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The University of Oklahoma



Volunteer Note Takers
Sign Language Interpreter
Real Time Captionist

Audio Recording Lectures

Determine What is Fundamental to the Nature of a Program
Identifying a Volunteer Note Taker
In most situations, a system of peer volunteer note takers is used at the University of Oklahoma for students with disabilities whose documentation supports note taking as an accommodation.  With the student's permission, the Disability Resource Center (DRC) staff contacts the instructor of record with a request to assist in identifying a volunteer note taker in class.  The DRC provides two-part carbonless (NCR) paper for the note taker's use.  It is the DRC student's responsibility to pick up this paper from the Center and deliver it to the assigned note taker.  Students may also wish to tape record the class lectures.  DRC students are also expected, to the best of their ability, to take their own notes in class and to use the note taker's notes as a supplementary set of notes for comparison.  Note takers are not a substitute for class attendance.
Faculty can use a number of means to secure volunteer note taker:  (1) The faculty member or the DRC student may already know students in class who can serve as note takers;  (2)  After observing students in class for a few days, the faculty member may observe a student who may be able to serve as an effective note taker;  (3) the faculty member can make an announcement in class asking for volunteers.  A public announcement may be handled in the following manner:

  • "Who expects to do well in class?  Who takes notes as a means of recalling information to use as a study guide?  Who is satisfied with the quality of their notes?  We need a volunteer note taker for the class.  Note takers often say their class attendance and the quality of their notes improves when serving as a note taker.  Students who raised their hands, indicating that they are effective note takers, please see me after class to discuss this volunteer opportunity."

Once the note taker has been identified, the faculty member will introduce the DRC student and the note taker and assure that confidentiality is maintained by all parties.  Students should exchange contact information and make arrangements for the receipt of the notes at the end of each class period.  It is the DRC student's responsibility to notify the DRC staff if there are obstacles with the note taking service.

Communicating with students who are deaf or hard of hearing who use sign language

  • Make sure you have the student's attention before communicating directly to him/her.
  • Look and talk directly to the student, not the interpreter when interacting.
  • Speak at a normal rate and volume.
  • All deaf people do not lip read but they do depend on your facial expressions and body language to convey the message.
  • Most people understand less than 50% of information when they lip read alone.
  • Be aware of lighting in the classroom.  Low lighting, windows behind the speaker and back lighting often make it difficult to see clearly.
  • Do not over emphasize your speech.  Lip reading is best when the speaker talks naturally.
  • Repeat questions from the audience.  The interpreter or student who lip reads may not have been able to understand from their vantage point.
  • It is appropriate when communicating one on one to ask if the information is understood.  If not, then explaining in a different manner or point of view maybe helpful.  Making office hour appointments or use of e-mail to explain concepts is suggested.
  • Use of the board and other visual aids such as power point are useful.
  • Students who are hearing impaired, depending on the severity of the hearing loss and life experience, have differing skills in the area of writing and comprehension of the English language.
  • Interpreters accompany the student to facilitate communication.  They are not responsible for the student's attendance, work ethic or actions.

Communicating with students who are deaf or hard of hearing who use a Real Time Captioner
A Real Time Captioner is a trained professional with specialized equipment to facilitate and ensure that deaf or hard of hearing students have access to the spoken word.

How does this accommodation work?

  • Verbal interactions and presentation of information is taken down by the captionist on a court reporting machine that interfaces with a software program on a Laptop computer.
  • Accommodation provided by the Real Time Captionist is marginally delayed as it is processed through the related software technology.

Is there a special way to work with this accommodation?

  • Allow time for the student to respond to questions as they need time to read what others have heard before replying.
  • Speak directly to the student rather than the captionist so your communication will reflect that you're directly addressing the student.
  • Listen attentively and wait for the student to finish speaking/responding before making further comments to allow the student time to read your response.

Does the captionist have specific needs?

  • The captionist will need to be seated directly beside the student.
  • Whenever possible provide the captionist with course terminology in advance as this helps to build a dictionary and promote accuracy in providing the accommodation.


Audio recording lectures as an accommodation

Are students with verified disabilities allowed to tape classes as an accommodation?


YES.  According to the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, the audio recording of classroom sessions as an accommodation for students with disabilities may not be restricted.  It is specifically addressed under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The legal reference, found in the Code of Federal Regulations 34CFR104.44 (b) for Section 504 reads as follows:


Section 104.44 Academic Adjustments


(b) Other rules.  A recipient (college) to which this subpart applies may not impose upon handicapped students other rules, such as the prohibition of tape recorders in classrooms or of guide dogs in campus buildings, that have the effect of limiting the participation of handicapped students in the recipient’s education program or activity.


While students with disabilities who need it as an accommodation must be allowed to tape classes, they may be required to sign an agreement which indicates that the tapes will not be sold or used for any other purpose than their own educational needs.


Student Agreement for Audio Recording  Classes


I, _____________________________, agree that I will not copy or release any audio recording or                  


transcription or otherwise hinder the ability of my professors to obtain a copyright on class material I have taped.  I will use the recorded information solely for my educational needs.


____________________________________                          _____________

                 Student’s Signature                                                       Date


Requirements for determining what is fundamental to the nature of a program

Students must be able to perform the essential functions of a program with or without accommodations. Postsecondary institutions are not required to waive or substitute elements that are fundamental to the nature of the program. The provision of reasonable accommodations and services due to disability cannot fundamentally alter the nature of the course, program, or event. There are some situations where adjustments in teaching method or testing may not be required because they could be considered fundamental alterations.

It isn't up to an individual faculty member to decide what is fundamental to the nature of a program. OCR guidance and case law provides for a decision-making process that should include at least the following elements:

1.      The decision is made by a group of people who are trained, knowledgeable and experienced in the area; and,

2.      The decision-makers consider a series of alternatives as essential requirements:

·   carefully consider whether appropriate alternatives are available, including a consideration of feasibility and cost;

·   determine if the essential requirement in question cannot be modified for a specific student with a disability; and,

·   ensure that the determination is not based only on the past tradition of the institution, such as an assertion that we have "always" done this or required this, without a valid basis for the determination; and,

3.      The decision should be a careful, thoughtful and rational review of the academic program and its requirements; and,

4.      The process should include consideration of the nature and purpose of the program, whether the standard is required in similar programs in other institutions, whether the standard is essential to a given vocation or occupation for which the program is preparing students, and whether the standard is required for licensure or certification in a related occupation or profession.

 The DRC staff is available to assist with this process and to help answer any questions about the disability issues.