For Parents and Families

For students with disabilities, transitioning to higher education poses unique challenges. In supporting them throughout their studies, parents and families have a critical role in the process. Learn more below.

Guiding your child

Going to college can be a significant transition for both student and family—an exciting time but one that can also raise concerns for all involved.

Students with disabilities, along with their families, need to understand what it means for a student with a disability to transition to a university, and what steps they need to take in order to receive support from our office. 

Students who are eligible for accommodations must identify with our office and provide documentation of disability. A college student is an adult in the eyes of the law; thus they are solely responsible for initiating the accommodation process. For parents, it may be difficult to accept this new role, especially if you are concerned that your student might not initiate or follow through with the process. But with your support, this change creates an opportunity for students to advocate for themselves. Learning self-advocacy can then lead to a successful transition into adulthood as students learn to absorb these new responsibilities.

After college, your student will have to articulate the nature of his or her disability and assert the right to accommodations in the workplace. For legal, practical and developmental reasons, now is the time for your student to accept this responsibility and begin practicing self-advocacy.

Students may hesitate to contact our office for a variety of reasons. Some may want to leave behind any disability-related stigma they feel or have concerns about being labeled. Ultimately, your student must decide whether to seek accommodations, but you can encourage them to adopt a positive attitude toward their diagnosis and affirm their independence by reminding them that you trust their decision-making abilities.

Help your student register with DSS

One way you can help your student is by knowing who at RISD they can turn to, when they need to get started and what they need to do to receive learning accommodations. For more information, follow the link below.

Our registration process

Student records and privacy

Due to the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), your experience as a parent or guardian will be different from your role within the K-12 system. Once your student enrolls in a post-secondary institution, whether they are 18 years old or not, they become the sole guardian of all records maintained by that institution.

Either before or at the beginning of the fall semester, each new student receives a student information release form. By signing this form and returning it to the Registrar’s Office, your student may authorize RISD to release to you their grades and other information from their education records.

We require that the student handle any matters related to Disability Support Services, including registration and accommodations. We do not work with the parent in place of the student.

For more information, parents and students may want to consult the US Department of Education’s FAQ for the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities as relates to using accommodations in a post-secondary environment.

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