Frequently Asked Questions
General | Prospective Students | Current Students | Faculty & Staff | Parents | Clinicians | Assistive Technology
Where can I get information regarding services for students with disabilities?
Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) is an area of the Office of the Dean of Students and is located in Room 4.104 of the Student Services Building. SSD works with students with hearing impairments, visual impairments, learning disabilities, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, mobility impairments, psychological disorders, medical conditions and other health-related impairments. You can call SSD at 471-6259 (voice) or 1-866-329-3986 (VP) for additional information.
What constitutes a disability?
As defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a disability is a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.
What does substantially limiting mean?
According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, substantially limits is defined as being unable to perform a major life activity (i.e. caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working), or significantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which a major life activity can be performed, in comparison to the average person or most people.
Who are the ADA Coordinator and Section 504 Coordinator for The University?
The ADA Coordinator and Section 504 Coordinator is Linda Millstone, Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Workforce Diversity, (512) 471-1849.
What is the process for registering as a student with a disability with SSD?
A student who believes he or she has a disability should contact SSD at 471-6259 (voice), 1-866-329-3986 (VP), to schedule an appointment to meet with a disability services coordinator. Documentation of the disability must be submitted at least 24 hours in advance of the appointment. Documentation guidelines are available.
In high school I received accommodations through an Individualized Education Plan (or a 504 plan). Can I use the IEP (or 504 plan) as documentation of my disability?
No. The IEP is a valuable resource of information, but it cannot be used as documentation of the disability. Likewise, a Section 504 designation in high school does not constitute acceptable documentation for higher education.
What if I suspect I may have a disability but have never been diagnosed?
A student who thinks he or she may have a disability should contact SSD to schedule an appointment to discuss his or her individual situation. SSD can provide information and referrals to help a student seek an assessment.
Is SSD involved with the admissions process?
No, SSD is not a participant in the admissions process. All students must be "otherwise qualified" to attend The University and must meet the same admissions standards, regardless of disability.
I have a disability that affected my grades. Should I disclose this during the admissions process?
The decision to disclose a disability or not during the admissions process is a personal one for each student. If admission has been denied, a student is typically encouraged to write a letter of explanation or appeal detailing the student's academic record. This letter should be sent to the Admissions Office.
Is the entire campus at UT-Austin fully accessible to students with disabilities?
Most of the buildings and facilities at UT are accessible. The University offers accessible housing for students in Jester Center, San Jacinto Hall, Moore-Hill Dormitory and Kinsolving Dormitory. The campus is large in size and does have hills. This is an old, historic campus but the majority of buildings and open areas are accessible. This continues to be a work in progress. All programs are accessible to students with disabilities. A Campus Accessibility Map is available online or you can contact SSD at 471-6259 (voice) or 1-866-329-3986 (VP) to request a paper copy.
Are shuttle buses and other public transportation services accessible to students with disabilities?
Yes, the campus shuttle bus system is wheelchair accessible and all students are eligible to ride. Special Transit Services are provided by Capital Metro with the City of Austin. Arrangements must be made at least 24 hours in advance. To use this service, a student must apply with Capital Metro by calling 389-7435.
Does SSD have special transportation that can take me from place to place on campus?
No, SSD does not have special transportation to take a student from place to place on campus. The campus shuttle system is wheelchair accessible and all students are eligible to ride.
I am on crutches for a temporary injury. Can I get a special parking permit?
Temporary disabled parking permits for students can be obtained at Parking and Transportation Services. Call 471-7275 for more information.
I have a temporary injury to my arm/hand. How can I take my tests?
If a student believes assistance is necessary, he or she should contact SSD to discuss what resources may be available on a temporary basis.
I need a sign language interpreter. Where do I request interpreter services?
A student with a hearing impairment who registers with SSD may be eligible for interpreter services. Contact SSD at 471-6259 (voice) or 1-866-329-3986 (VP) to make an appointment or request an interpreter from the Interpreter Coordinator. Faculty, staff or members of the general public who would like to request an interpreter for a University-sponsored event, class or meeting should contact the department sponsoring the event to request the interpreter. You may refer the department to the Interpreter Coordinator for further information.
Is there a courtesy office for DARS-Blind Services on campus?
Yes, the DARS-Blind Services office on campus is in the Flawn Academic Center (FAC) Room 7 and may be contacted at (512) 471-6693.
What should I do if I have been diagnosed with a disability and need accommodations?
All students admitted to the University and seeking accommodations at the University must submit documentation of their disability to SSD. Please note that disability-related documentation sent to the Office of Admissions is not automatically forwarded to SSD and documentation must be sent specifically to SSD. Reports can be mailed or faxed to SSD at the following address:
Services for Students with Disabilities
The University of Texas at Austin
Office of the Dean of Students
1 University Station Stop A5800
Austin, TX 78712
Fax: 512 475-7730
All documentation received is considered pending until students complete an initial intake appointment. Intakes can be scheduled by calling the SSD front desk at 512 471-6259. During the intake, students meet with a student affairs administrator familiar with their disability and review their documentation, history of accommodations, and whether additional information is required. Once a student's file is complete (i.e., all appropriate documentation is received), the file is considered in Active status and students are eligible for accommodations at the University.
Will I have the same accommodations I had in high school?
Not necessarily. The goal of accommodations in higher education is to promote equal access and opportunity. Thus, accommodation decisions are made on a case-by-case basis with reference to specific functional limitations. As an example, not all students with learning disabilities will receive extra time on tests. Similarly, students who used extended time in high school, but whose scores do not support a clear need for this currently, will likely not be granted this accommodation at the University. Conversely, other accommodations that were not used in the secondary school environment (e.g., notetaking) may be appropriate in college.
I have a learning disability and was last tested when I was a freshman in high school. Do I need to get tested again?
Most likely. Accommodation decisions are based on one's current functioning, which means that documentation must reflect the current nature of one's difficulties. While it is recognized that most students do not outgrow their disabilities, their needs may change over time. Thus, a current assessment using adult-normed tests is essential in order to determine what accommodations are most appropriate.
I was last evaluated as a senior for my learning disability. Will I have to continue to be re-evaluated every three years while I am at UT?
Generally not. Once your file is placed in Active status by SSD staff, it will remain active during your time at the University. The exception to this is for students who have disabilities, which wax and wane over time, those with temporary conditions, or students who leave the University for an extended period of time and then return to the University. Your student affairs administrator will let you know if you fall into any of these categories and work out a plan for you for being re-evaluated. It is also important to note that many graduate programs and testing boards (e.g., LSAC, ETS, MCAT, ETS) require that documentation be within three years of the date of admission or test administration; therefore, updated testing may be necessary if you plan to use accommodations on graduate admissions exams or in graduate school.
How do I register with SSD?
You register with SSD by submitting documentation of your disability, completing an intake interview with a student affairs administrator, and completing an Acceptance of Services and accommodation request form. Accommodation request forms must be completed every semester in order to access accommodations. See "How to Register with SSD" for more information.
Who will know I have a disability and use accommodations?
SSD values confidentiality and your disability documentation is not considered part of your academic record. When you use accommodations in the classroom, professors will know (via letter that you deliver) that you are registered with SSD, but will not be informed of your diagnosis or manifestations of your disability without your consent. In general, information about your disability cannot be released without your written permission except by court order or otherwise mandated by law. It is a good idea to speak with your student affairs administrator about the limits of confidentiality and possible situations in which it may be appropriate to release information.
Will my transcript reflect that I have received accommodations in my classes?
No. Your disability information is considered confidential (see above) and is not included on your transcript.
Is there a separate admissions process for students with disabilities?
No. Students with disabilities are expected to meet the same admissions criteria as all other students. It is up to the student whether he/she wants to self-identify during the admissions process as having a disability. Please note that disability-related documentation sent to the Office of Admissions is not automatically forwarded to SSD.
How can I get to know other students with disabilities?
You may want to participate in SSD activities such as a support group, which functions as a resource for students with disabilities on campus. Other opportunities, such as serving on various University committees, may also be available. You can speak with your student affairs administrator about these options. However, SSD does not share information about students with other students without written consent from the student about whom information is to be shared. If you would like us to give your name as a resource to other students, we are happy to do so with your permission.
How are professors informed of my need for accommodations? Will they know my diagnosis?
Professors are informed of a student's need for accommodations by letters, which are delivered by the student. Students currently registered with SSD complete an Accommodation Letter request form each semester. Letters are then prepared for each class in which accommodations are requested. The letters are addressed to individual instructors. The instructor is informed through the letter that the student is registered with SSD and what accommodations that student is eligible to use. As noted above, diagnoses and/or specific information about the student's disability are not included.
How much do SSD services cost?
There is no cost to the student for SSD services.
How do I register with SSD?
Students with disabilities are eligible to register with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in the Office of the Dean of Students. Students seeking accommodations must submit documentation of their disability. The first step is to schedule an intake appointment by calling 512 471-6259. Documentation should be submitted at least 24 hours in advance of this meeting and can be mailed or faxed to the following address:
Services for Students with Disabilities
The University of Texas at Austin
Office of the Dean of Students
1 University Station Stop A5800
Austin, TX 78712
Fax: 512 475-7730
All documentation is kept confidential and considered pending until completion of the intake interview. The intake interview involves the student meeting with an appropriate disability specialist who will review the student's documentation, history of accommodations and determine whether additional information is required. After the intake interview, all appropriate documentation has been received, and completion of the Acceptance of Services form, students are eligible for accommodations.
How do I find out what accommodations I am eligible for?
Once your documentation is complete, you and your student affairs administrator will discuss appropriate accommodations. These will also be listed on your Acceptance of Services Form.
Who has access to my records?
Only you and SSD staff have access to your records. Disability documentation and specific information about your disability (including diagnosis) is not released without your written permission unless mandated by law. (See Confidentiality.)
I am nervous about talking to my professors. How should I approach them about my need for accommodations?
SSD strongly encourages students to meet with professors during office hours and/or to arrange an alternate meeting time so that there is sufficient time to discuss the accommodation letter and how your accommodation needs should be met in his/her class. Most faculty are familiar with the accommodation process and should be encouraged to call SSD if they have questions. Meeting with faculty face-to-face is essential in order to work out logistical details related to specific requests (e.g., where to take an exam if you need a reduced distraction environment). Meeting during office hours versus immediately before, during, or after class allows for more privacy and opportunity to discuss details.
I spoke with my professor during the first week of class about my accommodations and then reminded him five days before the exam. However, during the test, he said I could not have the extended time for which I was approved. What do I do?
While it is not anticipated that this type of difficulty will occur, if you do have problems with a professor providing appropriate and agreed upon accommodations, you should contact your SSD student affairs administrator or the assistant dean. He/she will attempt to resolve the issue by making contact with the faculty member and/or other relevant parties as necessary. See the section on the Grievance Procedure for more information.
How do I get notes in my classes?
Students who need assistance taking notes in class may request notetaking supplies. SSD will provide students with no-carbon-required (NCR) paper for this purpose. SSD does not provide or pay for notetakers. Students receiving notetaking assistance should follow these steps:
- Ask a class peer to assist in notetaking and provide that classmate with the NCR paper. Students may also ask the instructor to solicit volunteer notetakers.
- Attend class. If absent, the student will need to make arrangements for missed assignments and notes as any other student would.
- At the end of class, one student takes the top sheet and one takes the bottom sheet.
Can I get a course substitution?
Essential degree requirements cannot be substituted. Peripheral degree requirements may sometimes be substituted when appropriate. Students who are interested in seeking a course substitution should contact the appropriate Student Dean in their college or school to determine its policies and procedures related to substitutions. In addition, students are encouraged to meet with their assigned student affairs administrator in SSD to discuss the process involved with getting an SSD recommendation for a substitution. Any student considering making a substitution request should begin the process far in advance of anticipated graduation since the process can be lengthy. It should be noted that the College of Liberal Arts has determined that all courses required for a degree are essential and cannot be substituted.
What should I do if I think I have a disability, but have never been tested?
An appropriate first step would be to make an intake appointment with an SSD student affairs administrator in order to more thoroughly discuss the difficulties you have been having. Based on your history, that individual should be able to refer you to the most appropriate resource. SSD does not conduct testing for learning or communication disorders, attention disorders, and/or psychological functioning; however, if such testing seems appropriate, we can refer you to clinicians who conduct such services in the community.
What happens if I leave the University and then come back? Do I need to bring new documentation?
It depends. Once registered for services, students' files will remain active throughout their continuous enrollment at UT, unless other arrangements or timelines have been discussed. The files of students who leave the University will be placed on inactive status. It is important to know that prior approval for accommodations does not mean that students will be automatically approved for similar accommodations when they return. Students who return to the University after being absent for one or more long semesters will be asked to meet with the appropriate SSD administrator in order to re-activate their files. Students may be asked to present new documentation depending on factors such as the length of time away from the University, date of original documentation, nature of the disability, and the original date through which accommodations were approved.
How long do you keep my records?
Files will be stored for five years from the date they are designated as inactive.
Faculty & Staff:
I just received an accommodation letter from a student. What should I do?
Students are encouraged to meet with faculty members individually to discuss the recommended accommodations. The purpose of this meeting is to work out details related to the provision of accommodations by discussing how they should be implemented (e.g., for extended test taking time- when the student should take the exam, etc.). Any agreed upon changes in the accommodations approved should be shared with SSD. Any questions regarding how to implement or the appropriateness of specific accommodation requests should be directed to SSD.
I am concerned that the requested accommodation changes the nature of my course. What do I do?
Contact SSD as soon as possible to discuss your concerns. You will be directed to the student affairs administrator working with the student requesting the accommodation and/or to the assistant dean for the area. SSD staff are available to meet with faculty and students to discuss feasible alternatives.
Do I need to change my grading standards for students with disabilities?
No. The goal of accommodations in higher education is to provide students with disabilities with equal access and opportunity, not to provide an unfair advantage. In general, students with disabilities should be held to the same requirements as other students, although accommodations may alter how these requirements are met (e.g., provide more time to complete a test; allow tests to be taken in an alternate format). If you have any questions about a specific situation, please do not hesitate to call SSD.
A student presented me with an accommodation letter requesting extended test-taking time five minutes before the exam. This is the first I have heard of this request from this student. What should I do?
Students are encouraged by SSD staff to be timely in their requests, present accommodation letters at the beginning of the semester, and remind faculty of their need for accommodations five days before an exam. In this situation, if you are able, provide the extended time, but remind the student that he/she needs to work out arrangements with you prior to the next exam. If you do not have time or space available, let the student know this, and contact SSD as soon as possible.
I have several students with approved requests for extended test time and a reduced distraction environment. I don't have the space or time to offer this.
In general, it is the faculty's responsibility to provide time and space for exams. The University of Texas does not have a testing center to provide testing for all students using accommodations. However, if you are having difficulty, please contact SSD to discuss possible arrangements. SSD generally is able to provide space for students requiring test scribes, proctors, readers, and/or assistive technology.
There is a student in my class who I think has a disability. How do I refer them to SSD?
This can often be a sensitive topic and it is important to be attuned to the student's needs. For students who continue to struggle despite what appears to be their best effort, you may simply want to recommend they contact SSD as a means of finding out if there are resources (e.g., academic support or enrichment services, tutoring) that are available to help them. During an initial interview, SSD staff can then determine whether an additional referral for testing is recommended. It is not advisable to say such things as "I think you have a learning (or other) disability." Typically, the best approach is to be supportive, discreet, and non-directive, such as simply informing the student of the existence of SSD and services that are available in the Dean of Students Office.
Will I still be able to be as involved in my student's accommodation plan as I was in high school?
Likely not. Once a student is 18 years old and in college, they are generally considered an adult, and all services provided by SSD are considered confidential. This means that they cannot be discussed without the student's written permission. If you are concerned about your student's accommodations, you are welcome to let us know and we can determine whether it is appropriate to contact the student and/or have you encourage him/her to contact SSD. We always welcome comments and suggestions.
Will you automatically know if my student is having difficulty in his/her classes?
No. Unlike teachers and counselors in high school, we are unable to track student's progress in every class. While we are happy to assist them when they are having difficulty, we leave it up to the student to request such intervention. As a parent, the best thing you can do is to encourage your son/daughter to maintain contact with SSD before problems arise. However, be aware that some students prefer to go about the process on their own.
We can't afford to have our student re-evaluated. Are there any other resources?
If your son/daughter is covered on a parent's insurance plan, the insurance may cover a portion of the testing. However, individual plans vary. Contact your insurance company to determine if any psychoeducational evaluation is covered.
In addition, you may contact your local Department of Rehabilitative Services (DARS) office to determine if your son/daughter is eligible for services through DARS-Rehabilitative Services. If so, DARS may assist with an updated evaluation to determine appropriate vocational goals.
SSD also has information pertaining to financial assistance and a referral list of local providers in several communities around Texas. Some providers may operate on a sliding scale basis and you may contact various providers to ask if they will consider determining fees on a sliding scale or accept a payment plan.
Student Financial Services may be able to help with loans or scholarships that help offset the cost of testing. Contact SSD for more information about these options.
Is a copy of my student's 504 plan sufficient to establish accommodations?
No. SSD requires a copy of the most recent diagnostic report with specific recommendations. Please refer to the documentation guidelines.
My student has trouble with organization and time management. I am worried about him being able to get to class on time. Will your office make sure he does?
No. This is the student's responsibility, but we are happy to provide him with resources and information regarding time management and other issues.
I have reviewed your guidelines for documentation and test protocols for learning disabilities. Do I have to give every test on the list?
No. The guidelines are intended to be just that- guidelines. Clinicians should use their professional judgment, given their knowledge of the student, of what tests are appropriate to administer. That being said, for most learning disabilities, assessment of certain domains are considered essential (e.g., aptitude, achievement, information processing), and certain tests are thought to be more comprehensive than others. For example, the Kaufman Brief Intelligence test (KBIT) is considered more appropriate as a supplemental or screening tool and generally not sufficient as the sole measure of intellectual ability.
I don't understand why the student I evaluated was told her documentation was not sufficient to warrant accommodations in college. She was able to utilize accommodations in high school. What is the difference?
The purpose of accommodations is different in college than it is in high school, in part because of differences in law. It may be helpful to review "Making the Transition to UT" for more information on these differences.
Can the university help with the cost of the assessment?
No. The University does not have funds to cover the cost of assessments, but financial aid may be able to defer the cost for some students.
How do I get books on tape or material in an alternative format?
Students should turn in requests for books on tape and alternative materials as soon as they have registered for their classes for the next semester and/or are aware of their required textbooks/course material in order to give SSD time to locate electronic books or books on tape.
Why does SSD have to remove the binding from my text books?
When a book is not available in electronic format or on tape through Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, SSD must remove the binding in order to scan the material using a sheet fed scanner. SSD does not use a flatbed scanner when converting material, but one is available for student use in the Assistive Technology Lab.
What are the hours of the Assistive Technology Lab?
The hours vary each semester. You may contact SSD at 471-6259 for lab hours each semester.
What equipment is available in the Assistive Technology Lab?
The Assistive Technology Lab (ATEC) is equiped with:
- 3 PC stations that include JAWS, Zoom Text, Kurzweil 3000, Text Aloud, Dragon Naturally Speaking, Internet/E-mail access, CD-RW drives, headphones, arm rests, one station with an enlarged keyboard, one station with wireless keyboard and mouse and standard Microsoft software
- Macintosh G4 station with standard software, Internet/E-mail access and an external Zip Drive
- CCTV for enlarging text or written material
- Four Track tape recorder/player
- Flatbed Scanner
- HP laser printer
How do I schedule a test at SSD?
At least five (5) days prior to the date you would like to take your test, turn in the SSD Testing Information Form. This form requires that you make appropriate arrangements with your instructor before you contact SSD. Once the Testing Information Form has been completed and appropriate arrangements made with instructor, return the form to SSD. Your test will be scheduled as close to the time you've requested, depending on space and proctor availability.
How do I get a copy of the SSD Testing Information Form?
You may download the form from our "Downloadable Forms" page or come by SSD and pick up a copy.