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Foreign Language Requirement: Students with Documented Disabilities


When deafness, speech impairment, or a certified learning disability would interfere significantly with a student's study of foreign language, s/he can petition to be allowed to substitute coursework about a foreign culture for language requirements. Either or both of two separate requirements may be involved-removal of a high-school language deficiency, and/or satisfaction of the Arts and Sciences foreign language graduation requirement. The foreign language graduation requirement applies to students earning bachelor's degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Social Work.

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Categories of Students Allowed to Substitute

Students granted permission by the University at the time of admission

Very few students are admitted to the University without the foreign language Core Subject Requirement: high school coursework through the second-year level or college coursework through the second-quarter level. Of those few admitted with a foreign language deficiency, most are required to make up the deficiency by taking coursework at UWB through the second quarter of a language (e.g., FRENCH 102). A small number of students admitted with deficiencies, however, are given special permission to substitute foreign-culture courses for foreign language courses because of deafness, speech impairment, or a certified learning disability. Decisions are made on the basis of documentation supplied by the student, together with a recommendation from the Disability Resources for Students office. The foreign language requirement is never simply waived; fulfillment by substitute courses is required.

Students with permission to substitute culture courses for language courses to remove an admission deficiency are automatically granted permission to substitute culture courses for the Arts and Sciences (and Social Work) foreign language graduation requirement as well. Usually this means that in addition to the 10 credits of culture courses that remove the admission deficiency, the student takes five more credits to meet the graduation requirement.

Students petitioning their college after admission

A student who has already been admitted and wishes to make the case at a later time that s/he should be allowed to substitute culture courses because of a disability must petition his/her college for permission. For students in the College of Arts and Sciences, this takes the form of a petition to the Arts and Sciences Graduation Committee, even if the student is planning to change into another college of the University before graduation.

If the student has an admission deficiency, the Graduation Committee (or the student's college, if s/he is not in Arts and Sciences) will make a recommendation and refer the matter to the Faculty Council on Academic Standards' Subcommittee on Admission and Graduation, which will decide for the University.

If the student has no admission deficiency but is asking for permission to substitute culture courses for the graduation requirement, the matter can be decided at the college level and will not be referred to the University level. The student should anticipate, in the petition, the question of how it happens that s/he was able to meet the admission requirement at an earlier time, but now is not able to complete the graduation requirement.

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What to include in the petition

Petitions should be submitted on a Graduation Petition form and must include at least two items:

  1. A letter of endorsement of the documented disability, from the UW Disability Resources for Students office. Petitions submitted without this endorsement will almost certainly be denied.
  2. The proposed list of courses to be substituted for foreign language, including course titles and a discussion of the intended theme of the combination. (See Focus, below.)

The student should begin the petition process as early as possible in his/her college career. A student already has documentation of a disability should petition while it is relatively recent. Since many of the possible substitute courses are offered infrequently, the more time the student has to complete them, the better. The student should petition BEFORE taking the proposed substitution courses.

The sample course combinations listed at the end of this AIF are intended as examples only. Each student must submit for approval his/her own individual plan, usually to be worked out in consultation with the adviser who signs the petition on behalf of the student's major department.

Number of credits required

For removal of an admission deficiency, 10 credits are required (even if the student did complete one year of language in high school). For the foreign language graduation requirement, 15 credits are required. The 10 credits used to remove a deficiency can also be counted toward the 15 credits used for the graduation requirement, so long as the student takes them for a numerical grade and earns at least a 2.0 in each one.

Effect of previous language study on the number of credits required

Completion in high school of part of the two years of language study normally required for admission (for example, one year) does not decrease the number of college credits required to remove the admission deficiency. If the student were taking a language, s/he would presumably need to start over at the beginning and take 10 credits (101 and 102), so the required substitution is also 10 credits. Likewise, the foreign language graduation requirement is 15 credits, regardless of any high-school units of language completed.

If a student has earned college credit for language study, however, the language credits may be included as part of the proposed list of courses. In some cases, even a grade below 2.0 might be accepted; this will be decided on an individual basis, when the proposal itself is considered. For example, if a student earned a 1.9 in SPAN 101, s/he could propose SPAN 101 and HSTAA 381, 382 (10 credits of Latin American history) for the 15-credit foreign language graduation requirement. Note that the language course must be in the language associated with the culture being studied.

Transfer courses

Students may, if they wish, include transfer courses in their proposed list of substitute courses. When submitting the petition, the student should include a catalog description, syllabus, and/or summary of the course.

Focus of the proposed courses

In general, the proposed courses should involve a focus on a particular culture or linguistically closely related cultures, and the student should explain in his/her petition why the particular courses have been chosen. The purpose of the requirement is not simply to insist upon 10 or 15 credits from a list of courses about other countries; a proposal for a course about Africa, one about India, and one about Mexico will not be approved. Three courses specifically about Mexico will probably be approved, but there should still be some explanation. If the proposal is for a course about Spain, one about Mexico, and one about South America, there should ideally be an intellectual connection involved in the choice, other than the fact that all three areas are Spanish-speaking.

The inclusion of courses that touch upon the culture as part of a broader coverage should also be justified in the petition. For example, the student should explain in his/her petition why s/he chooses MUSIC 316, which covers a wide range of Asian music, as part of a proposal focusing on China, rather than some other course that is about China alone. The committee will be willing to consider personal or practical considerations, such as the constraints of the student's schedule and the limitations of the University's course offerings, as well as intellectual ones.

Since the requirement is meant to ensure that the student is exposed to a culture that is linguistically different from his own, proposed courses focusing on English-speaking countries such as Great Britain, Canada, or Australia are not acceptable.

Learning disabilities

Students who want to petition based on a learning disability must submit a report from a testing agency approved by the UWB Disability Resources for Students office. Please note, UWB does not provide this type of testing. Private testing is expensive, and students should always contact Disability Resources for Students before selecting an agency. DRS will not endorse test results from an agency with which they are not familiar.

Where to submit the petition

Petitions from students who have already been admitted, including plans for proposed substitutions, should be submitted to the Arts and Sciences Graduation Committee. Although ultimate authority for the requirements rests with the Faculty Council on Academic Standards (in the case of deficiency removal) or with the college that the student is graduating from (in the case of graduation requirements for students in Arts and Sciences and Social Work), administration of the requirements will normally be carried out by the Arts and Sciences Graduation Committee because the College of Arts and Sciences offers the substitute courses (as well as foreign language courses themselves).

Changes in the list of courses approved

Although the student may submit a supplementary petition later to change courses, a proposed plan is required at the outset to make clear to the student the nature of the alternative commitment that s/he is entering into. Petitions for change must be presented to the Arts and Sciences Graduation Committee in writing on a graduation-petition form signed by the student's adviser. To avoid later petitions for change, the student could propose a range of choices. For example, a student could propose to complete HSTAS 201 and 202, plus five additional credits from among HSTAS 401, 402, 403, PHIL 386, and RELIG 352.

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Grade Requirement

For the foreign language graduation requirement, the student must earn a 2.0 or higher in each substitute course used toward the 15-credit requirement. Note that this differs from the requirement for foreign language courses, where, because the courses are sequential, the grades for the first two are immaterial if the third course is 2.0 or above. If the student is removing an admission deficiency but not meeting the Arts and Sciences foreign language requirement, a grade of 0.7 or higher will remove the deficiency. To remove a deficiency (but not to satisfy the foreign language graduation requirement), the student may take the courses on a Satisfactory/Not-satisfactory basis; note that 2.0 is required to earn an "S".

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Overlap with Other Requirements

Foreign-culture courses being used for the foreign language graduation requirement cannot be counted toward Areas of Knowledge requirements. If they happen to be in the student's major department, however, they can count for both the major and the language requirement. In other words, culture courses being substituted for the foreign language requirement are subject to the same restrictions as foreign language courses themselves. There is no such restriction on courses used to remove an admission deficiency; in most cases, these will also be used for the foreign language graduation requirement, but if not, and if the courses normally count for Areas of Knowledge, the student can use them for both deficiency removal and the Areas requirement.

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Contact Information

Rosa J. Liu, M.Ed.

Manager, Veterans Services & Disability Resources for Students

  • Email:
  • Phone: 425-352-5307
  • Fax: 425-352-5114
  • Location: UW1, room 080

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Alternative Testing Center

  • Email:
  • Phone: 425-352-5426
  • Location: UW1, room 071