Skip to main content

Saint Louis University Header Logo Center

Menu Search & Directory

FAQ about ADA Accommodations for Interim Face Mask Policy

Saint Louis University’s Interim Face Mask Policy allows for an exemption for individuals who are unable to wear a mask due to documented medical issues. The frequently asked questions below provide additional information and guidance for those situations.

FAQ For Students

How do I request an accommodation/exemption?  

Consistent with other types of ADA accommodations, you may apply for an academic accommodation through the Office of Disability Services. Because the Interim Mask Policy applies to residential buildings, you also may need to apply for a housing accommodation (if applicable). 

How does the process work?

Once your application is received, Disability Services will initiate an “interactive process,” required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to determine whether an exemption is warranted. You will be required to provide documentation from a licensed diagnostician to support your request. 

Once an exemption has been granted, that interactive process continues as you explore, together with your instructors and other members of the SLU community, what might or might not be able to be done in response to your disability accommodation. It is important to know that Disability Services will not disclose the underlying condition that merits your need for accommodations, only that an exemption from the policy has been approved.

Consistent with the expectations of the ADA, there is no “one size fits all” approach; each student situation will be different, which means accommodations are customized to the individual and to the various contexts in which their exemption may require accommodations. This process is the same, regardless of the type of accommodation being sought.

I have applied for an exemption from the mask policy, but it has not yet been granted. What do I do about classes?

Until you have been granted an exemption, and reasonable accommodations have been determined for each of your courses, you should plan temporarily to learn online/remotely. The University's goal is to have this process resolved within two weeks.

I have applied for an exemption to the Mask Policy, but it has not yet been granted. Can I live on campus without wearing a mask?

No. Until your exemption has been granted, and reasonable accommodations have been identified, you must continue to abide by the Interim Face Mask Policy, which requires you to wear a mask in all common areas (including hallways, elevators, stairwells, and other public spaces) in on-campus apartments and residence halls. Students may be in their assigned rooms/apartments without wearing a mask so long as all roommates agree that this is acceptable. 

Once your exemption has been approved, you will work with the Office of Disability Services and the Department of Housing and Residence Life to determine reasonable accommodations. This process typically can take two weeks or more, depending on the documentation submitted with your application for an accommodation.

If I am granted an exemption from the Interim Mask Policy, does that mean I can attend class without wearing a mask?

Not necessarily. Because any exemption to the Mask Policy has an impact on the health and safety of others, it is important that you, your instructors, and the Office of Disability Services work together to determine what “reasonable accommodations” look like for each course. The process of determining reasonable accommodations for each course is specific to each request. The University's goal is to have each request resolved within two weeks.

What constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” with a mask exemption in the classroom?  

Because an exemption from the Interim Face Mask Policy has an impact on the health and safety of others, it is important that instructors and students work together with Disability Services to explore possible reasonable accommodations. Ultimately, what constitutes a reasonable accommodation will depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) the type of course, the kinds of learning activities occurring in the course, and the health and safety considerations of others in the class.

Examples of potential accommodations for a mask exemption that may be implemented singularly or in tandem with another accommodation include, but are not limited to: 

  • Participating in the course online instead of in-person
  • Wearing a face shield
  • Providing surgical-grade masks to others in the classroom with that student to ensure enhanced protection for all
  • Installing plexiglass barriers in the classroom or lab
  • Increasing the distance (more than 6 feet) between the students in the class
  • Permitting the student to step outside to remove the mask for short breaks during class time.

Given that the Interim Face Mask Policy is not a permanent policy, and that the conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic may improve, other options that may also constitute reasonable accommodations, such as: adjusting the student’s Fall 2020 class schedule in a manner that will eliminate the need for a mask-related accommodation; assisting the student in registering for the same course offered online by another university and then accepting the course in transfer upon successful completion; or enrolling the student in an independent study version of the course that might not present the need for a mask-related accommodation. 

I do not want to wear a mask in class. Do I have to have an ADA accommodation to receive an exemption from the Interim Face Mask Policy?  

Yes. Only students with a documented disability that warrants an accommodation under the ADA will be approved for an exception to the mask policy; accommodations must still provide for the safety and well-being of all involved.

I do not have an ADA accommodation related to masks. What will happen if I refuse to wear a mask?

Student compliance with the University’s Interim Face Mask Policy is fundamental to their fidelity to the Campus Commitment they signed before or as they arrived on the St. Louis campus for the Fall 2020 term. Failure to honor that commitment could result in dismissal from SLU. 

Additionally, a temporary statement on face masks will apply to all in-person courses in Fall 2020. According to this statement, faculty may ask any student refusing to wear a face mask to leave the classroom immediately and, instead, participate in the class online (but only if that has already been established as an option for students in that class; faculty are not required to create an unplanned online course option solely for students failing to comply with the University’s Interim Face Mask Policy).   

If a non-compliant student refuses to leave when asked, the instructor may cancel that class session and must report the student to the Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards. The Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards may pursue disciplinary action with the student and may contact you for more information.

*New* Some classes use exam software that uses facial recognition software for proctoring reasons. May students remove their mask in order for the software to recognize them?

Yes, students may momentarily remove their mask in order for exam facial recognition software to work/allow them into the exam. This software takes a picture of the student at baseline and immediately before an exam. These programs work very quickly; they are able to identify an individual in less than one minute. The very short time in which it takes for the program to capture a picture of the student to compare to the baseline photo will not place others in the classroom at risk of exposure. Once the software has identified the student, the student should put their mask back on and keep it on for the duration of the exam/class.

FAQ for Faculty

How do I request an accommodation/exemption for myself?  

Contact your Human Resources consultant. For more information, see SLU’s ADA policy. You will be required to provide documentation from a licensed diagnostician.

How are student mask-related accommodations handled? Will I have any input?

Students may apply for an academic accommodation through the Office of Disability Services and must provide documentation from a licensed diagnostician to support their request. After they have done this, Disability Services initiates what the ADA calls an “interactive process” to determine whether accommodations are warranted, based on the student’s disability. 

While you will not have input into the decision about whether accommodations are warranted (which requires specific knowledge of the underlying conditions that lead to an exemption), you will be asked to work with Disability Services and the student to determine what “reasonable accommodations” look like for your course.

It is important to note that, while an individual with a disability may warrant an exemption from the Interim Face Mask Policy, the specific accommodation(s) for that exemption will vary. What constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” is highly contextualized.

Who has input into what “reasonable accommodations” are for my course?

You do, in collaboration with the Office of Disability Services and the student with the exemption. This is an interactive process.

What constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” with a mask exemption in the classroom?

Because an exemption from the Interim Face Mask Policy has an impact on the health and safety of others, it is important that instructors and students work together with Disability Services to explore possible reasonable accommodations. Ultimately, what constitutes a reasonable accommodation will depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) the type of course, the kinds of learning activities occurring in the course, and the health and safety considerations of others in the class.

Examples of potential accommodations for a mask exemption that may be implemented singularly or in tandem with another accommodation, include, but are not limited to: 

  • Participating in the course online instead of in-person
  • Wearing a face shield
  • Providing surgical-grade masks to others in the classroom with that student to ensure enhanced protection for all 
  • Installing plexiglass barriers in the classroom or lab
  • Increasing the distance (more than 6 feet) between the students in the class
  • Permitting the student to step outside to remove the mask for short breaks during class time

Given that the Interim Face Mask Policy is not a permanent policy, and that the conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic may improve, other options that may also constitute reasonable accommodations, such as: adjusting the student’s Fall 2020 class schedule in a manner that will eliminate the need for a mask-related accommodation; assisting the student in registering for the same course offered online by another university and then accepting the course in transfer upon successful completion; or enrolling the student in an independent study version of the course that might not present the need for a mask-related accommodation. 

What happens if one of my students is approved for an exemption?

You will be notified by the Office of Disability Services that a student in your course has been granted an exemption for the Interim Face Mask Policy. (As with all other approved accommodations, the accommodation will also appear in your class roster in Banner.) It is important to know that you will work together to determine reasonable accommodations for your course. Until reasonable accommodations have been determined, the student should temporarily plan to participate in your course online/remotely.  It is the University’s goal to complete this process within two weeks.

I am not comfortable having a student in class who is not wearing a mask. Can I require them to participate online for the semester?

No. ADA accommodations cannot, legally, be addressed by a blanket policy requiring students with an ADA exemption from the mask policy to learn online/remotely. The ADA explicitly requires that a “reasonable accommodation” be determined on a case-by-case basis via a dialogue among SLU’s appointed ADA officer, the student, and, as needed, the faculty member.  Each student’s disability is unique to them, and each class setting in which that disability manifests is also going to be unique.  What works for one student in one setting/course might not for another student – or even that same student in a different setting/course.

What if a student without an ADA accommodation refuses to wear a mask in class?

Students may not refuse to wear a mask in a course without an ADA accommodation authorized by the Office of Disability Services. If a student attempts to do otherwise, faculty should ask them to leave the classroom immediately and, instead, participate in the class online (but only if that has already been established as an option for students in that class; faculty are not required to create an unplanned online course option solely for students failing to comply with the University Interim Face Mask Policy).

If a non-compliant student refuses to leave when asked, the instructor may cancel that class session and must report the student to the Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards. The Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards may pursue disciplinary action with the student and may contact you for more information.

Student compliance with the University’s Interim Face Mask Policy is fundamental to their fidelity to the Campus Commitment they signed before or as they arrived at SLU for the Fall 2020 term; their failure to live by that commitment could result in their dismissal from SLU.        

*New* May instructors or students remove their mask in class in order to take a drink?

Yes, individuals may momentarily move or remove their mask in order to take a quick drink. The very short time in which it takes to take a quick drink will not place others in the classroom at risk of exposure. It is not acceptable to remove your mask to eat a snack or meal during class.

FAQ for Staff

I have not yet been approved for an exemption. What do I do?

Talk with your supervisor. If you have been working remotely, continue to do so until you, your supervisor, and Human Resources have determined reasonable accommodations for your situation.