Students with Disabilities
Most universities and colleges have a student support office (sometimes called disability support services, academic resource center, student support services, etc.) staffed with counselors that work to provide equal access to programs and services for students with disabilities, as well as a website with helpful tips.
If you have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, you may be eligible for disability-related accommodations. Staff from this office help eligible students communicate with school faculty, as well as to make sure you are receiving any reasonable accommodations that you need, and help you in resolving any issues or complaints related to perceived discrimination on account of having a disability.
What Are Accommodations?
If you have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, you may be eligible for disability-related accommodations.
Accommodations are supports and services provided on college campuses so qualified students with disabilities have equal access and opportunity to benefit from classes, programs, and activities. Accommodations are separate from the admission process and are usually granted after acceptance.To determine your eligibility, you will most likely be asked for documentation from an appropriate, licensed health care professional explaining the impact of your disability and a recommendation for accommodations. For an additional fee, some schools may offer a more structured assistance program for students with identified learning disabilities who want additional support and closer monitoring.
Some students may require temporary accommodations (for example, if you break your leg), while other students may require ongoing accommodations. If you require ongoing accommodations, you will likely need to register with the disability/accessibility office on your campus each year. Check with the staff in that office to see how often you will need to register.
Staff from the campus student support or disability office may help eligible students communicate with school faculty, as well as to make sure you are receiving any reasonable accommodations that you need and help you in resolving any issues or complaints related to perceived discrimination on account of having a disability.
Accommodations in College vs High School
Be aware that your accommodations may vary a bit from your high school accommodations if you had them. There are no IEPs in college, but your high school 504 plan may provide guidance to the campus office that handles accommodations. Another difference in college is that self-advocacy is encouraged and students are responsible for requesting services. This means that you will need to register yourself with the disability or accessibility office in order to request accommodations; you will not be automatically enrolled for support.It’s a good idea to re-evaluate your accommodations to make sure they are relevant for you as a college student. Do this each semester, as your needs may change over time.
Once you turn 18, your disability accommodations will be discussed with your family only if you give your school permission to do so.
Some examples of accommodations in college include:
- Extending time for test-taking and/or taking tests in a distraction-free setting
- Allowing the use of laptops and/or calculators during tests and exams
- Permitting students to make audio recordings of classes (some schools may loan out smart pens for this purpose)
- Providing note takers or sign language interpreters
- Equipping school computers with screen-reading, voice recognition, or other adaptive software or hardware
- Providing TTY in a dorm room if telephones are provided in other rooms
- Reducing a course load
- Substituting one course for another
- Offering priority registration for courses
Informing Your Instructors
The procedure for informing instructors about accommodations varies by institution. You may get a letter to give to your teachers explaining your accommodations, or the disability/accessibility office may communicate directly with your instructors.
Sample Letter to Instructor [pdf] (for informational purposes only)
Example Accommodations Letter Given to Teacher
This student has been approved for the following accommodations:
- Extended time on exams and quizzes: 1.5x.
- Reduced-distraction space for exams and quizzes.
- Testing accommodations are approved as noted above. If you would like the student testing center to administer the exam, the student must submit an online test accommodation request form at least one week prior to the exam. Additionally, you will be asked to provide the testing center with specific instructions for administering your exam.
- Use of a laptop for lecture notes.
- Use of a recording device for class lectures (the audio recording allowed as an accommodation are solely for the purpose of studying for this class and shall not be shared. They should not be reproduced or uploaded to any publicly accessible website or other web environment. They should be erased upon completion of the class.
- Opportunity to take breaks during class.
The information about this student’s disability is confidential and should be handled in a way that protects from inappropriate disclosure and maximizes a student’s privacy.