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Who is Eligible for Accommodations and Services under the ADA and Section 504?

A student with a disability is any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. A qualified individual with a disability in the context of post-secondary education is a student who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission and participation in Vassar’s programs and activities. It is the responsibility of the student with the disability to self identify to the Office for Accessibility, to provide appropriate documentation, and to request accommodations in a timely manner.

How Do I Register for Accommodations, Auxiliary Aids and Services?

Matriculated students and special students may register for accommodations and services by contacting the director of the Office for Accessibility and providing appropriate documentation of their disability or disabilities. Registration for services is strictly voluntary. After documentation is received, the director will then determine, with the student and in consultation with necessary faculty and administration, accommodations and services which are necessary and appropriate to student’s needs, academic program, and campus life experience. Accommodations, auxiliary aids, and services are reviewed and updated each semester, as appropriate.

What Documentation is Required?

To ensure the provision of appropriate accommodations, individuals must provide documentation of their disability by an appropriate professional. The cost of obtaining documentation is the responsibility of the student. If documentation is considered to be incomplete or inadequate to support an accommodation request, additional documentation may be required. Documentation should be sent to the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity in care of the director. All disability documentation must indicate:

  • a specific diagnosis,
  • information regarding onset, longevity, and severity of symptoms, and
  • information on how the disability and/or related medications and treatments interfere or limit any major life activity including participation in the courses, programs, and activities of the college.

Documentation Guidelines:

How often do students need to register with the AEO?

Students register once with the office when they first meet with the director. However, they renew their academic accommodations every semester as their courses and course-specific needs change. Students receiving housing accommodations renew their housing accommodations every winter for spring room draw. Students who request additional accommodations may need to submit updated documentation to support the new request.

What About Confidentiality?

Individuals with disabilities are entitled to privacy and discretion in the handling of all disability-related information. Disability information provided to the Office for Accessibility will be used solely for the purpose of enabling Vassar to provide supportive, academic and other services related to the individual’s disability, including the comprehensive documentation that individuals with disabilities must provide to establish the existence of a disability and their need for disability-related accommodations and services. Disability-related information is collected and maintained on separate forms from other academic or employment information and is kept in secure files with limited access. Disability information is not considered a part of a student’s permanent academic record or of an employee’s personnel file and is shared only on a need-to-know basis.

How do I know if I qualify to work with an academic coach?

If you are registered with AEO, you can work with one of our academic coaches!

Our academic coaches work one-to-one with students to create highly individualized sessions that explore a range of executive function skills necessary for academic success at the college level. You may want to explore using your time more productively and being better organized. Or you may want to work on increasing your confidence and self-advocacy skills to better communicate with professors and access resources on campus. Whatever it is, we are here for you! Together we will explore the impact your diagnosis has on your life and learning experience; how to navigate the accommodation process; and ways to balance academic demands, personal interests, and social obligations. Coaching meetings can be as frequent as weekly, bi-weekly, or on an as-needed basis.

Please request academic coaching services early to ensure available time slots.

Contact us for more information about academic coaching at

What Should I do if I need Exam Accommodations?

Exam proctoring services through AEO include, but are not limited to, the provision of extended time, availability of reduced-distraction testing space, use of a computer, access to a reader, scribe and transcription services, and provision of exam materials in an alternative format such as in Braille or enlarged print. As with all disability accommodations, exam proctoring services are determined according to the current nature of your disability or disabilities, supporting documentation, and the specific requirements of the course, program, or activity.

Exam accommodations should be scheduled at least one week (five business days) in advance. Requests for accommodations for final exams should be made at least three weeks in advance and no later than the last day of the class period. Without reasonable notice, it may not be possible to provide an exam accommodation.

You need to meet with your instructor(s) throughout the semester to establish how specific exam accommodations will be delivered. For example, will you take the exam with the class or in a separate room? Will you start the exam early or stay late? Do you need to take the exam at a time that is not in conflict with either your instructor’s schedule or your class schedule? Do you need the Office for Accessibility (AEO) to proctor the exam or provide an auxiliary aid, such as a computer?

It is preferred that instructors proctor their exams and provide you with exam accommodations within the context of his or her department, under their supervision. This provides students with the opportunity to ask questions during the exam or receive additional instructions, as appropriate. If the instructor is unable to provide accommodation(s) or if the student prefers to take the exam with AEO, please fill out the Exam Proctoring Request Form. For any other questions, please contact the office at

How are Academic Accommodations Arranged?

The Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO) has established an early self-identification policy for students who anticipate needing any type of classroom and/or test accommodation. Students should meet with their instructor(s) in-person to discuss their need for disability accommodation. To help facilitate this dialogue, the Office for Accessibility provides students with letters that identify their academic accommodations and services each term. During the meeting, the student and the instructor should talk about the student’s accommodation needs, establish how specific accommodations will be arranged throughout the semester, and explore any questions or concerns that either the student or the instructor has regarding the accommodation plan. While it is not a requirement, the student may also disclose specific information about his/her/their disability and explain how accommodations assisted them in the past. This policy encourages an early and ongoing dialogue between students and their instructors. The director is available to meet and speak with faculty about student accommodations or help facilitate a three-way conversation among the instructor, student, and the director.

Students receiving “in-class” accommodations require that they assume specific responsibilities, as follows:

  1. Students in need of any type of academic accommodation or support service should complete an Academic Accommodation Form at the beginning of each semester and return it by the end of the “add period”.
  2. Students in need of audio books, Braille documents, enlarged print course materials, readers, lab assistants, sign language interpreters, or other accommodations that require advance preparation should schedule an appointment with the director during pre-registration.
  3. At the beginning of each term, students should present a copy of their accommodation letter from the Office for Accessibility and discuss with their instructor their accommodation needs. Although most students self-identify their disabilities and related needs at the beginning of each semester, other students may wait until a couple of days before the exam, or when they start having difficulty meeting their academic responsibilities. The Office for Accessibility does not recommend that students wait until there is a problem (refer to no. 4). Students may also refer instructors to the Director of the Accessibility office for additional questions or assistance, and/or request a meeting between themselves, the instructor, and the director to discuss accommodations in detail.
  4. It is the student’s responsibility to request accommodations in a timely manner; notification must be made within a time period which allows the Office for Accessibility and the instructor a reasonable opportunity to evaluate the request and offer necessary adjustments. Without reasonable notice, it may not be possible for the requested accommodation to be provided.
  5. Throughout the semester, students should meet with their instructors on a regular basis to discuss their accommodations and their progress in class.
  6. Students should contact the Director of the Office for Accessibility if they have any questions or concerns about their accommodation plan, if they have difficulty arranging their accommodations, or if there are any needed changes to their plan at any point during the semester. Students are also strongly encouraged to work closely with the Office for Accessibility throughout the academic year and make use of available support services.

What is the Policy on Paper Extensions?

Students with and without disabilities are expected to meet their academic obligations in accordance with the schedule specified by the instructor and the college. The Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO) encourages students to request information about papers in advance, or work with their instructor to identify staggered deadlines for assignments rather than asking for extensions beyond the scheduled due date. (Please refer to the College Regulations, Section J, Part II for more information).

If you anticipate needing more time to work on a paper or project due to a disability-related need, talk to your instructor at the beginning of the semester to see if you can get paper assignments in advance. In addition, meet regularly with your professors throughout the course of the assignment to discuss progress or address questions or concerns that you may have regarding the assignment.

If necessary, you may also request staggered deadlines in consultation with the instructor, your class advisor in the Dean of Studies Office, and the Office for Accessibility. Staggered deadlines are used when a student has several papers or projects due on the same day or within a very short period in two or more classes. Staggered deadlines are always established well advance of the scheduled due date. As with all disability accommodations, the accommodation of staggered deadlines is determined according to the current nature of your disability or disabilities, supporting documentation, and the specific requirements of the course, program, or activity.

Staggered deadlines are set first by contacting the director, MaryJo Cavanaugh, at AEO. The director will then review with you your semester schedule and propose staggered deadlines for assignments to your class advisor and your instructor(s). If approved, you will then need to meet with your class advisor and your instructors to work out the specific arrangements. The director will remain available for consultation as necessary.

How are Housing Accommodations Arranged?

To request on-campus housing accommodations, students with disabilities must first meet with the director for the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO). The director of AEO, in consultation with Residential LifeCampus Dining Services, and/or the Dean of Student Living and Wellness Office, will coordinate housing and meal plan accommodations. It is important for students to contact the AEO Office as early as possible to discuss specific details of their accommodation needs. Meal plan accommodations are coordinated with the Office for Accessibility through the Dean of Student Living and Wellness Office and the director of Campus Dining Services each term. As with housing accommodations, meal plan modifications must be supported by appropriate documentation.

What are important housing deadlines to know?

In all instances, requests for housing must be made within the published deadlines set by the Office of Residential Life. Typically, requests for disability-related housing accommodations by current students should be made to the Office for Accessibility (AEO) no later than February 1st for spring apartment, suite, or room draw. For first-year or transfer students, requests should be made to AEO by June 1st for August matriculation; and for students on leave or studying abroad, November 1st for January matriculation. Students approved for summer housing by the Office of Residential Life should contact the AEO by May 10th to make arrangements for summer housing accommodations. AEO will work with students to determine their eligibility for housing accommodation as the need arises. Documentation on file in the Office for Accessibility must support the housing accommodation request.

How do housing accommodations work in conjunction with room draw?

Current students with disabilities still participate in House Room Draw and should draw when their number is called. If only one room remains available which will meet a student’s particular disability-related needs and the student has not drawn for a room, Residential Life will hold the room for the student. Students, with or without disabilities, are not eligible to draw into rooms designated as Language Fellow (LF), Student Fellow (SF), or first-year (FR). Students should contact their House Advisor for more information about room draw procedures. Please note that there may be instances in which a student is offered housing that meets their disability-related needs, but which may not be their first choice of house or room on campus.