Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to student and faculty questions about navigating the accommodations process and more.
What if I think I have a disability but can’t afford an evaluation?
We do not conduct neuropsychological assessments or psychological evaluations for students; however, if such testing seems appropriate, we can refer you to clinicians in the area who conduct such services.
Insurance may cover a portion of your assessment or evaluation. However, individual plans may vary. Contact your insurance company to determine if they cover any psychoeducational evaluations. Our office and Student Financial Services maintain a limited testing fund for students who wish to apply for financial assistance.
We consider such requests on an individual basis. Please contact us for more information.
What are reasons for denying an accommodation request?
Reasons we may deny an accommodation request include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Required documentation not provided: If you do not submit required documentation of your disability, we cannot provide an accommodation. We can only accept documentation from an outside provider; Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff cannot provide documentation in support of your accommodation request.
- Fundamental alteration: If an accommodation would require changes to the essential nature of a course or program, we will deny the request. In such cases we will discuss alternative accommodations with you. We review an accommodation’s impact on a course or program on a case-by-case basis.
- Unreasonable/undue burden: An undue burden occurs when the institution does not have sufficient time to respond to the request, or when the accommodation would be impossible or unfeasible to administer. Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but also to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial or disruptive. If an auxiliary aid or service would present an undue burden for the institution, RISD is not obligated to provide it. In the event of unreasonable or undue burden, our office will deny the accommodation and work to find a reasonable alternative.
- Personal service: If you request an accommodation that falls under the definition of personal service—a service that you would need to use regardless of your attendance at RISD—we will deny it as unreasonable. Personal services include but are not limited to: independent/personal care attendants, transportation (other than shuttle services), diagnostic testing and rehabilitation. In addition, we will not provide individually prescribed devices. However, we will work with you make space for and provide access to personal services you bring with you to RISD.
- Direct threat to health or safety of others: If the accommodation you request carries a significant risk to community health and safety, we will deny it.
What should I do if I feel I’m not being properly accommodated?
First, you should let us know so that we may discuss your case with you. If, after communicating with us, you still feel your approved accommodations are inadequate, you may file a grievance, following the process outlined in RISD’s policy for denials of accommodation requests. Note that you cannot insist on receiving a specific accommodation on the basis of personal preference.
How do I let my instructors know if I receive accommodations?
If you receive accommodations through our office, you must deliver accommodation letters to your instructors at the start of each term. Instructors are not automatically notified of your accommodation by RISD.
When speaking to your instructors, you do not need to disclose your disability, but self-advocacy is very important, so we highly recommend you talk through the contents of your accommodation letter with them and discuss how they can help you succeed in their class.
How do I request alternate-format texts?
Our office determines and coordinates reasonable alternate-format accommodations to ensure accessibility of course materials. If you are approved for the alternate-format books and readings accommodation, you should follow the following procedure:
- 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.
- 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.
What other forms of support are available to me, even if I don’t have a diagnosed disability?
If you do not have a diagnosed disability or are awaiting results of a neuropsychological evaluation, you may take advantage of on-campus academic support services such as the Center for Arts & Language. Our office also provides support on an interim basis for students awaiting required documentation. This includes scheduled one-on-one meetings to assess pressing academic needs and provide guidance on time management and organizational skills.
What do I do if I feel like I can’t keep up with my course workload?
If you are struggling to keep up with coursework, it is typically preferred that you seek support via academic advising and academic adjustments. However, in some circumstances it might be appropriate for you to seek a reduced credit load accommodation.
A reduced credit load accommodation allows you complete fewer than 12 credits in a semester without becoming subject to academic probation. Note that the following are not, in and of themselves, acceptable reasons for requesting a reduced credit load:
- inadequate academic preparation
- failure to make use of appropriate academic accommodations
- poor class attendance
- extracurricular activities
- family/personal obligations
Will RISD notify me if a student in my class has a disability?
No. Also note that a student does not need to inform you about their specific disability. They only need to notify you of their required accommodations, as indicated in the accommodation letter they receive from our office.
You may have a student who has a disability but has chosen not to inform RISD. By law, we cannot require such students to disclose their disability.
You may also have a student who is eligible for an accommodation but chooses not to use it, or one with an undiagnosed disability. Ultimately it is a student’s responsibility to self-identify—but your patience and guidance can go a long way toward getting them across the threshold.
What if a student says they have a disability without showing me an accommodation letter?
We ask that you do not provide informal accommodations, as they may not meet the student’s disability-related access needs. Rather, faculty should refer such students to our office.
Faculty are not responsible for making decisions about accommodations. If a student who is not yet active in our system has an immediate concern regarding your class, you may provide them the same consideration for extenuating circumstances that you would for students without disabilities.
Accommodations are not retroactive. A student who shows you their accommodation letter later in the semester cannot receive accommodations for prior work.
Am I allowed to contact DSS about a student and/or their accommodations?
Feel free to contact us anytime to discuss your student and any questions you have about their accommodations. However, please note that we cannot disclose a student’s disability to you—it is the student’s choice alone whether or not to do so.
The accommodation letter doesn’t indicate the student’s disability. Don’t I need to know what it is?
No. Students with disabilities have a right to privacy regarding their medical diagnoses and documentation. Do not request medical documentation from a student regarding their disability. It is student’s choice if they wish to share this information with you.
The only information you need to know is that they have a qualifying disability for which they need to receive specific accommodations. If you feel you need to verify that a student’s accommodation request is disability related, please contact our office.
What if an accommodation doesn’t pertain to my course?
The accommodation letter you receive from a student will describe all approved classroom and/or examination accommodations. Though some accommodations might not be pertinent to your course, you are responsible for implementing any and all that would impact your teaching or assessment of work in a given course.
What if I think an accommodation fundamentally alters an essential requirement or objective of a course or academic program?
Whether a requested accommodation would in fact fundamentally alter an essential requirement or course objective is generally assessed on a case-by-case basis. If you believe an accommodation might require such an alteration, contact our office to discuss.
Generally, these discussions may include the course instructor, the department head, DSS staff, and other administrators as deemed appropriate. Together we will assess whether or not an accommodation request is reasonable and, if necessary, alternatives to the requested accommodation. Our office will notify the student of our final decision.
In determining whether an accommodation would alter an essential course requirement, please consider the following:
- What is the purpose of the course?
- What are the prerequisites or necessary background knowledge?
- What core outcomes/expectations, as stated on the course syllabus, are required of all students?
- What specific knowledge, principles, skills or concepts are students expected to acquire, demonstrate and/or master throughout the course?
- What course aspects or requirements are a significant part of the learning process?
- Could an alternative approach achieve the same result?
- What methods of instruction are essential to course delivery?
- Are any methods of instruction nonnegotiable? Do instructors of other sections of your course use instructional methods other than your own?
What if a student with a disability accommodation is not able to keep up with my class?
An accommodation should not be regarded as giving a student an advantage or special privilege. Rather, think of it as a way of lessening the impact of the student’s disability to the greatest extent possible. Regardless of disability, a student receiving an accommodation must conform to and meet the same academic standards as their peers.
If a student with a disability accommodation is struggling in your class, treat them the same way you would any other student in the same situation, though you might also encourage then to seek support from DSS and other campus resources as appropriate, such as Counseling and Psychological Services or the Center for Arts & Language.
Must a student with a disability adhere to RISD’s attendance policy and/or that for a specific course?
Regardless their disability status, students with disabilities must adhere to RISD’s attendance policy. In the event of a medical issue, the student should discuss it with you directly.
If class attendance is essential, you should decide what flexibility you may be able to offer and discuss it with the student early on in the semester.