4.4 Student Accommodations in Field Placement

Berkeley Social Welfare is committed to and experienced at arranging field placements for MSW students who require accommodations to successfully complete their degree program. Our policies and procedures align with university and Berkeley campus requirements and expectations for accommodations and supportive measures meant to ensure that all students have a fair chance at academic success.

In order to be eligible for field placement, all students must be determined to meet the requisite criteria and abilities necessary for successful field learning. Essential capacities for particular field placement settings may vary, however, depending on the type of placement and the educational needs of the student. Although we have access to a wide range of agency partners and can often find an agency that could serve as a suitable field placement site for a particular student, we cannot guarantee that all sites can accommodate all students.

Students who may require disability-related accommodations should register with the campus Disabled Students Program (DSP) as soon as possible. When disability-related accommodations may be needed for success in a field placement, students are encouraged to proactively discuss their needs with their assigned Field Consultant early in the placement process. Because the field practicum experience occurs off-campus and involves responsibility for public agency clients and projects, students registered with DSP should request Letters of Accommodation specifically customized for field practicum courses (SOC WEL 410A, 410B, 412A, 412B). The Social Welfare MSW field program will assist you with identifying all relevant and feasible accommodations for the unique context of the field practicum experience. Your assigned Field Consultant is also available to consult with your DSP Specialist when requesting Letters of Accommodation. Information about a student’s disability is confidential, and may not be shared with other students. Students are never required to disclose personal health information to school faculty or staff or field placement agency personnel. 

Students who may require accommodations for pregnancy and parenting may be eligible for alternative field placement arrangements, or granted a Parenting Leave, for up to one academic year (two semesters), subject to the terms and conditions outlined in the Graduate Division’s Student Parent Policies. Students should consult with the designated Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GASO) for the Social Welfare MSW Program to inquire about or request parental accommodations, and notify their assigned Field Consultant when such requests are activated. 

Generally speaking, accommodations may not alter the “fundamental nature” of the student’s degree program. Pedagogical needs of a class, including field education courses, are typically the key criteria when deciding whether a proposed accommodation is appropriate. An agency’s ability to effectively meet accommodation requests for field placement may also be considered. Some common accommodations utilized for social work field placements include:

  • Alternative field placement schedule arrangements, including different start and end dates or times; allowing a student to begin the placement sooner or to extend it later, if acceptable to the agency; or allowing a student to begin or complete field practicum hours during winter, spring, or summer breaks.

  • Allowing students to pursue concurrent academic courses on a reduced course load basis or in a different sequence than normally required.

  • Allowance for occasional disability-related absences or late arrivals.

  • Arranging for a field placement in close proximity to reduce travel time or burden.

  • Access to assistive technologies or alternative media, or to a customized workspace when feasible.

  • Selecting a field placement setting and Field Instructor able to implement the student’s accommodation needs.

  • Approving students to complete all field practicum placement hours in one agency.

Approved accommodations are normally maintained for the duration of a field placement, but may be modified as needs and demands change so long as they do not compromise academic standards, or pose significant health, safety, or privacy risks to the field placement organization and its clients. Regardless of applied reasonable accommodations or modifications of learning conditions, total service time requirements and competency-related standards of performance in field education remain the same for all students.

In the instance that the university, school, or field placement agency cannot provide a student with reasonable accommodations for a particular setting, the Social Welfare MSW field program will make every effort to identify an available alternative where reasonable accommodations may be applied. When the need for accommodation exceeds the limit of what is considered reasonable, or no available placement appears to exist after a prudent search, the student will be directly advised of this and counseled regarding their future educational options. 

Accommodation Resources and Support