Course Substitution for Student with Documented Disabilities :: Northern Virginia Community College

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Course Substitution for Student with Documented Disabilities

Policy Number: 218

Categorized: Academic Policies

Responsible Office: Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer

Subject: Approval process for course substitution based on documented disability

Related Policies: Accommodation of Students with Disabilities


Additional Information:

Effective Date:

Last Reviewed Date: 05/03/2018

1.0 Scope

This policy applies to students who wish to request a course substitution on the basis of disability.

2.0 Policy Statement

NOVA recognizes that in unusual circumstances, certain disabilities may prevent a student from successful completion of a specific course, even with reasonable and appropriate accommodations.

Otherwise qualified students with documented disabilities who are, by reason of their disability, unable to complete a requirement of the program pursued by the student, with or without reasonable accommodations, may request an approved course substitution. Substitutions will generally not be granted for any course that is deemed essential to the program of instruction being pursued by such student, or to any directly related licensing requirement. If requirements are waived, students must successfully complete other courses to compensate for the credit hours. Substitutions are made on a case by case basis.

NOVA rarely grants a substitution for the math requirement in transfer degree programs (AA/AS). NOVA’s minimum degree requirements include math because they reflect both SACS and VCCS standards.

NOVA does not guarantee that the course substituted will be accepted by other higher education institutions. Nor does NOVA guarantee that it will accept a course substitution from another higher educational institution. NOVA cannot guarantee that a substitution requested for a student pursuing a stated academic program will be acceptable if the student changes to a different academic program.

3.0 Definitions

Accommodation: an adjustment or modification in the academic environment that enables an individual to enjoy equal access to the College's programs, services or activities, including auxiliary aids and services. Examples of accommodations are: note takers, recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing, screen-reading, voice recognition, or other adaptive software or hardware.


  • Any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
  • Having a record of such an impairment; or
  • Being regarded as having such impairment.

Fundamental Alteration: The College is not required to provide any aid or service or make any modification that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program. In evaluating whether the requested program modifications would require substantial program alteration or would fundamentally alter academic standards or programs, the College considers the underlying academic reasons for the program components, the academic standards institutionalized in the program, how the challenged components are consistent with the program standards, and how the requested accommodations would be inconsistent with the academic goals and standards of the program.

4.0 Procedures

4.1 Students must first be registered with Disability Support Services (DSS) and have current documentation of a disability that clearly substantiates that the disability significantly affects their academic performance in the subject area.

4.2 Students will submit a letter requesting a course substitution to a Disability Support Services Counselor. The letter should include:

  • information about the student’s previous attempts at the course (if any), including accommodations used
  • the student’s degree program
  • whether or not the student intends to transfer to a four-year institution

4.3 The DSS counselor will forward the request to the Course Substitution Committee along with the following information:

  • Relevant documentation in the student's DSS file
  • The student’s current or most recent Memorandum of Accommodation (MOA)
  • The counselor’s professional recommendation

4.4 The Course Substitution Committee will review the request and notify the student as to the approval or disapproval of the course substitution in writing within 15 working days.

4.5 No course substitution will be granted unless professional assessments clearly show that student's disability currently prevents the student from passing the course with or without reasonable accommodation.

4.6 No course substitution will be granted if it would constitute a fundamental alteration of the program of study.

4.7 The student may grieve the committee’s denial in accord with the Student Grievance Procedure.

5.0 Authority

VCCS Policy Substitution of requirements for students with documented disabilities, covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

34 C.F.R. 104.44(a) Academic requirements.