What is Disability Studies?

Disability Studies is an academic discipline that approaches disability from an interdisciplinary perspective and uses multiple theories to define disability and understand the disability experience. Disability Studies programs are being formed at universities nationwide and at all levels of scholarship. There are undergraduate minors and majors, as well as masters degrees, certificates of advanced studies, and PhDs available in this new field.

What are my institution's responsibilities regarding the care of students' service animals?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 service animals should be welcome in campus buildings. This includes residence halls and dining facilities. However, the sole responsibility for controlling, keeping, feeding, and otherwise caring for any service animal rests with the individual with a disability who is using the animal's services.

Do campus tutors have to write or type work for students with disabilities?

The role of a tutor is typically to help students understand single problems or concepts that have been presented in class. Students need to come prepared to ask specific questions about the material. Writing tutors assist students with the writing process, but they usually do not write or type papers for students. If writing and typing papers is the responsibility of individual students, this rule should apply to students with disabilities as well.

Must student clubs and organizations provide accommodations to allow students with disabilities to participate?

Yes. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discrimination against students with disabilities. Student clubs and organizations are covered by this legislation and should assure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their programs, activities, and events.

Are drivers responsible for assisting students with disabilities by carrying personal items such as books and backpacks or helping them enter a building by opening doors?

The job of a "driver" is typically to provide transportation. Students with disabilities who are unable to open doors or carry books and backpacks should use the services of a Personal Care Attendant, also called a Personal Care Assistant (PCA). When a PCA is needed, students can often work with Vocational Rehabilitation State Offices to obtain this accommodation.

How do financial aid staff assist students with visual impairments in filling out forms?

It is important that all staff in the financial aid office be familiar with accommodation options to assist students with special needs. It is best if online forms are fully accessible to individuals with disabilities. To explore ways to make forms directly accessible to students who have visual impairments, consult How can I develop accessible web-based forms?

Are campuses required to provide tutoring for students with disabilities throughout their college career?

Some colleges and universities provide tutoring to the general student population. In this case, the tutoring center and its materials should be accessible to students with disabilities. In addition, staff and volunteers should receive training about working with students who have disabilities. If tutoring is not provided to all students on campus, it is unlikely to be required as a "reasonable accommodation" for a student who has a disability. Consult your disabled student services office or legal counsel regarding a specific case on your campus.

Does the campus need to provide housing that is accessible to students with disabilities?

Universities must provide accessible housing to students with disabilities if such housing is available to other students. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 require that goods, services, and activities associated with student life be accessible to students with disabilities. Students with disabilities should not be denied access to comparable housing or segregated from the general student population.

Angela and Academic Advising: A Case Study on Accessing Standard Campus Services


My name is Angela and I am a sophomore at a small suburban college. I use a wheelchair for mobility. I am planning on changing majors and need to work with an academic counselor to help plan my courses for spring quarter.

Access Issue

I went to a new academic counselor in the business department. I told him that I was seeking advice for my courses and future academic planning, but he said he was unable help me. He immediately referred me to the disabled student services (DSS) office.

Whom do I work with on campus to secure accessible venues for meetings and events?

Typically, counselors in a disabled student services office or campus Americans with Disabilities Act coordinators have the knowledge and expertise to assist with identifying the policies and procedures, as well as available campus resources, to ensure that students with disabilities have access to campus-sponsored events and meetings that are held on or off campus.