Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs) for Disability Resources

Find out answers to some of the most common questions and misconceptions about Disability Resources and accommodations.

Student Questions – Requesting Accommodations

Do I need to submit my documentation only once?

Once your documentation has been approved, additional documentation may be required to continue to meet the University’s criteria and legal obligations. With chronic or progressive disorders (e.g., psychiatric disabilities and some medical/physical disabilities) documentation will need to be updated on a yearly basis. If there is a change in your condition or requested accommodations, you will need to submit updated documentation promptly. Check the criteria on our website for how often you need to update your disability documentation.

What if I don’t know I have a disability prior to enrollment?

Students who are diagnosed during the semester may submit their documentation to DR as soon as the documentation is available. Processing of your accommodations will be accomplished as quickly as possible.

What resources are available if I suspect I have a disability?

If you suspect you have a disability, please contact Disability Resources. We are happy to answer any specific questions and can provide referrals.

How do I know the information I give Disability Resources is kept in confidence?

All contact information and documentation that we receive is kept in a secure database. Documentation and inquiries about accommodations will not be released without your written consent unless there is a genuine need to know in accord with the University’s privacy policies. Your consent is necessary to allow us to notify your professors that 1) you are registered and 2) you are eligible to receive specific accommodations.

Is it unusual to be diagnosed with a learning disorder or ADHD as a college student?

No. Almost half of learning disorders and a large portion of ADHD diagnoses are not made until after students graduate from high school. This is a result of several different factors including the increased expectations for college students and the increased difficulty of academic work associated with college. Learning impairments become disabling only when the academic work being required reaches a critical level; that level will differ from student to student. This is probably related to the absence in college of many of the support systems students have become accustomed to relying upon in high school (e.g., familiar teachers, parents who help keep you focused and on time, highly structured high school schedules). Going through a complete evaluation to determine if you have a learning disorder or ADHD will give you a better understanding of your learning strengths and strategies and will also make it possible for you to request accommodations to insure that you have equal access to your educational opportunities.

Student Questions – Using Accommodations

How do I download my Accommodation Letter to use accommodations for my classes?

  1. Go to Access WashU and login with your WUSTL Key.
  2. Select the “Accommodation” tab on the menu bar on the left-hand side of the page.
  3. From the drop-down options click on the fourth option “Accessibility Letters”
  4. Select the “WashU Accommodation Letter” letter.
  5. Select “Generate PDF”

How do I know when/where my exams will be?

Most accommodated exams will be proctored by Disability Resources but some exams will be proctored by DR elsewhere on campus or proctored by the instructor.

Accommodated exams will start at the same time as the standard course exam, unless the instructor and Disability Resource Coordinator have both approved an alternate time. Students who arrive late for the start of an exam will not be allowed to begin their exam until DR staff have contacted the instructor and the instructor has confirmed how to proceed according to their class policies. Students who arrive late may not be guaranteed the full time for their exam.

Something has come up so I can’t take my exam at the standard start time. Can I reschedule for an earlier or later time?

Written approval from the instructor is required to schedule an exam at any time other than the standard start time for the rest of the class. Disability Resources should be notified of the new time at least seven calendar days before the exam. If a student has overlapping exams due to an extended time accommodation, it is their responsibility to arrange an alternate time for the exams with their instructors.

My exam is tomorrow and I forgot to schedule it with Disability Resources. Can I still take the exam at disability resources?

Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to add students to our exam schedule at the last minute. Students who do not schedule their exams through Access WashU at least 7 calendar days in advance will have to take the exam in class with their instructors. The instructor may or may not be able to provide testing accommodations in class.

What should I do if I have concerns about the quality of notes from a note taker or if the note taker isn’t sending me notes consistently?

We encourage students to communicate any concerns directly with their note taker. Most note takers are happy to make simple changes to make their notes better and welcome constructive feedback. If your note taker is not responsive contact Disability Resources. We will act as a liaison between you and the note taker to address your concerns. In extreme cases Disability Resources may need to hire a new note taker.

Where can I get replacement notebooks or ink for my smartpen?

Disability Resources keeps a stock of notebooks and ink for Smartpens. Stop by anytime during business hours to pick some up.

Faculty Questions

What is a disability?

A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits an individual in one or more major life activities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADA AA). In general, major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

Am I required to provide accommodations to students who tell me they have used them in the past and need them?

No. Faculty are only required to provide accommodations to students who have registered with Disability Resources, been approved for accommodations, and have notified faculty of those accommodations by giving faculty their Accommodation Letter form. Faculty should not be asked to provide accommodation information to a student, and it is appropriate for faculty in this situation to refer a student to Disability Resources.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a term within the Americans with Disabilities Act that has a specific definition. A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment to a policy, practice, or program that “levels the playing field” for students with disabilities and provides equal access to programs and activities. Examples of reasonable accommodations may include the administration of exams with extended time or smaller proctored environment. Services may include note-taking, sign language interpreters, assistive technology, and coordination of accessible housing needs. Accommodation plans and services are customized to match the disability-related needs of each student and are determined according to documentation and the student’s program requirements.

What if I do not agree with an accommodation granted by Disability Resources?

Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis after considering the student’s needs as described in their documentation. Faculty may consult with Disability Resources on whether an accommodation is appropriate for a specific course. Accommodations should not fundamentally alter course requirements. Some accommodations may be appropriate in one course or program, but not in another. For example, an accommodation of extended time might be appropriate for a course with in-class timed exams, but might not be in a course where students are evaluated solely based on papers or group presentations.

What is a Accommodation Letter, and what am I supposed to do with it?

Accommodation Letter stands for WashU Accommodation Letter, and it is the form that students provide to professors to verify that they have been approved for accommodations. You may tell students that you require them to be sent to you electronically, given in person, or given to a course master, TA, or assistant. You are not required to keep the actual forms provided by students.

What can I do if I suspect a student has a disability, but has not presented me with verification?

While it is not appropriate to ask a student directly if they are disabled, you are encouraged to speak with the student about their course performance and express your concern for them. You may also call Disability Resources to discuss the specific situation and recommend a course of action. Oftentimes, faculty make a general referral to Disability Resources.  DR advisers  will meet with the student, assess their needs, and suggest speaking with a Disability Resources staff member, if appropriate.

One of my students needs testing accommodations on an exam and I am unable to provide the accommodations. How do I make exam arrangements?

The logistics for providing accommodations on exams can be quite challenging. Therefore, Disability Resources provides proctoring services as a courtesy to instructors who may not be able to provide exam accommodations in class.

Instructors should notify students at the very beginning of the semester if they plan to have Disability Resources proctor exams with accommodations. This is critical because the student is responsible for telling Disability Resources that they would like to use their approved accommodations on a specific exam. The students will do this by submitting a request form on our website at least 7 days in advance. If a student has submitted the request form 7 days in advance then the Disability Resources Coordinator will contact you approximately a week before your exam to make specific arrangements. If the student does not submit the request form 7 days in advance then Disability Resources cannot guarantee they will be able to proctor. In that case the student will be referred back to you with the understanding that you may or may not be able to provide their accommodations in class.

In order for Disability Resources to proctor your exam accurately, it is necessary that you submit an Exam Form Agreement to share your proctoring instructions and upload a copy of the exam. Disability Resources will return the completed exam to you via the method you indicate on the Faculty Exam Form.

Testing Center Hours

Summer Semester
Monday- Friday 8:30AM-5:00PM
Saturday & Sunday closed
Fall and Spring Semesters
Monday- Thursday 8:30AM-10:00PM
Friday 8:30AM-5:00PM
Saturday & Sunday closed
Fall and Spring Final Exams
Monday- Saturday 8:30AM-10:00PM
Sunday 11:00AM-6:00PM

Why is there a note taker in my class?

Frequently, students request an accommodation of a note taker, and when their documentation supports it, it is an accommodation that Disability Resources will grant. Disability Resources will send an email to the students in your class and ask if anyone would like to be hired as a note taker. We then coordinate the details of this arrangement, including hiring the note taker, delivering notes to the student with the disability, and paying the note taker. Generally, faculty are not asked to participate in this process unless we are having difficulty finding a student willing to serve in this role. In that case, we may ask a faculty member to make an announcement in class or send an email to the students in the class.

Should I include a statement in my syllabus about disabilities?

While you are not required to do so, we recommend it. It sets clear expectations for students, which can make them more likely to approach you earlier in the semester. While it is difficult to create a model statement that will work for every class, the statement below is a good starting place. We are happy to discuss modifications that would better meet the needs of your class with you.

Washington University is committed to providing accommodations and/or services to students with documented disabilities. Students who are seeking support for a disability or a suspected disability should contact Disability Resources at 935-4153. Disability Resources is responsible for approving all disability-related accommodations for WU students, and students are responsible for providing faculty members with formal documentation of their approved accommodations at least two weeks prior to using those accommodations. I will accept Disability Resources Accommodation Letter forms by email and personal delivery. If you have already been approved for accommodations, I request that you provide me with a copy of your Accommodation Letter within the first two weeks of the semester.