Accessibility Resource Center

Assignment Extension

For students with conditions that are episodic in nature or that impact their ability to devote sufficient time to the assignment, strict assignment deadlines and punitive grading on late assignments can prevent them from demonstrating their full mastery of class content. The purpose of reasonable accommodations is to ensure access, and this extends to providing flexibility within class policies to ensure students with disabilities are not disproportionately penalized for exacerbations in their condition, as they may be unpredictable and inevitable despite ongoing health and time management practices. Students receiving the accommodation of Assignment Extension will collaborate with faculty to complete an agreement contract that will define accommodation extension individualized for each student and course.

Who Receives This Accommodation?

Students with disabilities who navigate a wide variety of disability-related experiences are approved for this accommodation. Granting extensions on assignments ensures that the student is not unfairly penalized for having to use alternate means or methods to access written materials and complete their work. Examples of when a student may benefit or be approved for this accommodation:

  • Students with compromised reading abilities arising from a learning disability who need more time to process and complete the volume of reading and work.
  • Students dealing with fluctuating and unpredictable periods of exacerbations of their condition associated with chronic illnesses or mental health disabilities.
  • Students with executive function impairments who find it difficult to focus and concentrate for sustained periods of time and need to break their work into shorter bursts of time.
  • Students who need frequent rest periods or who can only work for short periods of time, such as those with recent concussions, brain injuries, or chronic illnesses.
  • Students with reduced or limited stamina who have difficulty sitting, reading, writing, or typing for extended periods due to chronic illnesses, physical disabilities, or injuries.
  • Students who rely on adaptive technology (e.g., screen readers or speech-to-text software) to read or write as this process may be slower than reading in a typical manner.

How Does ARC Evaluate the Reasonableness of Assignment Extensions in a Class?

The accommodation for Assignment Extensions is always considered on an individual class basis, allowing an intentional and critical analysis of how the sequencing of assignments and their corresponding deadlines are essential to the class learning objectives and pedagogical components. While a late assignment policy may be incorporated into the grading scheme and syllabus, this accommodation is intended to modify any stated policies to allow some flexibility to account for the student’s disability-related need. Analysis of reasonable accommodations is within the purview of Accessibility Resource Center (ARC).

The accommodation should be provided unless the accommodation significantly compromises the integrity of the course as offered. If instructors believe assignment extensions are not possible, instructors should consult with an Accessibility Advisor to determine the reasonability of the request within the specific context of their class. ARC will consult with instructors using the following questions to determine reasonability:

  1. What does the class description and syllabus say about assignment deadlines or late work?
  2. How is the final class grade calculated? To what extent are assignments factored into the final grade? Are there any alternative grading schemes for assignments (i.e., one assignment grade may be dropped, etc.)?
  3. Are assignment deadline policies consistently applied? (i.e., Have any exceptions been made to the policy for non-disabled students, such as for athletic travel or religious observances? If so, these exceptions must also be granted to students with disabilities.)
  4. What is the purpose of the assignment? Is it necessary to have it completed before an exam? Before a discussion?
  5. Is the material being learned sequentially? Does each week’s material build on the material learned in the previous week(s)? (This may shorten the window of time in which an extension can reasonably be granted.)
  6. Are assignments used as class content when they are due? Are students required to actively participate in class discussions and activities based on the assignment (e.g., problem sets reviewed as the first lecture on that content)? Is it possible for the student to attend class virtually?
  7. Are answer sets released that would impact a student’s ability to request an extension? If so, how important is the timeliness of providing the answer sets to student learning and course sequencing?
  8. Are there other lab or class sections the student could attend to catch up on missed material?
  9. Does the assignment involve teamwork? Would failure to complete the assignment on time compromise the educational experience of other students in the class? Is it possible for the student to attend class virtually?
  10. Is it possible for students to “work ahead” in this class?

Considerations to Keep in Mind When Implementing Assignment Extensions

  • Limits are reasonable. Provide clear limits to the number of extensions allowed and the length of such extensions. This is not a “free pass” for students to turn in late work. Agreed upon extensions should be specific and limited to a specific amount of time as indicated in the contract.
  • The instructor’s class policy on late work (e.g., 10 points off a grade for each day late) will remain applicable even to students with Assignment Extensions if they fail to meet the agreed upon disability-related extension, or if they miss deadlines for other non-disability-related reasons.
  • Students are never required to provide doctor’s notes to instructors to justify use of this accommodation.
  • Accommodations are not retroactive. Instructors are not obligated to adjust previous penalties for late work if instructor notification of accommodations email is provided after the fact.

ARC Responsibilities in Supporting Assignment Extensions

  • Review documentation and meet with students to better understand their disability-related experiences. Through this interactive process, an Accessibility Adviser will determine if a student is eligible for Assignment Extensions to mitigate disability-related impacts throughout the semester. If so, Assignment Extensions will be listed as an eligible accommodation on the student’s instructor notification of accommodations email.
  • Consult and support faculty in determining reasonableness of accommodations or how to implement this accommodation considering essential class elements.
  • Provide support to students and faculty when questions or difficulties arise related to the accommodation.

Faculty Responsibilities When Facilitating Assignment Extensions

  • Once instructors have been notified of eligibility for accommodations, instructors should determine the extent to which they can reasonably grant Assignment Extensions without fundamentally altering the learning objectives. ARC is available for consultation if instructors have questions regarding how the accommodation interacts with essential elements of the class and determining if or what adjustments are reasonable.
  • If instructors believe the accommodation is not reasonable considering class objectives or pedagogical methods, contact ARC immediately as instructors should never unilaterally deny an accommodation. Instructors are expected to clearly articulate why flexibility is not reasonable.
  • Instructors should engage in dialogue with the student or ARC regarding Assignment Extension expectations: delineate the preferred communication process when the student needs to notify instructor of a disability-related extension, typical grace period for an extension, and any critical assignments that cannot be extended.
  • It is highly recommended that the process and boundaries for Assignment Extensions is summarized in writing via contract. The contract helps ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and that any confusion of the agreement can be clarified. Students and instructors are welcome to include ARC on these discussions for documentation purposes.
  • When or if a student needs to utilize this accommodation, they are responsible for notifying their instructor in a timely manner. Timely is defined as “as soon as reasonably possible.” Instructors must reply to the student’s request for an extension to indicate if a deadline extension is or is not workable for that assignment.
    • Instructors will request consultation with ARC if they believe that extending the deadlines for assignments would fundamentally alter an essential element of their class or if they have questions about what a reasonable amount of time the extension is within the context of their class.
    • If extensions are pedagogically possible, the instructor will work with the student in good faith to determine a reasonable amount of time and set a new deadline for each eligible assignment.
    • Instructors will verify the specific plan for the new assignment due date in writing (by email) with the student.
  • ARC is always available to mediate any concerns about Assignment Extensions, including concerns about academic integrity and logistics of this accommodation. ARC remains a neutral party in evaluating what is reasonable as an accommodation and is here to support instructors.

Student Responsibilities When Eligible for Assignment Extensions

  • Students approved for Assignment Extensions must distribute their instructor notification of accommodation emails by customizing their accommodations in ARC Go! at the beginning of each semester, or as soon as they are made eligible for the accommodation.
  • Students must collaborate to determine the reasonability of Assignment Extensions within the context of each class by either:
    • Initiating contact with their instructor to discuss boundaries of the accommodation and developing a contract for how it will be used, or
    • Requesting guidance from an Accessibility Advisor. Students can contact their Accessibility Advisor via email, phone, or request an appointment. The student’s Accessibility Advisor will assist the student and instructor in determining the boundaries of the accommodation and any necessary protocols. 
  • Students should clearly understand if or how Assignment Extensions will be granted considering class learning objectives and structure. This includes knowing the finite number of extensions that can be allowed, how to communicate with the instructor when they need to request an extension, and any critical assignments that cannot receive an extension.
  • It is highly recommended that the process and boundaries for Assignment Extensions is summarized in writing via a contract. The contract helps ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and that any confusion of the agreement can be clarified. Students and instructors are welcome to include ARC on these discussions for documentation purposes.
  • When a student needs to utilize this accommodation for an upcoming assignment, they are responsible for reaching out to the instructor through email as early as reasonably possible to request the extension and clarify a new due date.
    • Students should not plan on the extension being automatically provided and should always use this accommodation, if available, with care.
    • Students and instructors should defer to their contract agreement to determine Assignment Extension expectations for any clarification.
    • At no time are students required to present documentation to instructors to justify a disability-related need for an extension.
    • If a student receives a paper or assignment extension and is unable to meet the deadline, a new extension request must be made.
  • ARC is always available to mediate any concerns about navigating Assignment Extensions in a specific class or for a specific assignment.

Adapted with permission from Stanford University Office of Accessible Education Department.