Resources for Disabled Students

Note Taking Support Services

Policies and Procedures

Resources for Disabled Students (RDS) provides note taking support services as an accommodation/auxiliary aid for students with hearing, visual, motor limitations or those who have learning/cognitive disabilities that significantly affect the ability to take notes in class. Note taking support services are designed to supplement a student’s learning process by having another person record on paper the essential points delivered in a lecture environment. These services are not to be used as a substitute for attending class.

Eligibility and Approval

Eligibility for this service is determined by an assessment of a student’s individual needs by the RDS Accommodations/Advocacy Specialist or other appropriate RDS staff. Students must have appropriate documentation of a disability in order to be eligible for notetaking support services (exception: students under conditional status). The affects, or limitations, of the disability must also support the need for note taking support services as assessed and verified by the RDS Specialist or by another appropriate RDS staff.

Note taking support services may be requested by a student or be recommended by RDS Staff as an appropriate auxiliary aid/accommodation after an assessment of needs. Prior to provision of this service, the need for this auxiliary aid/accommodation must be appropriately documented by the RDS Staff member which will indicate approval for the service. Recommendation and approval is dependent upon the student’s stated need as supported by appropriate disability documentation.

All students who request note taking support services for the first time must meet with the RDS Staff member for the accommodation to be approved. Once approved, note taking support services must be requested by a student each semester in order to continue this service. All student requests for note taking support services are submitted through a Student Information form to the RDS Staff member for continuation of services. Students need to meet with an appropriate RDS Staff member for continuation of services each semester. Continuation of services will be documented each semester.

Conditional Status Approval

The appropriate RDS Staff member may also recommend and/or approve notetaking support services under conditional status for a student who presents a strong indication he/she may need this auxiliary aid/accommodation but does not have supporting disability documentation.

Strong indication includes but is not limited to: prior history of support services in school; indication the student is in the middle of a diagnostic process; or other clear indicators that a student likely has a disability that would significantly affect his/her ability to perform on exams. These indicators will be documented by the appropriate RDS Staff member as part of the recommendation/approval for services. Conditional status is limited to no longer than one semester. Continuation of service is dependent upon provision of supporting disability documentation.

Students who are temporarily disabled due to injuries affecting their ability to write may also be eligible for note taking support services. Students who are temporarily disabled due to injuries or other acute conditions may be granted conditional status through their recovery but no longer than one semester of service.

Provision of Services

Once note taking support services have been recommended/approved, there are several options available to a student in securing a note taker for a particular class.  Note taking support generally comes from a volunteer who is currently enrolled in the same class.  However, when this arrangement does not meet the needs of the student, a paid note taker may be utilized.  A paid note taker may or may not be currently enrolled in the same class.  Appropriate rationale for paid note takers will be documented and must be approved by the RDS Director prior to provision for each semester in which they will be needed.

Specific student requests for paid note takers must be made in a timely manner to the appropriate RDS Staff member so that appropriate assessments and recommendations can be made and appropriate personnel can be identified and hired. Specific requests for paid notetakers are submitted in the same manner described above for basic note taking support services.

All recommendations for paid note takers must be approved by the RDS Director. The recommendation for paid note takers must be supported as appropriate to the need resulting from the significant effects of a student’s disability and/or the nature of the course and documented by the appropriate RDS Staff member.

Options of Support

In-Class Volunteers

The most common arrangement for note taking support is through an in-class volunteer notetaker. There are two options available for the recruitment of in-class volunteer notetakers: student initiated or RDS initiated.

Recruiting Volunteers

Student initiated: There are several methods that can be used by a student to find a suitable volunteer note taker although each method may not be appropriate for every student.  The RDS Staff member and student should discuss each method to determine which might work most effectively depending upon a student's circumstances.

  • A student may ask someone he/she knows if she/he would be willing to share their notes on a regular basis.
  • Often students will contact the instructor of the class to request his/her assistance in finding a note taker. An announcement to the class is normally the first step in finding volunteers. Either the student or the instructor may make this announcement, indicating that there is a need for a person willing to serve as a notetaker.
  • Instructors may be able to identify specific students who perform more successfully than others and/or who appear to take productive notes. Students are encouraged to explore this method of recruitment to also help in identifying potential support for studying course material.

Note: Prior to instructor involvement in the process of identifying potential note takers, a student must present to the instructor a copy of a memo verifying the need for the accommodation. This memo will be issued to the student at the time approval for this service is given by RDS.

RDS initiated: If self-recruiting prospective note takers is not an effective process for a student, RDS will assist and/or support the student in this endeavor.

  • Upon request from the student to an appropriate RDS Staff member, a representative from RDS will help to facilitate the identification of a note taker through an announcement in class and/or through contact with the instructor.

RDS does not guarantee a student’s anonymity in the process of providing note taking support services. If requested, a student’s identity will be protected as much as possible from class identification. However, RDS expects communication between the student and the volunteer note taker as much as possible in order to facilitate the exchange and/or clarification of notes.

Paid Notetakers

Depending upon the class and/or the accommodative needs of a student, an in-class volunteer note taker may not prove to be sufficiently effective as an auxiliary aid/ accommodation. A student may request, and/or the appropriate RDS Staff member may recommend, the provision of a paid note taker. These note takers may be other students (currently in the class or previous class members) or they may be individuals hired specifically to take notes for a particular class. These individuals may or may not be students.

There are two types of paid note takers--note takers and note taker/tutors. Either may be an individual from within the class or someone hired to attend the class with the student.

  • Paid note taker: an individual who attends each class with the student, takes extensive notes during class and explains or clarifies notes for the student when necessary.
  • Note taker/tutor:  an individual who attends class with the student, takes extensive notes and spends additional time tutoring the student.

Recruitment and Hiring

Note takers and Note taker/Tutors are obtained through a variety of means. The student, professor and/or RDS may be involved in the process. Although paid note takers are not recruited through student initiative, students may be asked for suggestions of potential note takers. Professors may also provide information concerning previous or current students in the class as potential notetakers. In addition, RDS may recommend a person as a note taker based upon previous contacts and/or employment with RDS.


In selecting an appropriate volunteer notetaker, a student may ask to see examples of notes taken by each person interested in volunteering to determine if the notes will be appropriate for his/her need. The student determines which notetaker provides notes in the best format; however, the student is free to request assistance from RDS in making this determination.  If possible, a student may opt to select more than one volunteer notetaker per class to ensure most of the points of a lecture are recorded and/or that adequate coverage of the class is maintained if a notetaker is ever absent.

If a student finds that a notetaker is not attending class or for other reasons is not suitable, replacement of that notetaker should take place immediately. Students are expected to inform an appropriate RDS Staff member as soon as possible so that efforts can be made for replacing missed notes and/or a notetaker.



After a volunteer notetaker is selected, he/she will be asked on behalf of RDS to sign an agreement indicating his/her intention to take notes for a set period of time for a particular class. This agreement should be signed within two weeks after a volunteer has been identified. The agreement details the notetaker’s responsibilities to the student and to RDS as a volunteer. In addition, each notetaker will be mailed, or given, a copy of a Notetakers Responsibilities information sheet. The responsibilities for securing the signed agreement will be decided upon between the student and the appropriate RDS Staff member.

Paid notetakers and notetaker/tutors are considered in the employ of RDS and not the student. They are required to submit appropriate employee paperwork to RDS prior to working any hours in order to be paid.

Time devoted to notetaking or notetaking/tutoring is to be recorded on appropriate timesheets, due every two weeks by Friday (at the end of the pay period). Notetakers and notetaker/tutors will be paid once their timesheets are processed. Timesheets should indicate the student for whom the notetaker is taking notes and/or tutoring as well as the class (on back of timesheet). The student is asked to verify the time spent in tutoring by initializing each time sheet appropriately for notetaker/tutors.


A notetaker and the student are expected to work out a system to exchange notes. One option may be to have notes copied on a regular basis. Another option is to have the notetaker use carbonless paper.

Copying: RDS will copy notes from notetakers free of charge provided the notetaker has signed an agreement to volunteer on behalf of RDS. Notes to be copied are copied in the RDS office.

Any other arrangements for copying notes must be approved prior to initiation by the RDS Notetaking Support Services Coordinator. Arrangements for copying in remote locations (i.e., other than at the RDS office) must be recommended by the RDS Notetaking Support Services Coordinator or RDS Specialist and approved by the RDS Director prior to initiation if reimbursement charges are involved.

All notes copied in the RDS office must be done only by RDS staff. Students and notetakers do not have access to the RDS copy machine.

Carbonless paper: Packets of carbonless paper are usually signed out to either the student or the notetaker (as agreed upon by the RDS Notetaking Support Services Coordinator). Volunteer notetakers must sign an agreement before carbonless paper is given to them directly by RDS. Students may purchase their own carbonless paper for notetakers at their own expense if RDS is not involved in the notetaking support process.

It is recommended that notes be exchanged daily if possible and not less than once a week. The RDS office may be used as a drop-off point for the exchange of notes when necessary.

Students are expected to attend each class for which a set of notes is exchanged. Notetakers are not responsible to provide copies of notes to a student if the student was not in attendance on a particular day (medical or other situations may be considered exceptions with approval from the RDS Notetaking Support Services Coordinator and/or RDS Specialist).

Instructor Notification/Cooperation

If an instructor is utilized as a means of identifying a potential notetaker or is otherwise involved in the provision of notetaking support, he/she will be given a memo verifying the need of a notetaker for a student. This memo will be issued by the appropriate RDS Staff member and presented to the instructor either by the student or by the RDS staff representative.

Instructors may be asked to share copies of lecture notes and/or overheads. RDS understands that there may be limits to this option of support depending upon the availability of lecture notes and/or copyright restrictions.

Instructors may also be asked to facilitate the identification of potential notetakers (either volunteer or paid) based on current or previous interaction with other students. GTAs are often a potential resource as a notetaker in courses as well as students who have already completed a particular course. Instructors may be asked to make an announcement for volunteers on behalf of the student and/or RDS.

When transcription of lectures is used as an accommodation/auxiliary aid, an instructor may be asked to help in the taping process (e.g., wearing a microphone or operating a tape recorder).

Other Options of Support

Tape recording

Tape recording lecture may be a viable option for a student to either supplement the student's own notetaking process or to enhance the notes of a notetaker.  Digital recorders may be available on loan from the Assistive Technology Resource Center.


When the effects of a student’s disability severely affect access to lecture material, transcription of lectures may be recommended by an appropriate RDS Staff member as an accommodation/auxiliary aid. The RDS Staff member must recommend this accommodation/auxiliary aid to the RDS Director for approval, documenting the need appropriately.
Specific student requests must be made in a timely manner (at least 4 weeks prior to the need) for recommendation and approval so that appropriate personnel can be recruited and hired to deliver these services and to implement other arrangements, as needed.

Transcriptionists are considered in the employ of RDS and not the student. Transcriptionists are paid per hour or as determined upon the transcription agreement with RDS.

Transcriptionists work from tape recordings of lectures. Transcriptions are usually provided within 48 - 72 hours, depending upon the nature of the course. RDS provides or arranges for the necessary equipment to tape record lectures. A student may be required to participate in the arrangements, as needed, while in class. Transcripts are usually delivered to the RDS office for student pick-up.


Exceptions to the above policies may be made based on individual student need and circumstances only through the approval of the RDS Director. Exceptions may be requested from the RDS Director by the student, RDS Specialist, and/or Notetaking Support Services Coordinator.

(Revised 8/08)


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