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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

New Student Accessibility Services portal changes how students receive academic accommodations

Yufei Meng

Emerson’s Office of Student Accessibility Services (SAS) introduced an online system in the summer of 2023 called Accommodate to expedite the process for students needing to request accommodations.

“The Accommodate portal is essentially where we now manage all of the student records, in terms of accommodations,” said SAS Associate Director Erin Glover. 

Students who wish to receive accommodations must follow the steps outlined by SAS before meeting with a staff member who will confirm or deny their request. Accommodations students can receive include preferential seating in class, extended time on exams, and access to a different place to take their tests. 

Once SAS has approved a student’s accommodation, they can request a letter detailing the accommodations to be sent to their professors through Accommodate.

Previously, SAS used a manual system in which students would request their accommodation letters and wait for them to be approved by the office. At this point, the student would send the letters to their professors themselves. 

According to SAS Associate Director Mathew Fisher, the office received an uptick in the number of letter requests, which meant students had to wait longer to send and discuss accommodations with professors.

“Using a manual process created delays for student accommodations to be implemented in their courses. We wanted to modernize our process and make it easier for students to access their accommodations and make it easier for faculty to track and maintain student accommodation information,” Fisher said. “Logging into a portal is more natural and known for students than manually emailing back and forth to make their requests.”

The office tested multiple software before deciding that Accommodate worked best for the college.

Students can utilize other SAS services in the Accommodate portal, including reserving spaces to take exams and using Screen Readers with “Accessibility Mode.” Beginning this semester, the portal will also be used for students to request housing accommodations.

Accommodate also provides services to faculty. Professors can upload their exams into the interface and view information about students’ specific accommodations. SAS employees can also communicate with students through bulk emails and announcements within the portal.

“We’re really excited for what we are continuing to learn and expand with the portal. We haven’t even been using it for a year yet,” said Glover. “So I think that we’re in the early stages of just familiarizing ourselves and excited about potential things that it can do for us and students and faculty as well.” 

While the staff continues to work on using the software, some issues arise.

“For some reason, it wouldn’t let me put in my semester request, so I didn’t have access until recently for my accommodations,” said senior creative writing major Anne O’Leary.

Fisher advises any students who have issues with the portal to speak with SAS. 

“We welcome any feedback and are happy to set up times for students to learn more about the system, ask questions, or make recommendations to improve their experience,” said Fisher.

Fisher said students should email [email protected] or call 617-824-8592 if they want to learn more about accommodations and the process.

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