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Legal Module

Student Responsibilities

Students with disabilities have many more responsibilities at the postsecondary level than at the secondary level. These include:

  • Self-disclosing the disability to the appropriate institutional contact person (typically in the office for students with disabilities). It is important to note that this is optional. Students with disabilities are not required to self-disclose. However, if a student chooses to not disclose, he or she is not entitled to protections on the basis of disability.
  • Providing the disability contact person with documentation that verifies the presence of a disability.
  • Requesting reasonable accommodations in a timely manner. This means that the student must make the request in time for it to be considered by the disability services office, and in time for the faculty to be notified and for an approved accommodation to be put into place.
  • Notifying faculty of the need for accommodations. As with self-disclosure to the institution, this is optional for the student. If a student does not notify the faculty member of a need for accommodation in a timely manner, accommodations might not be provided. Further, accommodations need not be provided retroactively. On many campuses, the Office for Students with Disabilities offers assistance in this matter by providing a letter for the student to give to a professor to help explain the situation and verify the disability.
  • Following through on accommodation requests (for example, coming to a test at the right time and location; picking up notes if needed).

Although it is the responsibility of the student to notify instructors of their need for academic accommodations, some may be reluctant to come forward and discuss their disability. One reason college freshmen with disabilities often experience challenges as they learn to become self-advocates is that in high school they had very different responsibilities in regard to their right to equal educational opportunity. A second reason is that many students do not fully understand the new legal responsibilities that they encounter in college. The civil rights of students with disabilities in American high schools are protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which stipulates the responsibilities of schools, parents, and students in a very different manner from Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wolanin and Steele (2004) described this difference by noting that for high school students school is compulsory, and no student with a disability can be rejected. In contrast, participation in postsecondary education is voluntary, and many students, with and without disabilities, are rejected from higher education if their academic performance does not meet the admissions criteria of a specific college or university.

Faculty can assist in the the self-disclosure and accommodation process by providing a statement related to students with disabilities in the course syllabus. This can create a welcoming environment whereby a student may feel more comfortable coming forward to discuss his or her needs. Such a statement might read:

Please Note: If you require accommodations for classroom or course evaluation activities due to a documented disability, or if you have emergency medical information to share, please make an appointment to talk with me during office hours or after class.


The statement might also contain specific contact information for your campus Office for Students with Disabilities. In online and blended courses, this could contain a hyperlink to the office’s website.




Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008, PL 110-325, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1201 et seq.


Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as Amended, Section 504, P. L. 93-112, 29 U.S.C. §794 (1998).


Wolanin, T. R., & Steele, P. E. (2004). Higher education opportunities for students with disabilities: A primer for policymakers. Washington: The Institute for Higher Education Policy. Retrieved August 31, 2004, from http://www.ihep.org/Pubs/PDF/DisabilitiesReport2004.pdf


Permission is granted to copy this document for educational purposes; however, please acknowledge your source using the following citation:

UDI Online Project. (2010). Legal Module. Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability, University of Connecticut, Storrs. http://www.udi.uconn.edu/index.php?q=content/legal-module