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IEP & 504 Accommodations: “We don’t do that here” and other statements you should never hear.

Sage Educational Advocacy and Consulting

What exactly does an accommodation for a student with a disability mean? The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) uses the terms “reasonable” and “appropriate” when referring to accommodations, but it does not provide a clear definition of what an accommodation entails. If you search on Google, you'll find over 29 million results related to the definition of an accommodation under IDEA.

According to The Iris Center (2010), 

“More than ever, school personnel are responsible for providing high-quality instruction to all students. Together, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) have increased the expectation that students with disabilities will participate in the general education classroom as well as in state and district testing to the greatest extent possible. Unfortunately, students with disabilities often experience challenges or barriers that interfere with their ability to access and demonstrate learning. Barriers to learning can be associated with:

The way information is presented (e.g., text, lecture)

The way the student is required to respond (e.g., writing, speech)

The characteristics of the setting (e.g., noise, lighting)

The timing and scheduling of instruction (e.g., time of day, length of assignment)”

The IRIS Center (2010) describes accommodation as the action of taking a challenge or barrier and generating “adaptations or changes in education environments or practices that help students overcome the barriers presented by their disability.” The result of removing challenges or barriers creates access to general education curricula and provides students with the ability to demonstrate their knowledge using a strength-based model.  

Another highly functional definition of accommodation from “The Accommodation Manual” (Thompson et al., 2005) states that: 

“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. The accommodations provided to a student must be the same for classroom instruction, classroom assessments, and district and state assessments. It is critical to note that although some accommodations may be appropriate for instructional use, they may not be appropriate for use on a standardized assessment.”

At Sage, we are uniquely skilled at removing barriers to success for students through the use of accommodations. We focus on the individual student and identify challenges or barriers that present themselves due to their disability under IDEA. We imagine that you might have seen accommodations like extended time, copies of notes, reduced assignments, and preferential seating. Along with those extremely common accommodations, you might also see language in the IEP, such as:

  •  “If the student asks.” 

  •  “Student can have a copy of the notes if they start first.” 

  •  “Upon student request.” 

At Sage, we can help clients understand the terminology and legal requirements to ensure that the school team, not the student, implements the individualized accommodations. Individualization is key. All too often, accommodations come from a list or are copied and pasted from other IEPs. The student should have input in order to ensure they are more likely to identify accommodations that maximize their own growth. Accommodations should not be a one-size-fits-all all! 

The other common statements we hear are: 

  • “We cannot do that. We do not have the time.” 

  • “We do not do that at this school.” 

It is not the responsibility of a school or its leaders to determine whether or not a student should be provided with accommodations when there is evidence indicating the need for them. Unfortunately, some school leaders or teams may argue that accommodating a particular student's needs would be too burdensome for them, citing other students as a reason. However, this is a form of discrimination. Such comments only serve to perpetuate oppressive practices that have been embedded in the education system, which should prioritize the rights of individual students above everything else. At Sage, we are committed to eliminating discrimination and oppressive practices by recognizing patterns and advocating for personalized accommodations that are inclusive of a student's overall needs. Additionally, it is the school's responsibility to ensure that these accommodations are implemented, not the student's. Under no circumstances should a student have to request their accommodations. In our next post, we will discuss effective practices for making decisions about necessary accommodations.


The IRIS Center. (2010, Rev. 2018). Accommodations: Instructional and testing supports for students with disabilities. Retrieved from

Sandra J. Thompson, Amanda B. Morse, Michael Sharpe, and Sharon Hall. (2005, 2nd Edition). Accommodations Manual: How To Select, Administer, and Evaluate Use of Accommodations for Instruction and Assessment of Students with Disabilities and Professional Development Guide. Retrieved from


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