Frequently Asked Questions

All FAQs

How do I request disability-related housing accommodations?

Disability-related housing accommodations are modifications to the residential environment for students whose disabilities substantially limit their ability to live in Columbia’s traditional housing arrangements. These accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis, according to documented need, and prevailing standards for reasonable accommodations. Housing accommodations are granted after a determination of the student’s disability status and a determination that his or her particular disability necessitates adjustments to the living environment. For more information, please see the Housing Accommodations page.

I’m already registered with DS and I want to request additional accommodations, what do I do?

Requests for additional accommodations can be made to Disability Services at any time. Students must submit a Request for Supplemental Accommodations. Additional disability documentation may be required if previously submitted disability documentation does not provide sufficient support for the requested accommodation. Students will be informed by their coordinator if additional documentation is needed. Reviews of requests for supplemental accommodations may take up to three weeks.

I’m a visiting student from another University where I receive accommodations. How do I receive accommodations at Columbia?

In order to receive accommodations at Columbia, you must submit the DS Registration Form and in lieu of disability documentation, please submit a letter from your home institution’s disability services confirming the accommodations you receive there.  DS will advise if disability documentation is needed to consider your requests.

I’m an affiliate student (i.e. Barnard/Teacher’s College) taking a Columbia course. How do I receive accommodations for this course?

In order to receive accommodations for your Columbia course, you must work with your school’s disability services office.    

What is assistive technology and what is available at Columbia?

Assistive technology is any item, computer software, hardware or piece of equipment that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Examples of assistive technology include screen magnification software, screen reading software, voice recognition software, Braille translation software, accessible computer or laboratory stations, reading and writing software, and electronic textbooks. Disability Services has a full-time Assistive Technology Specialist who works with students, faculty, and staff to assess their need for assistive technology. The AT specialist also trains students, faculty and staff on such software and/or equipment.  
 

Does DS have a “lending library” or an AT loan program?

Students not registered with Disability Services: If you have a disability and believe that you could benefit from DS’s “lending library” or other accommodations, please fill out a Registration Form.

Students registered with Disability Services who are approved for such accommodations: DS often lends assistive technology to students who are approved for various assistive technology devices. If a student is interested in borrowing AT devices, he or she would then meet with the AT specialist for training and to borrow the equipment.

Students registered with Disability Services who are not approved for such accommodations: If you are interested in using alternative formats and/or assistive technology devices, you should fill out a Request for Supplemental Accommodations form. Your coordinator will then review your eligibility for the aforementioned accommodations.

Faculty and Staff: If you are interested in borrowing assistive technology as a disability accommodation, please contact Hana Bloch at hb356@columbia.edu. Hana will be able to work with you to make sure that your accommodation needs are met.

What if I have a serious medical condition but not a disability?

If you have a serious medical condition in which housing accommodations may be needed, you should complete the Disability Housing Accommodations Procedures as outlined on this page.

I am a graduate student but was not approved for a housing allocation and I need housing for a disability/medical condition. What should I do?

You may request a housing assignment as a housing accommodation. In order to do so, you should complete the Disability Housing Accommodations Procedures as outlined on this page.

I have a Service/Assistance Animal – do I need to request housing accommodations?

Students who wish to bring their service/assistance animal to Columbia must be approved for this accommodation through the housing accommodations process before bringing their service/assistance animal onto campus.

Please also refer to the University’s Service and Service and Assistance Animal Policy, for complete information about related policy, procedures, and expectations.

I have a Personal Care Attendant – do I need to request housing accommodations?

Students who wish to have either “live-in” or per diem personal care assistants (PCAs) must be approved for this accommodation through the housing accommodations process before bringing their PCAs onto campus.

Top Viewed FAQs

How do I register with Disability Services?

Registration includes submission of both the Disability Services Registration Form and disability documentation. After review of a student’s documentation and registration form, Disability Services will coordinate services and accommodations based on eligibility. The review process generally takes two to three weeks. An appointment will be scheduled for an orientation session to review policies and procedures. Disability Services works with students with various types of disabilities including learning, physical, hearing, visual, psychological, and chronic medical conditions.

Where is Disability Services located and what are the office hours?

Visit our contact us page.

What does Disability Services do?

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, among other topics.

I'm having difficulty with a couple of my classes. What can Disability Services do to assist me?

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. Work with 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 or academic advisor to discuss their concerns. Some on-campus resources students have found helpful include:

How do I request disability-related housing accommodations?

Disability-related housing accommodations are modifications to the residential environment for students whose disabilities substantially limit their ability to live in Columbia’s traditional housing arrangements. These accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis, according to documented need, and prevailing standards for reasonable accommodations. Housing accommodations are granted after a determination of the student’s disability status and a determination that his or her particular disability necessitates adjustments to the living environment. For more information, please see the Housing Accommodations page.

Are there services that Disability Services does not provide?

Disability Services does not diagnose learning disabilities or ADHD nor provide funding for diagnostic evaluations. Disability Services also does not provide personal services, including but are 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 or 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.

What if I have a serious medical condition but not a disability?

If you have a serious medical condition in which housing accommodations may be needed, you should complete the Disability Housing Accommodations Procedures as outlined on this page.

Which schools and programs at Columbia does Disability Services work with?

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.
 

I'm interested in working for Disability Services. What positions do you have available and how do I apply?

Disability Services hires Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College students for a variety of positions, including note-takers, exam proctors, text editors, readers, research and office assistants. Students are hired each semester for these positions. If you are interested, please contact Disability Services for more information.

By Topic

Disability Accommodations and Services

I’m unable to use the Low Library steps connecting College Walk to Upper Campus and need to access an elevator, how do I do this?

There is an elevator located on College Walk adjacent to the east side of Dodge Hall (closer to Broadway) that connects upper and lower campus. This elevator has restricted access. For access to this elevator:

  • Students should contact Disability Services to activate access through their CUID card to the elevator. Faculty or staff should contact HR Disability Services for access through their CUID card to the elevator.

  • Visitors with disabilities should use the intercom/call box located at the elevator entrance.

What should I do if I feel like my accommodations are not sufficient?

For details about this matter, please review the information about Supplemental Accommodations.

What should I do if I am having difficulty arranging accommodations for one of my classes?

Students who are having difficulty arranging their accommodations should contact Disability Services.

How do I request disability-related housing accommodations?

Disability-related housing accommodations are modifications to the residential environment for students whose disabilities substantially limit their ability to live in Columbia’s traditional housing arrangements. These accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis, according to documented need, and prevailing standards for reasonable accommodations. Housing accommodations are granted after a determination of the student’s disability status and that his or her particular disability necessitates adjustments to the living environment. For more information, please see the Housing Accommodations page.

How do I access note-taking services for my courses?

Students must submit a note-taking request form each semester. Disability Services recommends that student submit their requests at the beginning of each semester and should allow up to two weeks for note-taking services to be coordinated for each class.

I am registered with Disability Services, how do I coordinate my exams with accommodations?

Students must submit a complete Testing Accommodation Request Form at least two weeks in advance in order to take an exam with accommodations at Disability Services. This form must be completed and signed by your professor in order to complete your request to take your exam at Disability Services.

What is assistive technology and what is available at Columbia?

Assistive technology is any item, computer software, hardware or piece of equipment that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Examples of assistive technology include screen magnification software, screen reading software, voice recognition software, Braille translation software, accessible computer or laboratory stations, reading and writing software, and electronic textbooks. Disability Services has a full-time Assistive Technology Specialist who works with students, faculty, and staff to assess their need for assistive technology. The AT specialist also trains students, faculty and staff on such software and/or equipment.  
 

Campus Access and Events (Disability Services)

I want to take a tour of the campus, and I have a physical disability – will it be accessible?

Request a “no step” tour when scheduling a tour with the Visitor’s Center. Disability Services staff is also available to provide access tours of the campus for current Columbia students.

I need a wheelchair, does Disability Services have one I could borrow?

Yes, Disability Services has several wheelchairs available to borrow on a temporary basis depending upon availability. Please contact Disability Services to inquire about availability.

I have a service animal, what do I need to know about bringing it to campus?

I am attending an event at Columbia, how do I make arrangements for accommodations?

Contact Disability Services at least two weeks in advance to request disability accommodations. Certain accommodations, such as sign-language interpreting services, require advance notice to coordinate.

I want to take a tour of the campus, and I have a physical disability – will it be accessible?

Request a “no step” tour when scheduling a tour with the Visitor’s Center. Disability Services staff is also available to provide access tours of the campus for current Columbia students.

Someone requested a Sign Language Interpreter or other accommodation for an event I am hosting. What should I do?

Submit a request to Disability Services at least two weeks in advance of the event. Requests made less than two weeks’ notice cannot be guaranteed.

I am attending an event at Columbia, how do I make arrangements for accommodations?

Contact Disability Services at least two weeks in advance to request disability accommodations. Certain accommodations, such as sign-language interpreting services, require advance notice to coordinate.

Registration with Disability Services

I am a faculty/staff member with a disability, how do I register?

Faculty and staff with permanent or temporary medical conditions may have a spectrum of needs that can be addressed by HR Disability Services including:

  • To arrange permanent or temporary accommodations in your workplace.
  • To assist you in understanding the benefits available to you during a medical leave and the documentation you need to submit.
  • To ease your transition from a medical leave back to a job with the University.

 Whatever your circumstances, we encourage you to contact HR Disability Services for a confidential consultation.

What qualifies as a disability?

A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that 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. Disability Services also provides assistance to students with temporary injuries and illnesses that are substantially limiting.
 

If I am requesting academic/classroom/campus in addition to housing accommodations, do I need to submit separate documentation?

If your need for academic/classroom/campus accommodations is directly related to your need for housing accommodations, you do not need to submit separate documentation but rather your documentation should address the need for all requested accommodations.

If your need for academic/classroom/campus accommodations is unrelated to your disability-related need for housing accommodations, then separate documentation is required to appropriately address the non-related requests.
 

I am a visiting student, what type of disability documentation do I need to submit?

Visiting and Exchange students must submit a letter from their home institution confirming the accommodations they receive there.  Upon review, DS will advise if additional disability documentation is required.

How long does it take to register with DS?

It typically takes up to 3 weeks to complete the DS registration process.

What types of disabilities or medical conditions qualify for accommodations?

Any condition that meets the ADA definition of a disability may qualify for accommodations. The condition must substantially limit a major life activity in order to be considered a disability and there must be proof of current impact.
 

Do I need to register with Disability Services to request housing accommodations?

You do need to submit the Registration Form if you are only requesting housing accommodations.  Should you require academic/classroom/campus disability accommodations, you must submit the Registration Form to make such requests.

What type of documentation is required for temporary injuries (e.g. concussion, broken limb)?

Various types of disability documentation are acceptable for temporary injuries including but not limited to discharge papers from the hospital, a completed Verification Form or letter written by a Physical Therapist, etc.

Please come to DS or call during drop-in hours to determine if short-term, immediate assistance is possible pending your submission of documentation.  If possible, please bring a completed Registration Form with you.

My disability documentation is not in English, can I submit it anyway?

Disability documentation must be in English. However, you may submit a translated copy along with the original document. All translations must be done by a qualified professional and notarized.

My disability documentation is outdated, can I submit it anyway?

The answer to this question depends on your disability type.  Please refer to the following information for documentation requirements per disability type.

LD/ADHD

If you are diagnosed with a Learning Disability or AD/HD and your outdated documentation is a neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation and the measure used in the testing are adult measure, you may submit this documentation for consideration of your request for accommodations.

Please note if you are diagnosed with AD/HD but have not undergone a neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluation, your provider may complete a Verification of AD/HD form in order for our office to consider your temporary eligibility for accommodations (generally one semester).

Psychological

For psychological diagnoses, documentation must be no more than 6 months old.

Chronic Medical Condition

For chronic medical conditions, documentation must be no more than 6 months old.

Visual, Hearing, or Physical

If you have a chronic visual, hearing, or physical condition that is variable in nature, your documentation must be no more than 6 months old.   

If you have a chronic visual, hearing, or physical condition that has not changed in the last year, please submit your most recent disability documentation for review.  Our office will then determine whether or not more recent documentation is required.

How do I notify my professors that I am registered with Disability Services?

During the first few weeks of each new semester, students are required to present Disability Services Accommodation Letters to each of their professors. To request these letters, students must submit the Accommodation Letter Request Form. Students will receive an email when the letters are prepared and ready to be picked up from Disability Services. Student must return signed letters to Disability Services after each professor reviews and signs the letter.

What kind of disability documentation do I need to provide with my registration form to Disability Services?

Disability Services has established general documentation guidelines as well as documentation guidelines for specific disability categories, including learning, sensory, and psychiatric disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Refer to these guidelines for the detailed documentation requirements.

What are reasonable accommodations?

Reasonable Accommodations are adjustments to policy, practice, and programs that “level the playing field” for students with disabilities and provide equal access to  programs and activities at Columbia University. Examples of accommodations may include the administration of exams with extended time or in a smaller proctored environment, while 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.

How are reasonable accommodations determined?

Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis after Disability Services considers the student’s needs as described in their disability documentation. Faculty also have the opportunity to consult with Disability Services on the final determination of accommodations for each of their courses and students. 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.

Does Disability Services evaluate students for learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Disability Services can provide students with referrals for local area medical providers and agencies that perform psycho-educational and neuropsychological evaluations for learning disabilities or ADHD. Disability Services does not perform or fund evaluations for learning disabilities or ADHD. Students who think they may have ADHD or learning disabilities, or who need an updated evaluation should contact Disability Services to set up an appointment to discuss their needs.

How do I register with Disability Services?

Registration includes submission of both the Disability Services Registration Form and disability documentation. After review of a student’s documentation and registration form, Disability Services will coordinate services and accommodations based on eligibility. The review process generally takes two to three weeks. An appointment will be scheduled for an orientation session to review policies and procedures. Disability Services works with students with various types of disabilities including learning, physical, hearing, visual, psychological, and chronic medical conditions.

Disability Services Confidentiality

If I register with Disability Services, will it show up on my permanent record or transcript?

No, neither your registration with Disability Services nor approval for accommodations is indicated in any way on your Columbia transcript.

General Disability Services Information

How can I obtain a copy of my disability documentation from my file at Disability Services?

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, U.S. Postal Service, or to another college or university must be submitted to Disability Services in writing or from the student’s Columbia email address.

How do high school services differ from college disability services?

Below we have provided a summary that highlights these differences. Understanding these differences will help to ensure a smooth transition period for students with disabilities. We have also included information that is specific to our program for students with disabilities.

In high school, teachers or other school personnel identify 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 and 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 that meets Disability Services' guidelines of their condition/disability. Colleges are not responsible for assessing or determining students’ 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, 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.

Should I disclose my disability status on the admissions application?

Columbia University does not inquire or 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.

Are there services that Disability Services does not provide?

Disability Services does not diagnose learning disabilities or ADHD nor provide funding for diagnostic evaluations. Disability Services also does not provide personal services, including but are not limited to, content-based tutoring, reimbursement for transportation, ADHD coaching, personal care attendants, medical treatment, or private transportation around campus.

I'm having difficulty with a couple of my classes. What can Disability Services do to assist me?

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. Work with 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 or academic advisor to discuss their concerns. Some on-campus resources students have found helpful include:

I'm interested in working for Disability Services. What positions do you have available and how do I apply?

Disability Services hires Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College students for a variety of positions, including note-takers, exam proctors, text editors, readers, research and office assistants. Students are hired each semester for these positions. If you are interested, please contact Disability Services for more information.

Where is Disability Services located and what are the office hours?

Visit our contact us page.

Which schools and programs at Columbia does Disability Services work with?

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.
 

What does Disability Services do?

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, among other topics.

Learning and Other Disabilities

I am registered with DS but not currently eligible for note-taking services, how do I request this?

If you would like to request note-taking services (or any other additional accommodations,) submit a Request for Supplemental Accommodations form.

Last updated May 23, 2017