Disability Services for Students

302 Memorial Union Univeristy of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 02881


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Disability Types


Legal Issues: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

According to these laws, no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity.

“Qualified” with respect to post-secondary educational services, means “a person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the education program or activity, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices; the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers; or the provision of auxiliary aids and services.”

“Person with a disability” means “any person who 1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities [including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working], 2) has a record of such an impairment, or 3) is regarded as having such an impairment.”

**Please Note: Our office works with students on an individualized basis to determine what accommodations will be appropriate for them.  The accommodations listed below are just examples of the most commonly recommended accommodation for each disability type.

Disability Categories

 Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is a condition resulting in symptoms of inability to maintain attention, impulsive behaviors and/or motor restlessness. AD/HD is a neurobiological disorder resulting from problems in the dopamine neurotransmitter systems in the brain.

People who can focus only on things that interest them, and disregard less interesting things, are often faced with additional problems such as an academic underachievement, lack of social skills, disorganization, or difficulty completing important tasks. These often result in difficulty with personal relationships, staying employed, or completing an education.

Accommodations for ADHD

  • Extended time on exams
  • Permission to record lectures
  • Separate space for exams to reduce distractions

 Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorders occur along a continuum of mild to severe impairment. They are thought to be neuro-biological and developmental disabilities affecting many aspects of functionality. Specific functional limitations are unique in nature and vary from person to person.

Common limitations include difficulties with social reciprocity and friendships; social awkwardness; imaginative impairments and repetitive adherence, including concrete and literal uses of language, and a preference for routines; language impairments, including pronoun reversal, repetitive speech, and late or no development of language; physical impairments, including fine or gross motor difficulties, and hyper- or hyposensitivity of the various senses; and learning impairments, including difficulty with organization, sequencing, distractibility, and slow processing.

 ASD Accommodations

*Many students with ASD will not require accommodations, but this will vary across students*

  • Alternate feedback procedure
  • Regular meetings with professor

 Chronic Medical

A condition that is medical in nature and currently impacts at least one major life activity, including learning. Often the impact of a medical disability is unpredictable and can change depending upon external stressors. Treatments for some medical conditions can often lead to side effects which can further impact upon the difficulties a person experiences. Furthermore, these impacts can be quite unpredictable with an individual experiencing periods of apparently good health and remission and periods of poor health.

These conditions include but are not limited to:

  •  Cancer
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Chronic Health Impairment Accommodations

  • Notetaker
  • Extra Exam Time
  • Alternate Dates for Assignments
  • Permission to leave class occasionally

 Cognitive/Learning Disabilities

A learning disability is a neurological disorder where the brain works differently in how it takes in, uses, and outputs information. Although most individuals with a learning disability possess average to above average intelligence, they have difficulty with one or more areas. Common types of LDs are dyslexia (affects reading), dysgraphia (affects writing), and dyscalculia (affects mathematical calculations). People with an LD can also have difficulties processing information in auditory, visual, or spatial form.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A traumatic brain injury is an acquired injury to the brain.  It can impact multiple life domains, resulting in limitations across multiple disability categories, including cognitive impairments.

 Accommodations for learning disabilities and TBI

  • Permission to record class sessions
  • Extra time on exams
  • Separate space to reduce distractions
  • Use of a calculator
  • Spellchecker and grammar checker


Visual impairments are disorders in the function of the eye as manifested by at least one of the following: (1) visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the better eye after the best possible correction, (2) a peripheral field so constricted that it affects one’s ability to function in an educational setting, (3) a progressive loss of vision which may affect one’s ability to function in an educational setting.

Visual disabilities are so varied that it is often difficult to detect such a student in the classroom or on the campus. The student may appear to get around without assistance, read texts, and/or even take notes from the board. However, in most cases some form of assistance is needed.

A “legally blind” person is one whose vision, while wearing corrective lenses, does not exceed 20/200 in the better eye, or whose visual field is less than an angle of 20 degrees. Ninety percent of individuals who are identified as legally blind have some useful vision or light perception. Total darkness is rare.

Some students use aids such as service animals, predominantly dogs. These dogs are trained to move at the direction of their masters and are well-disciplined to function in group settings. It is important to note that service dogs are not to be petted, fed, or distracted in any way while they are on duty. Service animals are allowed by law in all college buildings, including laboratories, food services areas, classrooms and administrative offices.

Other students may use white canes, and a few use special electronic sensing devices to enhance mobility. Special considerations may be needed for these students when a class is moved to a new location, when a group goes on a field trip, or when the furnishings in a room are moved for a special program.

 Accommodations for visual impairment

 Low Vision
  • Seating near front of class
  • Large print handouts, lab signs, and equipment labels
  • TV monitor connected to microscope to enlarge images
  • Class assignments made available in electronic format
  • Computer equipped to enlarge screen characters and images
  • Audio, Brailled or electronic-formatted lecture notes, handouts, and texts
  • Verbal descriptions of visual aids
  • Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
  • Braille lab signs and equipment labels, auditory lab warning signals
  • Adaptive lab equipment (e.g., talking thermometers and calculators, light probes, and tactile timers)
  • Computer with optical character reader, voice output, Braille screen display and printer output


A hearing impairment describes an impaired ability to hear and/or discriminate sounds.  There may be a decreased ability to hear, no ability to hear at all, or a student may struggle with processing sounds, i.e. (central) auditory processing disorder. Hearing impairments can occur in different areas of the hearing pathway and may be genetic or caused by non-genetic factors.

Accommodations for a hearing Impairment

  • Interpreter, Assisted listening device
  • Notetaker
  • Use of visual aids
  • Film/DVD presentations require captions
  • Visual warning system for lab emergencies
  • Use of email for class and private discussions


A mobility impairment is a broad category that includes any condition that makes it difficult for the student to move about and use their upper and/or lower limbs.

 Physical/Mobility Accommodations

  •     Notetaker / lab assistant; group lab assignments
  •     Classrooms, labs, and field trips in accessible locations
  •     Adjustable tables; lab equipment located within reach
  •     Class assignments made available in electronic format
  •     Computer equipped with special input device (e.g., voice input, alternative keyboard)

 Mental Health Disabilities and Psychological Disorders

Mental Health disorders affect one in five Americans to an extent that they have sought some form of treatment. Psychiatric conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and eating disorders are considered disabilities under the provisions of the ADA and as such, people with medically recognized mental health issues are protected under the legislation. Like many other medical conditions, mental health disorders can change in severity from time to time. Because of this, we encourage students with mental health-related disabilities to remain in contact with our office to ensure they are getting the necessary accommodations and support and to be prepared should they suddenly require services.

 Accommodations for psychological disorders:

  • Alternate format for public presentations
  • Extra time on exams and written assessments
  • Permission to record lectures
  • Separate space for exams to reduce distractions


The above was adapted from the DO-IT Web page at the University of Washington.

For further information, contact:

DO-IT, University of Washington

Box 355670

Seattle, WA 98195-5670




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