Frequently Asked QuestionsDisability ServicesGeneral
Disability Services facilitates equal access for students with disabilities in all areas of University life, including housing, technology and library access, campus access, Commencement and Class Day access/services for students and guests with disabilities, and student activities and programs.
Disability Services works with students with all types of disabilities, including physical, learning, sensory, psychological, ADHD, and chronic medical conditions. Disability Services also provides assistance to students with temporary injuries and illnesses.
Disability Services also has a full-time learning specialist, who is available to meet with students with disabilities on an individual basis. Work with the learning specialist generally focuses on developing compensatory strategies and skills related to global learning concerns; for example procrastination, organization, note-taking, test-taking, presentation skills, and other topics.
Disability Services serves students in the undergraduate and graduate programs at Columbia University, including programs at the Columbia University Medical Center campus. Disability Services does not serve students at Columbia-affiliated institutions (i.e., Barnard College, Teachers College, Jewish Theological Seminary, or Union Theological Seminary). These institutions have distinct offices to serve students with disabilities. However, Disability Services does work with students who are in joint programs registered in the affiliated institutions and in Columbia degree programs or classes.
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Disability Services hires Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College students for a variety of positions, including note-takers, exam proctors, text editors, readers, and research and office assistants. Students are hired each semester for these positions. If you are interested, please contact Disability Services for more information.
Disability Services offers a variety of support services to Columbia students, including individual consultation and skill-building workshops that address time management and organizational skills. Disability Services also has a full-time learning specialist available to meet with students with disabilities on an individual basis.The learning specialist generally focuses on developing compensatory strategies and skills related to global learning concerns. If you are interested in meeting with the learning specialist, please contact Disability Services and a staff member will be in touch to further address your needs.
Disability Services does not provide content-based tutoring or evaluations for learning disabilities. However, Disability Services can provide information about on- and off-campus services to address these concerns. Students are also encouraged to speak to their program advisor or academic advisor to discuss their concerns. Some on-campus resources students have found helpful include:
Disability Services does not diagnose learning disabilities or ADHD, nor does it provide funding for diagnostic evaluations. Disability Services also does not provide personal services, including, but not limited to, content-based tutoring, reimbursement for transportation, ADHD coaching, personal care attendants, medical treatment, or private transportation around campus.
Should I disclose my disability status on the admissions application?
Columbia University does not inquire about a student's disability status, nor does it require students with disabilities to disclose their disability status on the admissions application. Decisions around disability disclosure are personal ones that should be carefully considered. Once students are admitted, they should contact Disability Services to begin the Disability Services registration process to ensure that accommodations and services are in place for the start of their courses.
In high school, teachers or other school personnel identified students who were in need of services, provide free assessments, and develop Individualized Educational Plans (IEP’s) based on these assessments. These plans may have included a modified curriculum, specialized instruction, tutoring, academic accommodations, or services of a personal nature.
In contrast, postsecondary education requires students with disabilities to be much more self-directed about gaining access to the key accommodations they need. While K-12’s emphasis is on ensuring students’ success, postsecondary disability services is focused upon "leveling the playing field" for students with disabilities so that they have equal opportunity and equal access. With these important distinctions in mind, the following represent key features of Disability Services at Columbia:
- Students must self identify with Disability Services to request accommodations
- Students also must provide documentation of their condition/disability that meets Disability Services' guidelines. Colleges are not responsible for assessing or determining a student's disability status or related needs.
- Higher education institutions, including Columbia, review students’ documentation and determine their disability-related needs for academic adjustments and reasonable accommodations. Eligibility for specific accommodations may differ from high school to college.
- Reasonable accommodations are coordinated by Disability Services and may provide eligible students with accommodations and support services such as extended time on exams, note-taking services, textbooks and other materials in an alternate format, as well as sign-language interpreting, and CART and C-Print services. Accommodations are determined on an individual basis according to documentation and academic and program requirements.
- Additionally, services of a personal nature, including tutoring, are not considered reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the two laws that govern the provision of accommodations at the college level.
- Students are expected to follow the established procedures for receiving reasonable accommodations in order to maintain their eligibility for such accommodations.
Please contact Disability Services to request a copy of your documentation or letter confirming your registration and eligibility for specific accommodations. Requests to send documentation via fax or, U.S. Postal Service, or to send documentation to another college or university must be submitted to Disability Services in writing or from the student’s Columbia email address.
No, a student can decide not to disclose his/her disability status. However, the student is not eligible for accommodations until the registration process is completed. This process can take two to three weeks. Eligibility for accommodations is not retroactive.