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Dec 2, 2022
Meet the Team
Office for Students with Disabilities
Karen Terhune: Hello. Welcome to the Office for Students with Disabilities, known as “OSWD”. I’m Karen Terhune, a coordinator at OSWD. We are here to help qualified students with disabilities succeed through equal access to education and academic activities at Gallaudet University.
James Akridge: I’m James Akridge, also an OSWD coordinator. OSWD approves accommodations for students with disabilities guided by the Americans with Disabilities Act. We work to create a welcoming and productive experience that reflects a barrier-free environment with equal access to quality education. Students who wish to receive accommodations from OSWD start by filling out an online “Intake Application Form” (found on our “”Forms”” page).
Students also are required to provide medical documentation about their disability, which OSWD reviews to determine eligibility.
Karen Terhune: The intake form can be completed online, and more information is available on the website for Gallaudet University. Search for “OSWD” and have a look at the page named “Applying for Services from OSWD”.
Students may apply for services and request accommodations at any time during their academic career at Gallaudet. We encourage students new to Gallaudet to start this process well before their first term begins. Once students are accepted for services, they talk with an assigned coordinator to discuss possible accommodations. Disability-related information is strictly confidential and handled the same as other medical information.
James Akridge: There are many possible accommodations. Some frequently used accommodations are:
The Office for Students with Disabilities, known as “OSWD,” is here to provide qualified students with disabilities the support they need to succeed through equal access to education and academic activities.
To do this, we approve reasonable accommodations, provide services, and create a welcoming and productive experience that reflects a barrier-free environment, guided by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Students who wish to make use of disability-support services from OSWD must first self-disclose to OSWD the need for academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and/or services, completing the intake process to establish eligibility for particular accommodations and services. In order for a student's disability to be...
OSWD staff can help students in all of the following: Review disability, health, or psychological assessments to determine appropriate academic adjustments Assist students in determining which adjustments they need to access Gallaudet programs Help students learn to use academic adjustments successfully Support the implementation of...
OSWD provides the following services to students and faculty. Intake Process and Eligibility Review: students submit info & medical documentation Adaptive Technology: equipment, furniture, or software that can improve access Auxiliary Aids: note takers, readers, scribes, and laboratory and library assistants Counseling Support: counselors assist...
OSWD recognizes that there are disability-related costs a student faces, above and beyond tuition, fees, room and board. OSWD students often have to deal with additional expenses not incurred by other students. They may include the cost of specialized adaptive equipment, expenses for personal use...
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course, program, service, activity or facility that enables a qualified student with a disability to have an equal opportunity to attain the same level of performance or enjoy equal benefits and privileges as are available...
Federal and state law requires colleges and universities to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities that substantially impair or limit their opportunity to achieve their maximum academic potential. Students requesting accommodations and/or support services under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504...
Just as faculty and students are interacting remotely, all Gallaudet staff members, except those who are considered essential employees, are also working remotely, including the staff of the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSWD). Despite the changes, OSWD maintains its commitment to assisting its students...
A disability, as defined under Title III of the "Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990" (ADA) as amended by the "ADA Amendments Act of 2008", and Section 504 of the "Rehabilitation Act of 1973", is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or...
Download the "Request for Services" form from the top of our Forms for OSWD Page, complete all three pages (parts 1, 2, & 3), and email to OSWD. Check the Documentation Guidelines to see what you need to document your disability, collect the information, then...
After you have been notified of your eligibility in writing, usually by email, you are considered registered with OSWD. You are also considered a documented student with a disability at Gallaudet, and entitled to receive accommodations and services. In your acceptance letter you will be...
Enrolled students may apply for disability-support services and request accommodations at any time during their academic career at Gallaudet. We encourage students who are new to Gallaudet to start this process well before their first term begins. This allows OSWD time to receive the documentation,...
Students have the right to choose not to use accommodations, and not to disclose their disabilities to OSWD or to Gallaudet's faculty or staff. However, it is the student's responsibility to request accommodations through OSWD in a timely manner, if the student discovers during the...
It is the policy of Gallaudet University to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and state and local regulations regarding students and applicants with disabilities. Pursuant to these laws, no qualified individual with a disability, or those regarded...
The Office for Students with Disabilities recommends that all faculty members use the following statement on their course syllabi to inform students with disabilities of the faculty member's willingness to provide reasonable accommodations: Gallaudet University is committed to providing all students equal access to learning...
OSWD follows established testing procedures as mandated by Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. By law, course content and testing format cannot be fundamentally altered to accommodate a student's disability if the change would compromise the validity of test measurement. By far the...
Elementary and secondary education (through high school) is governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees students a free and appropriate public education. After they graduate from high school, students and their parents need to be aware that IDEA no longer applies....
Fifty years ago, the US Congress passed The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and these words, from "Section 504", became federal law: No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States ... shall, solely by reason of ... disability, be denied the benefits of,...
The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSWD) recognizes that there are disability related costs above and beyond tuition, fees, room and board. OSWD students are often faced with additional expenses not incurred by other students. These may include, specialized adaptive equipment, expenses for personal use...
Gallaudet University OSWD Policy Guidelines: Accommodations for Distance Learners, for Students & Faculty (PDF) Winter-Storm Emergency Preparedness: Plans & Procedures, Gallaudet University/OSWD Policy Guidelines (PDF)
Use this online eSign form for automatic delivery, and e-mail your test separately to Contact here or deliver test to OSWD by hand, as soon as possible: Testing Services Request Form (eSign) This online eSign form will automatically deliver your evaluation form after you sign...
Request for OSWD Services, Part 1, Basic Information (PDF form) Request for OSWD Services, Part 2, Authorization to Share Information (PDF form) Request for OSWD Services, Part 3, Medical Information (PDF form) Request for OSWD Services, all 3 parts in one PDF (PDF form) Authorization...
Winter Storm Emergency Preparedness: Tips for Students" (PDF) Winter Storm Emergency Preparedness: Plans & Procedures; Gallaudet University/OSWD Policy Guidelines" (PDF)
The Office for Students with Disabilities recommends that all faculty members use the following statement on their course syllabi to inform students with disabilities of the faculty member’s willingness to provide reasonable accommodations:
Gallaudet University is committed to providing all students equal access to learning opportunities. The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSWD) is the campus unit that works with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations. Students registered with OSWD, who have a letter requesting accommodations, are encouraged to contact the professor early in the semester. Students who have, or think they may have, a disability (e.g. psychiatric, attention, learning, vision, physical, or systemic), are invited to contact OSWD for a confidential discussion at (202) 651-5256 (V/TTY) or at Contact here. OSWD is located in the Student Academic Center, room 1220.
A faculty member who suspects that a student has a disability is encouraged to refer the student to OSWD for assistance.
Faculty members are encouraged to involve OSWD to mediate certain student disputes relevant to disability issues and accommodations. Often such meetings result in proactive solutions improving upon accommodations and accessibility.
Faculty members must refrain from personal judgments that affect the student’s right to receive accommodations and special services. It is the student’s right to receive identified accommodations for which the student has been qualified.
Faculty have the Right to:
Faculty have the Responsibility to:
Faculty need to be careful about liability in accommodating students with disabilities beyond what has been approved by OSWD. These issues are discussed briefly in When Faculty are TOO Accommodating!”.
OSWD encourages students and faculty to meet at the beginning of the semester so that the student may make the faculty aware of disabilities and accommodations that have been approved. It also allows you to have questions answered by the student.
If the student either emails you their Student Accommodation Letter, or leaves it for you, we suggest that you reach out to the student and suggest a time for the two of you to meet. Creating an opportunity for both of you to discuss the situation, ask questions, and solve problems will benefit everyone.
Students may disclose a disability and request accommodations at any point during their academic career at Gallaudet. To be considered for disability-related accommodations, students need to follow these steps:
During the initial appointment, students meet with an OSWD counselor to discuss the accommodations for which they were approved. The student will have a chance to ask any questions about their documentation and why they were approved or denied for any specific accommodations.
Students may request that their documentation be reconsidered if they were denied a specific accommodation, or they may request additional accommodations if they have new or updated documentation.
A student is “conditionally accepted” for OSWD services if OSWD determines that the student is likely eligible for services but medical documentation is inadequate or outdated (typically older than 3 years, depending on the disability in question).
“Conditionally accepted” students otherwise receive the same accommodations as other OSWD students, but usually have until the start of the next fall/spring term to remedy deficiencies in their medical documentation.
“Conditional acceptance” is also used for students with temporary disabilities who need disability accommodations, but whose condition may change significantly before the start of the next fall/spring term, and require a reassessment of their eligibility for accommodations.
Students have the right to:
Students have the Responsibility to:
Registering with OSWD does not absolve the student of responsibilities during the time it takes to assess eligibility and arrange accommodations and special services. The student may not use a disability as an excuse for not fulfilling the obligations and requirements of the course syllabus.
Students with disabilities requesting an academic accommodation should work with their assigned OSWD coordinator to determine appropriate accommodations that meet their needs and accommodate their particular disabilities.
Since the student possesses unique knowledge of their disabilities, they should be prepared to discuss the functional challenges they face in their classrooms and, if applicable, what has or has not worked for them in the past.
Students with disabilities are not required to pay any of the costs of accommodation services. The University is prohibited from charging students with disabilities more for participating in programs or activities than they charge any other student. The University also may not refuse accommodations based on non-availability or insufficiency of funds.
However, the University may meet its obligation by assisting students in obtaining reimbursement for their costs from an outside agency or organization, such as a state VR agency. The University may also provide alternate accommodations if they can demonstrate that providing a specific auxiliary aid or service would result in undue financial or administrative burdens on the institution’s resources.
Post-secondary institutions are not required to provide an academic accommodation if
For example, providing a note-taker for oral classroom presentations and discussions might be a fundamental alteration, but making a video recording might be a suitable substitution.
Students with disabilities entering college need to be well informed about changes in their rights and responsibilities as well as the rights and responsibilities afforded by the University. A student who is well informed will help to ensure a full opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the post-secondary education experience without confusion or delay.
Future students with disabilities are encouraged to contact or visit the Office for Students with Disabilities in their junior or senior years in high school in order to find out more about disability services at the college level. If a prospective student visits campus, come by the OSWD office, too.
There is often a misconception by students entering college and their parents that post-secondary schools and school districts have the same responsibilities in providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. While there are some similarities, the responsibilities of post-secondary schools are significantly different from those of school districts at the secondary level. Also, the responsibilities of students with disabilities are significantly different as well.
Students enrolled at Gallaudet University, who are over the age of 18, are considered adults, and their confidentiality is strictly protected. No information, written or oral, will be released to other persons, including parents, without the student’s written permission. OSWD understands the needs of parents regarding the emotional and educational condition of their children. Students may sign the “OSWD Release of Information Form” (on the “Forms” page) and allow OSWD to speak with parents. Signing this form is completely voluntary and students may revoke their permission at any time by notifying OSWD in writing.
There are several very important differences between Federal Disability Law that covers high school and that which the University is subject to.
In the Law
Elementary and secondary education (through high school) is governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which guarantees students a free and appropriate public education. After they graduate from high school, students and their parents need to be aware that IDEA no longer applies.
In all postsecondary education, including Gallaudet University, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 require access to programs and services, and auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication, but do not mandate a free and appropriate education.
In the Documentation
Approval for support services will be based, at least in part, on the documentation that the student provides. It is both important and necessary that the student discusses with OSWD necessary support services and why they are needed. Decisions about qualification for support services are made by OSWD who decide on appropriate accommodations.
Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), familiar from prior years, are no longer in force and may only be used as a general guideline for services. Documentation under Section 504 plans must state a specific disability to be considered as guidelines for support services as well. Documentation may include diagnostic test results, clinical assessments, IEP, Comprehensive Individualized Assessments (CIA), medical documentation, speech and language evaluations, and vocational rehabilitation documentation.
In the Services Provided
Students should not expect that the services and curriculum modifications provided in high school will be automatically provided at the university level. The university has the right to approve or deny services requested by the student which are not reasonable or which constitute an undue burden.
In addition, it is important to know that colleges and universities are not required to modify or waive courses or program requirements, although course substitutions may be considered as an academic adjustment where appropriate. An “otherwise qualified” student should have completed the necessary prerequisite college preparation courses in high school and should be ready to continue with reasonable support.
In the Advocacy
In high school, school personnel are required to seek out students with disabilities and help them to receive a free and appropriate education. During high school, the student’s parent or guardian is legally responsible for making decisions about the student’s education.
In contrast, universities are not required or expected to seek out students with disabilities. It is the student who is responsible for making all disclosures and contacts, not the student’s parents or guardian. It is the student who is in charge of all educational decisions.
The Decision to Disclose
The student may choose to disclose a disability on a university application, but the student is not required to disclose a disability. Disclosure may help explain deficits in an application that may be a direct result of a disability.
In the past, students have found that disclosing a disability has generally helped obtain acceptance for an application. Regardless, the student must consider disclosing a disability and registering with OSWD once on campus if the student will be seeking accommodations.
This section is adapted from the pamphlet, “Preparing for College: Options for Students with Learning Disabilities”, Association on Higher Education and Disability, Columbus, Ohio; 2010.
It depends. In general, tests may not be selected or administered in a way that tests the disability rather than the achievement or aptitude of the individual. In addition, federal law requires changes to the testing conditions that are necessary to allow a student with a disability to participate as long as the changes do not fundamentally alter the examination or create undue financial or administrative burdens. Examples of changes in testing conditions that may be available include:
Manager Office of Students With Disabilities
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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