See below for definitions and guidance related to common academic and non-academic accommodations for students with disabilities.

Academic accommodations


Although RISD’s absence policy lays out official expectations regarding classroom/studio attendance, there may be periods for students with chronic, episodic conditions when they are too unwell to attend class. In such cases, their accommodation letter will indicate that the student has a credible diagnosis that may result in their missing class time.

Reasonable accommodations help ensure access for students with disabilities. This purpose extends to attendance. Providing flexibility within attendance policies ensures students with disabilities are not disproportionately penalized in the event their condition prevents them from attending every class session despite their own health and time management practices.

It is helpful that faculty provide flexibility to students who may need it in order to attend to their health needs. Faculty have the right to decide how many student absences will impact course enrollment and evaluation, and their pedagogically appropriate attendance policy should be clearly stated in the course syllabus.

Attendance flexibility should always be considered on an individual course basis. This allows for diligent and critical analysis of attendance’s essential nature to class learning objectives and pedagogical components. We understand that participation and studio engagement cannot be recreated in some situations, but faculty should consider creative alternatives when possible.

It is reasonable for faculty to provide clear limits upon the number of allowed absences for students with an absence accommodation. Faculty should stay away from blanked “come and go and submit work as you please” policies.

Instructors should speak with students regarding modified attendance expectations. Inform students about your preferred process for them to notify you of a disability-related absence, any critical dates that the student cannot miss, and alternatives to missed participation points or quizzes in the event of a disability-related absence.

We recommend that an accommodated attendance agreement is summarized in writing through email. A summary helps ensure everyone is operating from the same point of view and allows for clarification of any points of confusion. Students and instructors are welcome to include our office on these emails for documentation purposes.

Understand that Health Services does not provide students with absence excuse notes. If a student is too ill to attend a class, it is their responsibility to notify their professor(s) before the class starts.

Students should remember that they can contact our office to request a medical reduced course load, if they need space in their schedule to complete work for other classes.

Alternate-format books and readings

For students with learning and visual disabilities, there are many options for obtaining alternate formats as auxiliary aids to assist them with reading and coursework.

Our office determines and coordinates reasonable alternate format accommodations to ensure materials are accessible for students with disabilities. Those approved for the alternate-format books and readings accommodation should follow the procedure outlined below:

  1. Check if you can purchase or rent your book as an e-text, audio book or another alternate-format text that works best for you. If it is available in the correct alternate format, consider purchasing or renting it in the desired format, rather than the printed version.
  2. If you cannot find the text in a suitable alternate format, you must complete and submit to our office an alternate-format text request form.

For individuals with print-based disabilities who qualify for this accommodation, alternate formats for course text materials can be acquired from the publisher or through bookstore, a national nonprofit organization that offers the largest collection of audio textbooks and literature.

DSS most commonly uses Kurzweil, a text-to-speech reader software, to provide alternate text to students approved for this accommodation. We will give such students a Kurzweil account so they can access any electronically available alternate texts.

Alternate format course materials include:

  • audio format 
  • electronic format such as Microsoft Word or PDF version
  • braille (12 week advance notice requested)
  • large print
  • handouts in digital format (Microsoft Word or PDF)
  • digital material in handout/printed form

Students approved for alternate text receive the accommodation at no cost. Due to copyright laws, however, they must show proof that they have purchased or rented the book before receiving alternate text.

Assignment extension

This accommodation is intended to provide reasonable flexibility for students with disabilities in the event that episodic and/or acute disability symptoms interfere with the student’s ability to meet an assignment deadline. Instructors should provide the accommodation unless it would significantly compromise the integrity of the course as offered. 

There may be classes or specific instances for which a due date cannot be adjusted for one student without fundamentally altering the course. Such instances might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • courses that rely on project-based learning, for which sequential assignments intentionally build upon material learned in previous class sessions
  • classes for which students are expected to work in groups, and thus failure to complete an assignment or project on time would compromise the educational experience of other students

The assignment extension is not a substitute for proper time and workload management. If a student experiences continuous difficulties with meeting course deadlines, typically they should address them through time management support, a reduced course load or through other support resources, such as the Center for Arts & Language.

The number of days given for each assignment extension is determined by the instructor and depends on the nature of the course.

The accommodation is commonly used when:

  • an assignment not listed on the course syllabus is given to students with two weeks or fewer to complete it.
  • an assignment deadline is listed on the syllabus but the student with the accommodation did not receive necessary information to complete it until one week or fewer before the deadline.
  • an unexpected medical or physical episode interferes with the student’s ability to complete work in the expected timeframe.

Class participation

A student may receive an accommodation for adjusted class participation or alternative forms of assessment if they experience a disability that substantially limits their functioning during cold-calling sessions, in-class discussions and/or oral presentations/crits.

In developing a course syllabus, faculty should make students fully aware of course requirements related to in-class participation. In the event that a student in the course has a class participation accommodation, the instructor could consider giving the student:

  • advance notice of when they may be called upon in a class.
  • advance notice of questions they will be asked during class, in order for the student to prepare responses.
  • a choice of when to give a presentation.

Students with a class participation accommodation need to follow up with all relevant instructors to discuss how the accommodation applies to a given course. It is important for the student and instructor to explore the boundaries of what is reasonable for this accommodation to cover, as in some cases it may not fundamentally alter any essential elements of the course.

Offering an adjusted or alternative assignment is not a reasonable accommodation if it would fundamentally alter the essential learning objectives of the course. For example, if an essential course learning objective is for students to demonstrate an ability to engage in extemporaneous analysis and discussion, then an alternative assessment in lieu of cold-calling on students may not be a reasonable accommodation.

At RISD, studio critiques are especially essential to the learning process. Critiques (or “crits”) give students opportunities to learn a new vocabulary and to use terms that support the delivery of direct, honest feedback. It is then essential to the overall process that all students contribute to individual and group critiques and are graded on their participation.

Recording (e.g. lectures)

Students approved for a recording accommodation who want to record a portion of a class (e.g. a lecture) must first ask their instructor’s permission, per DSS instructions. Recordings are for personal use only; students with this accommodation understand they are not allowed to provide recordings to other students.

Upon receiving the recording accommodation, the student signs a recording agreement with our office. We keep the signed agreement on file.

We understand that course audio recordings could potentially alter the structure and/or pedagogy of the course, especially if it is discussion-based and/or includes the sharing of sensitive content. We leave it up to faculty on how to handle the recording option. If, for a given discussion, note-taking is not appropriate for any student, then it would be appropriate for the instructor to ask students to stop taking notes as well as to turn off any recording devices.

If an instructor does not allow for a portion of a class to be recorded, they must identify an alternative for students with a recording accommodation to help them keep up with course notes. Possible alternatives might include:

  • allowing for the recording of lectures but not discussions/crits. If open discussions are not appropriate to record, then the instructor may make a general announcement to ask that all students turn off any recording devices.
  • an email from the instructor to the student that clarifies the key points of a lecture or discussion.
  • hiring a note-taker for the class.

Non-academic accommodations

Campus accessibility

Our office works closely with Facilities to make RISD campus as accessible as possible. All completed building projects comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and renovation projects will include accessibility updates.

Our campus is old and fully integrated with the city of Providence. Both the city’s topography and the age of some RISD buildings may pose access challenges. For instance, the slope and surface types of some campus areas do not meet universal accessibility requirements. Our urban campus can also pose parking challenges.

If you encounter an access barrier on campus, please complete an accessibility concern reporting form.

For prospective students and families who’d like to visit RISD, you may inquire with the Admissions Office about accessible campus tours.

If you are unable to use your assigned mailroom smart locker due to its location or height, please contact us.

Dietary accommodations

RISD provides reasonable accommodations for students with food allergies as well as for those with medical or religious reasons. Students living on campus can use their dining allotment, which is included with their housing package, to purchase special meals.

If you need to establish a special diet, work directly with RISD Dining to develop your plan. You may email Maureen Young or call 401 709-8508 to set up a meeting to discuss diet specifics with her and Executive Chef David Gould.

If you require a special diet for medical reasons, please complete and submit a medical accommodations form for approval.

We invite you to work directly with RISD Dining to develop a plan; please let us know about your food allergy/special diet concern or if you require a special diet in accordance with religious practices (i.e. Kosher or Halal):

• Contact Maureen Young at or by calling 401-709-8508
• A meeting will be set up for you to discuss the specifics of your diet with Maureen and David Gould, Executive Chef

Students requiring special diets for medical reasons are encouraged to request Medical Accommodations with the approval process detailed here.

Emotional support animals (ESA)

Students requesting an ESA must complete and submit a medical accommodations form. Be advised that, with the exception of the student’s residence hall, ESAs are not permitted anywhere on campus.

Housing accommodations

To request a change or an accommodation for their housing on campus due to a medical reason, you must follow the guidelines outlined in the medical accommodation process. All requests are reviewed individually by an interdisciplinary team of campus partners to identify reasonable and appropriate accommodations based on disability-related needs only and not personal preferences.

We will notify you of the outcome of your request and any approved accommodation. Residence Life will then create student housing assignments based on the approved accommodation.

Medical transport

Students with short- and long-term physical access needs may email Public Safety or call their non-emergency line at 401 454-6376 to be placed on the medical transportation list. This authorizes you to call the non-emergency line to receive on-campus transportation.

When requesting a ride, call at least 30 minutes ahead and take traffic and the public safety officer’s commute into account. Public Safety prioritizes the calls they receive based on severity, placing emergency situations first. The department will make every effort to accommodate all ride requests, but it is also responsible for making sure campus is staffed with public safety personnel 24/7, which may cause escorts to be delayed or service to be denied.

RISDRides is also an option for community members from 5 pm–3 am, seven days per week. RISDRides provides on-call, door-to-door evening and late-night shuttle service, and offers a wheelchair-accessible shuttle on request.

Service animals

A service animal is any dog or miniature horse trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Under law, only dogs (or in some instances, miniature horses) are recognized as service animals. If a student brings an animal other than these to a classroom or studio space, you may have the animal removed—it is not a service animal.

Legally, students are not required to receive permission from the college in order to bring a service animal onto RISD property. Therefore, a service animal’s presence on campus may not be known until classes begin. If a student plans to bring a service animal to campus, they should notify DSS prior to the start of classes.

Students with service animals may be asked whether they need the animal due to a disability, as well as what work or task(s) it has been trained to perform. We will then inform course instructors, department heads and Public Safety about the animal’s presence in the classroom/studio space. We will also collaborate with faculty and staff, as necessary, to any conflicts that arise.


To determine if an animal in your classroom is a service animal, if it’s not already apparent, you may ask if the animal is required because of a disability, as well as what tasks it has been trained to perform. You may not ask specific questions about the student’s disability.

If you are concerned about health and safety in your classroom due to a service animal, please contact our office for guidance. RISD may prohibit the use of service animals in certain locations due to health and safety concerns. These include, but are not limited to:

  • food preparation areas
  • woodshops
  • classrooms that contain animals
  • areas requiring protective clothing
  • other areas as required by state or local laws

Exceptions to these restrictions may be requested and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

You may not ask for a person with a disability to remove their service animal from the premises unless it:

  • behaves in a disruptive manner (e.g., barking, growling, running around, soliciting social attention in ways uncharacteristic of service animals).
  • is not house-trained or clean.
  • poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other persons, and this threat cannot be eliminated via modification of policies, practice or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services.

If you need to request the service dog be removed from class based on any of the above reasons, refer the student to our office for further guidance. If you need support, contact us directly.

Please note that, if a student in your class tells you they are allergic to or afraid of dogs, these are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. It may be possible to accommodate students who voice these concerns by asking them to use a location in the classroom far away from the service animal, or to enroll the student in a different section of the course. If this issues arises in your classroom we will work with you to address the situation and devise creative solutions or alternatives.

Temporary injuries

At RISD we understand that individuals experiencing temporarily disabling conditions that are a result of injuries, surgery or short-term medical conditions may need access to services and resources similar to those accessible to people with permanent disabilities. A temporary impairment (actual or expected duration of six months or fewer) that does not qualify as an ADA disability, may still be considered a serious health condition requiring reasonable accommodations.

Examples of temporary conditions and injuries are:

  • a broken or sprained bone with an expected recovery time of a few weeks or months.
  • concussions with an expected recovery time of a few weeks or months.
  • recovery from surgery.

Please understand that we cannot assist with certain supports related to temporary injuries, such as providing a wheelchair, assistance with everyday tasks (e.g. laundry) or transportation to medical appointments off campus.

To request temporary accommodations, please follow our standard accommodation process. Examples of accommodations we can provide are:

  • access to a chair or stool.
  • classroom relocation (on a case-by-case basis).
  • screen readers or other assistive technologies.
  • access to medical transport through Public Safety, limited to and from on-campus locations.

If limitations due to a temporary condition or injury persist beyond six months, are especially severe in nature or will result in continued lasting effects, please contact us.

Contact DSS

a light brown house with darker framed windows and a corner tower, surrounded by trees against a blue sky


Mon–Fri: 8:30 am–4:30 pm


Carr House, second floor

210 Benefit Street

Providence, RI 02904

401 709-8465