the student is petitioning a course substitution.
  2. State the academic course(s) for which the student is petitioning substitution, also including advanced courses whose prerequisites include the course(s) for which the petition is being filed.
  3. Include the following sentence: “I grant the staff of Accessibility Services at Lawrence University permission to release disability-related information they judge necessary for understanding the academic impact of my disability to individuals on the Review Committee who will review my petition, and to discuss my disability with those individuals in the context of reviewing my petition.”
  4. A student may include evidence that they have made a “good faith effort” to satisfy an academic requirement. Such evidence includes, but is not limited to, documentation of any or all of the following:
  • Satisfactory attendance and punctuality in class
  • Active participation in class, including a letter of support from a course instructor
  • Journal indicating time spent outside of class working on course material
  • Visits to an instructor during office hours
  • Use of services available through Lawrence’s Center for Academic Success, including a letter of support from a CAS staff member
  • Use of services available through Lawrence University’s Accessibility Services
  • Meetings with private tutors, including letters of support
  • Satisfactory completion of course assignments, both graded and non-graded

Accessibility Services Responsibilities

When a student’s petition for a course substitution is received, Accessibility Services will send a letter that (a) details the academic impact of the student’s disability, (b) explains the documentation of the student’s disability, and (c) makes a recommendation for disability-related need for course substitution. This information will be forwarded along with any supporting materials for the petition to the Registrar’s Office.

Review Committee Composition

The Chair of the Full Faculty Subcommittee on Administration (FFSOA) will convene the Review Committee. The members of this committee will vary depending on the nature of the student’s petition. Reviews must be completed within 60 business days from the receipt date of a student’s petition and supporting documentation unless the chair of the review committee determines that there is good cause for an extension. Review committees should consist of the following individuals:

  • the Chair of the Full Faculty Subcommittee on Administration who will chair the Review Committee
  • the members of Full Faculty Subcommittee on Administration
  • the Associate Provost
  • at least one other faculty member. Preferably this individual should be an instructor of the course(s) directly affected by the substitution being requested
  • the staff member from Accessibility Services who worked with the student in preparing their petition for a course substitution

Review Committee Responsibilities

Broadly speaking, the consideration process will include the following elements:

  1. The decision will be made by a group of people who are trained, knowledgeable, and experienced with the relevant coursework and academic requirements.
  2. The decision will be a thoughtful, careful, and rational review of the academic program and its essential requirements.
  3. If it is decided a substitution is appropriate to facilitate equal access on the basis of disability, the petition will be approved, and the Review Committee will recommend the course to be used as a substitute.

Course substitutions can be required if the requested substitution does not lower academic standards, fundamentally alter the nature of the program, or impose an undue burden, and if it meets the underlying reason for the requirements. The committee will meet to review the student’s petition for a course substitution(s). During their review, they will consider what skills, assignments, courses, etc., are essential to the degree in question and whether or not the requested course substitution would fundamentally alter the nature of the degree program. At issue is the balance between providing academic adjustments to students with disabilities to ensure that the requirements of classes/programs do not discriminate, and the University's obligation to ensure that all students meet essential requirements needed to successfully complete programs of study.

The committee will make a final determination with respect to the course substitution requested.

A letter from the Chair of the Full Faculty Subcommittee on Administration (FFSOA) to the petitioning student will document the decision that results from this process. The letter will:

  1. Describe the process used to review the student’s petition, including the names and positions of those who participated in the review.
  2. In cases where a petition is denied, explain the reasoning for the denial.
  3. In cases where a petition is approved:
  • state exactly which course(s) and requirement(s) are covered by the substitution
  • explain the scope of the approval–for example, does it apply only to one specialization within a major or to an entire major
  • identify exactly (including course number and title) the course or courses offered by Lawrence that are acceptable substitutes, or examples of the course or courses offered by other accredited academic institutions
  • indicate whether or not the student may enroll in more advanced courses in the program which list the original course as a prerequisite

Appeal Process for Course Substitution Decision

If the student wants to appeal the decision of the committee, the student should notify the Provost in writing as to their grievance within 14 calendar days of receiving the committee’s decision, and include an explanation and reasoning for their grievance. The grounds for appeal will be:

  1. There was a substantial failure by the Review Committee to comply with procedures so as to deny a fair review of the request, or
  2. The decision of the Review Committee was not supported by the evidence.

The Provost, in consultation with the Office of Accessibility Services, legal counsel, the Review Committee, and the student will evaluate the complaint and determine an appropriate solution. The Provost will inform all parties of their progress, findings, or resolution within 10 business days. The Provost will have the final decision and no further appeals will be considered.

Note: Any decision letter will become a part of the student’s academic record at Lawrence University; therefore, this letter should refrain from discussing any details concerning the student’s disability.

All decision letters and all documentation used to support the student’s request and the committee’s decision should be returned to the Office of Accessibility Services, which will serve as the office of record for these materials. A copy of the committee’s letter only should be forwarded to the Registrar and placed in Banner as part of the student’s permanent academic record.


Get in touch with the Director of Accessibility Services via email at, phone (920) 832-6672, confidential fax (920) 993-6368, or stop by Room 234 in the Center for Academic Success, located on the second floor of Mudd Library.