FAQs About Accommodations

General Info

At Bryn Mawr College, contact the Director of Access Services at 610-526-7516, or dalder@brynmawr.edu.

Depending on the campus job and job requirements and your access needs, you may be eligible for reasonable accommodations at your campus job. To determine this, reach out to the Director of Access Services, especially if you are not comfortable approaching your campus employer yourself.

Documentation

Generally speaking, yes, you do need to provide the College with information from an independent third party that verifies a diagnosis, outlines your current symptoms and can speak to the degree and extent to which those symptoms cause substantial limitations to your functioning in a College environment. Often, this information (depending on your symptoms) can be provided by a medical doctor, licensed school psychologist, licensed psychologist, clinical social worker, neuropsychologist and/or psychiatrist. Often, such information is in the form of a psychoeducational evaluation or a neuropsychological evaluation. However, other types of reports, written by other individuals, may be appropriate, depending on your circumstances. Please refer to the documentation requirements that can be found in the Guidelines for Providing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities, pp. 3-4, for more specific information.

Students should submit documentation as soon as possible to ensure that expensive, or difficult to arrange accommodations, are ready by the first day of class. For example, many colleges do not create Brailled textbooks on site; they outsource this work, which is very time-consuming, and it can take months to prepare. There are other accommodations that are also time-consuming to arrange, such as audio books or alternate text materials. Regardless of the accommodation(s) needed, working with your college as early as possible helps to ensure a smooth transition.

Generally, no. Although an IEP or Section 504 plan may help identify services that have been used by a student in the past, they generally are not sufficient documentation to support the existence of a current disability and need for an academic adjustment from an institution of postsecondary education.

College accommodations usually differ considerably from high school modifications. Colleges are not required by law to provide modified curriculum, different tests, reduced assignments, or personal assistance of any sort. Accommodations may also differ between colleges. There are many reasons for denial of accommodations received at a previous college. These reasons may include: the documentation does not meet the College’s guidelines; the documentation does not support the requested accommodation; the accommodation would fundamentally alter an activity, course, or program; the accommodation is in conflict with the academic policies of the College; providing the accommodation would pose a direct threat to the student or others; and/or providing the accommodation would constitute an undue financial or administrative burden to the College.

If you are struggling, for whatever reasons, it is important to speak with your Dean and also to the Director of Access Services. There are a variety of resources that may provide you with support and they can discuss opportunities that may be open to you, depending on your situation.

Each request for a housing modification is evaluated individually based on the disability, severity, and symptoms. While a doctor or other clinician may make recommendations, it is not a guarantee that the request will be granted. A variety of factors are considered with each request before any decision is made. Bryn Mawr is a residential campus and, for the most part, students are expected to be prepared to live on campus during their time here as a student.

Academic Accommodations

The first step in determining eligibility for accommodations is to contact the Director of Access Services by calling 610-526-7516 or emailing dalder@brynmawr.edu.  It is important to schedule a meeting to discuss your request, your history of accommodations, your current limitations and their impact on your academic life.  Following this face-to-face meeting, next steps will be determined.  Students are asked to share independent third party documentation that supports their request for accommodations.  Once all necessary documentation is received by the Access Services office, all of the information shared by the student is reviewed.  The student will be notified via email about the accommodations for which they are eligible.  Once the student’s schedule for a semester is finalized, the student must inform Access Services.  At that point, the office prepares verification forms, which state the accommodations.  It is the job of the student to deliver these verification forms to professors.

The purpose of an accommodation is to “level the playing field” and/or ameliorate the effects of the disability, to the extent that is possible. Accommodations are made to ensure that the College does not discriminate against students with disabilities or have the effect of excluding students on the basis of a disability. Reasonable accommodations may include the elimination of physical barriers whenever possible, extended time on a test, being able to record a class and/or sign-language interpreting, just to name a few examples. Your accommodations depend on your current symptoms, the extent to which those symptoms create a substantial limitation to a major life activity and the demands of the particular class. This is why a face-face meeting with the Director of Access Services is the first step toward determining reasonable accommodations; your current life experiences are important in determining what you might be eligible for, and why. There is not a menu to choose from; accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis, for your particular situation.

No, a student has the right to never mention his/her disability to a teacher and to never submit the accommodations request letter to that teacher, or to any teacher if so desired. However, the student may not make up work or tests with accommodations at a later date if she/he chooses not to present the letter at the beginning of the semester. Also, a student must present the letter well in advance of any test for which accommodations are desired. 

No, instructors have no obligation to provide any accommodations to a student without having received a Verification Form issued from Access Services. All accommodations must be approved by Access Services before the instructor is obligated to provide any accommodations to a student. 

At Bryn Mawr, students are responsible for presenting their verification forms (prepared by the Director of Access Services) to their instructors.

Students are not charged for academic accommodations which are determined by the College to be necessary to ensure equal access for a student with disabilities. Students may be responsible, however, if they receive certain accommodations (such as an interpreter) for which the College is billed, but fail to cancel those services when they are not needed, such as when a class is canceled or the student is ill and does not go to class. 

Students may submit documentation and be eligible for accommodations at any point during the semester, but any grades already in place or tests taken before accommodations were granted will not be changed or repeated once accommodations are in place. Please note that not all accommodations can be immediately implemented and no grades given during the implementation period will be changed. 

Most colleges do not waive essential courses in a student’s curriculum. If the course is part of the “Core Curriculum” required by the College, the course will most likely not be waived. At Bryn Mawr, all students are expected to fulfill the College’s academic requirements. However, in some circumstances, if the student has a documented learning disability that causes significant limitations to academic performance, the College will consider a request for a modification.

Students with physical disabilities/significant chronic medical conditions that limit their participation in PE are advised to complete as many PE credits as possible through courses such as THRIVE, Personal Finance and/or the Independent Study option.  Students are encouraged to work with PE faculty and their physicians to explore whether there may be modifications to other PE courses that would enable them to participate safely.  If these options are not possible, the student should contact the Director of Access Services to determine if they are eligible for a modification of the PE requirement. 

Your Dean is always available to you, to speak about any situation, academic or otherwise. Additionally, you may want to seek assistance from the Counseling Center and/or the Academic and Learning Resource Specialist, depending on the nature of your struggle.

Once your eligibility for accommodations is determined by the Director of Access Services, it stays in place during your time at Bryn Mawr.  However, keep in mind that, over time, accommodations may need to be adjusted because symptoms and their impact may change and/or the particular format and nature of a class may warrant new challenges.  In these situations, reach out to the Director of Access Services to discuss possible changes. It is the student’s responsibility to reach out to the Director of Access Services each semester that they want to receive accommodations, in order for verification forms to be prepared.  This should be done as soon as a student has finalized their classes for a semester.

Depending on the campus job and job requirements and your access needs, you may be eligible for reasonable accommodations at your campus job.  To determine this, reach out to the Director of Access Services, especially if you are not comfortable approaching your campus employer yourself.

The verification form you receive from Access Services at Bryn Mawr is sufficient to initiate your accommodations at another campus within the Tri-Co; you simply need to present the form to your Haverford or Swarthmore professor. If you are taking a class at Penn, you need to contact their Disability Services and meet with their office to set up your accommodations. You can do this by calling 215-573-9235. Take a copy of your current Bryn Mawr verification form when you meet with them.  Schedule this appointment very early in the semester; they are a much larger campus and it can take a while to find and schedule a mutually agreeable time to meet.

Colleges are not responsible for providing any services of a personal nature, including transportation (unless transportation is being provided for all students as in the case of a field trip or athletics). Students must arrange all services themselves, or request assistance from an outside agency such as the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.

Students who will participate in Study Abroad need to be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act is only applicable in the United States.  A college or university in a foreign country is not obligated to implement your accommodations.  Before you decide to study outside the United States, it would be a good idea to contact the college/university you hope to attend and make inquiries about how accommodations are addressed.  Additionally, you are encouraged to reach out to the Director of Global Education for assistance and/or to the Director of Access Services for support and advocacy.

If you believe, for any reason, the accommodations for which you are eligible are not implemented and/or if you believe your privacy is compromised, please contact the Director of Access Services immediately.

No one knows about a student’s accommodations unless those accommodations are shared by the student. If a student believes their pace towards academic progress is in jeopardy due to their accommodations, the student may ask the Special Cases committee to make an exception to the requirement.  

Transitions

The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education provides detailed information on how the law applies differently to colleges and universities compared with high schools. 

There are a number of supports in place for all students as they prepare to transition from Bryn Mawr to employment. The Career & Civic Engagement Center (CCEC) includes individual career counseling and coaching. Students and alums can connect with a member of CCEC’s team for help with resumes and cover letters, job searching assistance, LinkedIn profile reviews, preparing for and practicing interviews, evaluating and negotiating job offers, and more.  Job seekers with disabilities can talk with our career counseling team about considerations regarding disclosure of their disability.  Students and alumnae/i can take advantage of our career assessment inventories to explore the ways in which their interests, strengths, and personality preferences connect to varied career paths. Job search assistance through the Career & Civic Engagement Center is a lifetime service.  

Currently, there are at least two student-based organizations on campus that can provide some important connections. One is EnAble. They hold meetings during the academic year. Look for notices around campus and/or in the Daily Digest. EnAble is entirely run and organized by students, for students. Another organization is the Student Advisory Committee, which is organized by the Director of Access Services and meets about once a month, beginning in October. Contact the Director of Access Services if you would like to attend (x7351 or send an email). At times, the Counseling Center may offer some groups that have a particular focus, such as strategies for reducing stress and/or anxiety; this varies from semester to semester.

For Parents

It would be most helpful if you act as the “guide on the side” and support your student as they walk through the process of determining their eligibility to receive accommodations at the post-secondary level.  Help your student understand the process and encourage them to reach out to the Access Services office on their own, and supply the needed information and documentation (which they may need your help in gathering).  Impress upon them that this is a task that should not be left until the last minute!

Parents should look to their student for information regarding any aspect of college life, including their accommodations. In a particular situation where a student has given explicit written consent for Access Services to speak with their parent, Access Services is happy to answer questions but will not reach out to parents to keep them informed.

Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis, through an interactive process. They must be reasonable. We cannot advocate for accommodations that compromise the rigor of a class and/or that compromise core course requirements.

There are many resources on this campus, for all students. Students are encouraged to use as many as they would like to use!

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Contact Us

Access Services

Access Services
Eugenia Chase Guild Hall, Room 103
101 N. Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010
Fax: 610-526-7451

Deb Alder, Director of Access Services
dalder@brynmawr.edu
Phone: 610-526-7516
Office Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Thursday

Grace Cipressi, Assistive Technology Specialist
gcipressi@brynmawr.edu
Phone: 610-526-5470
Office Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday