Frequently Asked Questions

I. General Student Info

II. Campus & Facilities

III. Academic/Classroom

IV. Training, Awareness and Evaluation

V. Beyond Barnard


General Student Info

I have a chronic medical condition and have just registered with Disability Services.  Do you have any suggestions on self-identifying to my teachers?

Many students have found that an initial e-mail notification can provide a useful "door-opener" to a subsequent in-person disability discussion with each individual instructor.  Here is a sample outline:

Date: Fri 12 February 2010   11:24:50  -0400 (EDT)
From: **ODS student's name**
To: **names of all instructors for the term**
Cc: (Carolyn Corbran, Director of Disability Services)
Subject: Hello

Hello, my name   is __________________________ and I am in your class this term.  I am writing to inform you that I am registered with the Office of Disability Services and would like to come speak with you about my current situation and any accommodations that might be needed this semester.    I would like to arrange a time to meet with you briefly (we can schedule an appointment, or I can come by during office hours) to discuss my disability-related needs.  Please let me know of your availability to meet — and I have copied ODS Director Morgan Murray in case you have any questions.  Thank you very much.

email address
cell #

Any suggestions on how to be more specific on "Seizures 101" with my teachers?

Yes -- here is a personal tipsheet written by a student with a seizure disorder. This type of tipsheet could also be adapted for students with other kinds of flare-ups, too. Think about your own specific disability-related needs.

Telephone Number
Email Address

I have epilespy, with a history of partial-complex seizures. I take xx of Tegretol XR a day.

Emergency Contacts

Carolyn Corbran (or Assistant)
Office of Disability Services
008 Milbank Hall (@ Barnard)

Contact #3
Telephone Number

Contact #2
Telephone Number

Contact #4
Telephone Number

You will know I am having a seizure when:

  • I make a sort of guttural voice
  • my eyes roll back into my head
  • my head and arms begin to convulse; my legs/the rest of my body may also convulse (I probably won't flail wildly- the convulsions should be relatively mild.)

What should you do when I have a seizure:

  • I will fall, so it is best if I am lying down on the floor where I can't fall any lower. If possible, lie me down on the floor.
  • Clear away chairs or anything that I could hit with my flailing arms/body.
  • You do not need to insert anything in my mouth. Not even a wooden spoon. I promise I will not swallow my tongue.
  • The seizure should only last for 1-3 minutes, possibly less. You do not need to call an ambulance or CAVA unless the seizure lasts for 4-5 minutes or more.

After the seizure:

  • Call the disability office. Hopefully, someone from there will come and get me. Or, call my emergency contacts (above), and ask if they can come pick me up.
  • During the seizure, I will lose consciousness. When the seizure is over and I regain consciousness, I will be very confused.
  • I will not remember the seizure, where I am, who I am, who you are, etc. It will help if you tell me that I have just had a seizure, and where I am. (I will also not know my phone number, where I live, etc.) Just tell me what's going on simply. It would be especially nice if you tell me that "everything's going to be OK."
  • I may be unable to talk or move at first. If this is the case, I should be able to talk and move within 10-20 minutes.
  • Most likely, after a few minutes, I will be able to stand up and walk with help. If someone is willing, a student can take me outside of the classroom to wait for whoever can come to get me. It is best if someone stays with me. (I will not be completely with it/conscious. I have been known to wander around, climb stairs, walk into other buildings or the street, etc. after seizures.)
  • If no one is available to pick me up, then you can call CAVA or security or an ambulance (not all three). Otherwise, please do not call CAVA or an ambulance.

Do you have any thoughts on how I can cope with frequent flare-ups of my chronic illness?

We'd recommend a new book in the ODS Resource Collection written by M. Catherine Ray: I'm With You Now: A Guide Through Incurable Illness for Patients, Families and Friends. (Bantam Books, 1997).

We have found Chapter 5 to be particularly helpful -- it's called "Bad Days" (pp. 31-34)

  • Any person on this voyage -- either a patient or loved one -- can expect to have bad days. Emotions may shut down, anger may explode, simple tasks seem pointless or impossible, tears won't come, tears won't stop, lethargy or distraction sets in. Sometimes these days are full of angry passion. Other times, the world seems empty, flat -- there is barely enough energy to breathe.
  • Our emotions and reactions -- or lack of them -- sometimes surprise us even more than they surprise others. When this happens, our most helpful friends look us straight in the eye to state firmly, "You are not going crazy. You are not sinking."
  • Bad days arrive throughout the process. They do not go away as we grow more accustomed to this journey; they just change with the passing scenery.

      A few years ago, after my dad had been sick for several years, an unbelievable thing happened. I actually got two tickets to the Super Bowl. Good tickets, too -- nearly on the 50-yard line. My best friend and I got all settled into our seats and the opening hoopla began. All of a sudden, I felt this rush come over me and I started to bawl. I was thinking about Dad, and all the Super Bowls we'd watched on TV, dreaming how great it would be to see it live one day. And now I was actually there, in person, and he was the one who should have been next to me. But I couldn't even tell him about this -- he has Alzheimer's and he doesn't know me anymore. So here I am, this grown man, sitting on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl bawling my eyes out. And I'm not one of those quiche-eater guys who cries at the drop of a hat. I could feel people around me looking and wondering -- "What's with this guy?!?" I was mortified. But I just couldn't make myself stop sobbing. And it took me totally by surprise.

  • Other people sometimes don't know what to do with us when we are having our bad days. They say silly things like, "You have to pull yourself together." But why? To make them more comfortable? Remember, we are not about to drown, even if the people who love us imply that we are.
  • "Bad" days are actually good days, as the mind and body work to protect and prepare us. We shut down, we emote, we wallow in melancholy and think about the past, present, and future. Eventually, we find perspective and peace. We are healing -- taking this time for ourselves is helpful to us.
  • We must avoid feeling apologetic about our bad days. Instead, we ought to celebrate them. They are doing us a world of good. Rather than calling them bad days we ought to call them healing days.
  • Helpful friends understand that only we can make the rules about our healing days. No one else is able to tell us how to feel and act. And while well-intentioned friends may have creative ideas for how to "snap out of this" it is up to us to decide how to best spend our time -- even if that means sitting alone in a dark room, or listening to sad music until we're sobbing, or other behaviors that those around us view as strange or morose.

      "We've always had this family ritual," the wife of a cancer patient confided. 'We play music every morning while we get ready for work and school. One morning, my husband put on Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville. Well, that lasted about five minutes! 'Cry like a rainstorm' was exactly what I started to do. I changed the music, but it was too late. Everything just crumpled around me.

      "I told my husband I knew I wouldn't be in good shape that day -- it felt like too much of a struggle to try to put myself together. I didn't really want to feel better. I just felt like feeling bad. So, I stayed in bed all day. I took about three naps and cried the rest of the time in between.

      "Luckily, my husband knew to leave me alone. Oh, he checked on me every once in a while, but he didn't complicate things by fussing over me. And he never made me feel guilty for giving myself a pity party, even though he's the one who's sick! He just trusted me to take care of myself. In a day or two I was lots better. Even pretty refreshed."

  • There are few things more depressing than being with someone who insists on cheering you up. It adds unnecessary pressure. Explain this to anyone who tells you to "buck up." Kindly ask them to leave you alone until you have moved through the storm. And avoid these people when the next healing day arrives.
  • Healing days are just one tool -- mostly unconscious -- we use to keep emotional balance. When we feel a bad day coming on, we can either try to squelch it or indulge it. When possible, try to pick the place and limit the damage. It helps to remember we can control our healing days, rather than allowing them to control us.
  • We need to give ourselves permission to be self-indulgent when these days arrive. It is equally important to pay close attention. Make a conscious note of your specific feelings and physical reactions. Think about what you're doing to cope -- try to discover what seems to help and what doesn't. We need to move our self-indulgence beyond mere pampering; we gain wisdom when we can use these times to collect information about which methods to use when the next healing day arrives.
  • Try to view these peaks and valleys of passion as one of the gifts of the experience. There are not many moments in life when we can expect to feel things so profoundly, even if that feeling is profound emptiness. If possible, try to take the perspective of being fascinated by these emotions and reactions, even the scary, sad, and futile ones. Pay attention. Because remember...
  • We won't always feel this way.

What should I know about the Physical Education requirement?

Q. Can a student with a disability take another class as a make-up?

A. No. This is a general Physical Education policy for all students as class lists are set at the beginning of the term with no late or one-time admits permitted.

Q. As a student with a chronic illness, may I "bank" a make-up in the event of a possible/future flare-up of my condition?

A. In consultation with their instructors and on a case-by-case basis, students with disabilities may "bank" a class by participating in any of the make-up opportunities listed on the Physical Education website (e.g. volunteer at one of the two blood drives each semester.)

Q. Do you have any suggestions for particular classes that are disability-friendly?

A. Students with disabilities have found that certain courses are beneficial to their particular needs.

For example, the Wellness class addresses issues pertaining to mind/body/spirit and includes only three classes with mild-moderate levels of physical activity.

You should meet with the Chair of the Physical Education Department or the Director of Disability Services to discuss your specific situation.

Q. If I have a chronic illness and am experiencing a flare-up during class, what should I do?

A. This question falls under the overall attendance/lateness policy. If a student needs to sit out for a brief period (i.e. 5 min), she should speak to the professor and will likely be provided a time-out. However, if the period extends to 10-15 minutes or longer, the student will be referred to the Student Health Service for an immediate check-in. Once again, please be pro-active and discuss your needs in advance with your instructor if you anticipate a large number of flare-ups.

Do you have any suggestions for LD high school students?

Eleven suggestions regarding postsecondary options for high school students with learning disabilities:

  1. Understand the regulations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for disabled students in general, and for LD students in particular.
  2. Be able to explain your learning disability to others: your strengths and weaknesses, as well as successful strategies that you have used to compensate for your LD.
  3. Think about your non disability-related interests/considerations (e.g., career goals, choice of major, size and location of school) as well as your disability-related concerns when making decisions about schools.
  4. In selecting an appropriate "match" between student/school, determine "how much is enough" regarding your own need for support services:
    minimal support:            student adapts
    moderate support:         campus helps student adjust
    intensive support:          program is adapted to student
  5. Make an informed decision about the issue of self-identification, consulting with high school guidance counselors, college admissions and disability services staff, and LD students.
  6. Schedule on-campus admissions interviews, making additional appointments (well in advance) to speak with disability services staff members and current LD students.
  7. Obtain all regular publications about a desired school, as well as any materials specifically targeted to students with disabilities.
  8. Be clear on college policy regarding academic accommodations and LD: specific academic/course requirements and possible modifications; test accommodations; classroom concerns; etc.
  9. Obtain information about mainstream academic support services available to all students vs. specialized services available to LD students, noting funding sources.
  10. When using specialized college guides and other print resources, follow up with phone calls, in-person interviews, etc.
  11. Review a college's webpage for disability-related information: is it easy to find and accessible?

Useful resource: Unlocking Potential: College and other choices for learning disabled people - a step-by-step guide. Barbara Scheiber and Jeanne Talpers. Adler and Adler Publishers, 1987.

I am applying to graduate school and want some tips on how to determine if there will be disability-related support for me.  Any ideas?

Disability and Graduate School Questions to Ask:

  • Would you describe your program/school as "disability-friendly?"
  • Have you worked with students with my disability in the past, and what are the common accommodations provided?
  • What are your requirements for disability documentation?
  • What is the procedure for requesting disability-related accommodations?
  • Can you provide me with the name and e-mail address of a current student with a similar disability?

Although I do not have a diagnosed disability, I may be unable to hear the fire alarm in the residence halls for one or more of the following reasons: heavy sleeping, use of ear plugs, use of sleep medication.  What should I do?

Please refer to the Life Safety and Disability Information Sheet published by ODS, Residential Life and Housing, and Safety and Security in 12/07.

I am a Pre-College Student and need access to a microwave and a refrigerator due to food allergies. Any recommendations?

You are welcome to bring shelf-stable foods to store in your room (and ResLife recommends that you store all food in air-tight containers).

The Sulzberger lounges have access to microwaves for student use, but there are no refrigerators.  Students may arrange for small in-room refrigerator rental by contacting Collegiate Storage and Rental at 718-267-6484.  Feel free to call Colegiate and request that the fridge can be delivered directly to your room.

I am interested in serving as an ODS Accommodative Aide. Can you give me more information?

We take all types of student employees: paid, volunteer, Federal Work Study or Barnard College Job Award. As far as jobs go in ODS, we offer an Accommodative Aide position, in which you sign up to aide a student with a disability in many varieties. If you are trying to fulfill a Federal Work Study, it is worth noting that the weekly hours are not guaranteed, and are on a student-need basis. Therefore, it may not be the best option for you, but we would love for you to sign up if you are still interested. Please complete the Accommodative Aide Directory Form and mark the time slots when you are not available. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

My computer is temporarily out of order.  Does ODS have any loaner laptops or know where to find one?

The Office of Disability Services has loaner laptops.  An ODS loaner laptop can be borrowed for up to a week.  You will need to sign out the laptop in our Borrower's Book.

If the ODS laptop is unavailable or you are in need of one for longer than a week, there is a company called Computer Overhauls located on 7th Avenue between 30th and 31st.  For information on affordable pricing and types of laptops available, visit their website.

I am currently/have been a student with a disability registered with ODS and would like to ask either a member of the ODS staff for a letter of recommendation. Does ODS have a policy or procedure for such a request?

Yes — for an office that has a form, policy or tipsheet for just about any occasion — we of course have a response to this frequent query! On a case-by-case basis--ODS can write a *letter of reference* re: the fact that you are registered with ODS, what accommodations you have used, and in general, how you have responded in a pro-active way to your ongoing disability-related needs. If you have worked directly for ODS in some capacity (e.g. Commencement aide, notetaker, office assistant, tutor, etc.) — we may be able to write a *letter of recommendation* as we have direct and specific info re: your performance in the workplace. Please feel free to call ODS If you have any questions about this policy.


II. Campus & Facilities

What is the best wheelchair-accessible route to get from the main Barnard gates at 117th street and Broadway to the Liz's Place Cafe?

There are two routes you can take: The upper campus access route (weather permitting) and the tunnel route.

1. Tunnel route (preferred access route):

Enter the main Barnard gate and turn left at Barnard Hall, taking the south entrance which is ramped. Take either elevator to the basement/ground floor level and follow the tunnel route through Barnard Hall, Lehman, and into Diana LL1.  Take any of the two elevators to the lobby (1).

2. Upper campus access route:

Enter main Barnard gate and turn right. Follow brick sidewalk and then go onto the mid-campus path at the edge of the Lehman Lawn. Follow the mid-campus path to the Lehman sidewalk. The Diana Center is on the right.

I will be visiting your campus and may have some mobility access concerns. What might you suggest?


  1. Mobility aide:
    As part of our ODS Accommodative Aide Program, we have a directory of students who serve as both paid and volunteer aides working directly with SWD (students with disabilities).
  2. Rental of mobility aids:
    ODS has a walker and a manual wheelchair for loan @ no cost. A motorized scooter (very helpful for issues of mobility/energy/endurance) can be rented by the day ($100.), week ($150.) or month ($200.). We use Baker Surgical Supply, 722 Amsterdam Avenue at 95th Street (tel # 212/865-2284). The scooter can be delivered/picked-up directly to/from Barnard--and should be ordered at least one week in advance because it's a popular item at Baker!
  3. Access map of Barnard/Columbia
    Available in ODS--always useful so that a *no-step* access route can be planned in advance. As a part of our Access Barnard Commencement guide, we also have a listing of all of the wheelchair accessible restrooms on campus.

How can I obtain a commuter locker?

A commuter locker can be obtained by going to the Bursar (15 Milbank) and paying a fee of $3 and they will give you a receipt. This receipt should then be given to Facilities Services (105 Barnard Hall) who will then assign you a locker.

Lockers need to be renewed yearly and you will receive a letter in your locker when the time to renew arrives. However, the $3 fee is a one time fee.

What is the standard temperature in the residence halls?

According to Barnard Facilities Services, the average residence hall summer temperature is 72-78 degrees (F).  Heating and cooling guidelines state that when the outdoor temperature is below 55 degrees (F) the heat is turned on - usually around October 1st.  In the residence halls with air conditioning, May 1st is the standard turn-on date.

Must I be registered with ODS to apply for disability-related housing?

Yes. If you have not previously registered with ODS, you should do so when you apply for disability-related housing. All students requesting specialized housing consideration must follow the three-step procedure outlined in the Disability Housing Request Form. ODS often finds that when students come in to discuss their disability-related housing concerns that there may be other types of needs (especially for students with chronic illnesses) in which ODS registration might be helpful in the future.

I have a respiratory disability and need air-conditioning. What are my options?

Please refer to the air-conditioning info on the housing website, Living on Campus. The information is contained in the section titled "Where You Will Be Living." Air-conditioning is essentially a summer housing option--as the a/c is turned on *only* between mid-May and mid-September.

Is there a user-friendly ADA checklist for existing facilities that you would recommend?

The 504/ADA Access Committee launched the Access Advocates program in April 2009 and during the summer of 2009 committee members completed the ADA checklist for each Barnard building and residence hall. 

Developed in August 1995, the checklist is available from Barrier Free Environments, Inc. and the Institute for Human-Centered Design at


III. Academic/Classroom

How can faculty members be supportive of students with disabilities in the classroom?

Thinking of faculty, disabled students, and disability services staff as three points of a communications triangle is a useful strategy for dealing with classroom and/or test accommodations. Each of us has unique roles and responsibilities, and the key to effective accommodations is to ensure communication amongst us all. All faculty members at Barnard receive the A Faculty Guide to Barnard College which is published by the Provost's Office. The Guide provides a comprehensive array of useful information, including a section on Administering Course Work for Disabled Students:

"2. Administering Course Work for Disabled Students

In accordance with federal law, it is the College's policy to make reasonable accommodations to meet the needs of students with documented disabilities. Examples of accommodations which have customarily been requested and permitted include exam accommodations such as extended time or modified formats, readers, notetakers, and the use of tape recorders.

Students with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations are asked to self-identify and to discuss their needs with their instructor at the beginning of each semester. Students who need test-taking or other accommodations should, at the beginning of the semester, consult with their instructor and with the Office for Disability Services (ODS), utilizing the ODS Test Accommodation Form available in Room 105, Hewitt Hall.

All students with disabilities who are registered with ODS have been sent a copy of the College's policy in this matter. Faculty members who wish to receive a copy, or who have any questions may call x44634."

In addition, all faculty receive the Dear Colleague Letter at the beginning of the academic year. The letter encourages faculty to reach out to students with disabilities and discuss disability-related classroom and/or test accommodations with them. All ODS students are expected to self-identify their disabilities at the earliest part of the semester.

How do you recognize faculty and staff who have been particularly supportive of Barnard students with disabilities?

We have the DARAs: the Disability Access Recognition Awards.

What tips do you have for professors and others who are working with ASL (sign language) interpreters?

See this handout.

Handout provided by Janice B. Rimler, Janice B. Rimler, M.Ed. RID:CT, ASLTA:Professional Interpreter Representative, HANDS IN MOTION Professional Sign Language Interpreters.

I need a peer tutor this semester. Do you have any suggestions?

There are a number of ways to go about locating a tutor:

  1. Speak to your professor directly as s/he may know of students (usually junior and senior majors) who are interested in helping others; faculty may be available themselves during office hours or at other times on a case-by-case basis. (It never hurts to ask!) In addition, class TAs
  2. (teaching assistants) may be available for extra help outside of class.
  3. Meet with the Dean for Pre-Professions in the Dean of Studies Office in 105 Milbank. The Dean for Pre-Professionals is the supervisor for the Barnard Academic Fellows tutoring/help room program. Students should complete a Request Form--and will then be matched with a tutor. Tutors are usually attached to a particular class where they will work with small groups of 2-4 students. For more info, visit the Dean of Studies website and the link on academic support.
  4. Speak with the ODS staff about your needs and obtain a copy of the ODS Accommodative Aide Directory. Available to any student who is registered with ODS, the Directory includes contact info on students who are willing to serve in a variety of capacities working on a 1-1 basis with disabled students--including notetakers, tutors, mobility and personal aides, readers, typists, proofreaders, etc. ODS will cover the cost of two-hours/week of tutoring if the request is disability-related.
  5. Go visit the BC or CU departmental office related to your particular course--and speak with the departmental assistant about your needs. S/he may be able to send an email out to a list of ongoing junior/senior majors; create an email request and/or flyer for posting on the departmental bulletin board.
  6. Start your own study group! Speak to your professor and inquire as to whether you could distribute a sign-up sheet for your new study group. ODS is happy to provide you with a conference room space, should your group wish to book 009 Milbank.

I am a notetaker for Barnard ODS.  What is the difference between a Barnard and Columbia notetaker?

There are a few differences between being a Barnard versus being a Columbia notetaker, the biggest one being that the Barnard Notetaking program is solely on a volunteer basis, whereas Columbia notetakers receive payment. Also, Barnard has an Notetaker/Reader Application Form that is passed around the class for sign-up, usually at the beginning of the semester. Columbia ODS sends out emails to students in the class in which a notetaker is needed. We thank all our wonderful volunteer notetakers for assisting their peers!

IV. Training, Awareness and Evaluation

Have you developed any feedback/evaluation forms to be used with students with disabilities?

Yes, we have developed two instruments:  one for first-year LD students (11 questions) and another for all graduating seniors with disabilities (9 questions).   The LD feedback form is titled:  "LD First-Year Summary Interview," and is conducted via one-to-one interview format with all LD first-Year students at the end of their first-year at Barnard.  All graduating seniors with disabilities are invited to participate in the Senior Exit Interview Protocol, also completed via a one-to-one personal interview.

LD first-Year Summer Interview

  1. On a scale of 1-10 how was your first year at Barnard? (1=poor, 10=great)
  2. What were the highlights?
  3. What were the lowlights?
  4. How have you used ODS?
    Any additional things ODS could provide?
  5. What other offices have you worked with on campus?
  6. How have you used your advisor?
  7. What brings you happiness at BC?
    -job, internship
  8. What is next year’s program like?
  9. Do you anticipate needing an advance syllabus?
  10. Let’s review when you had your last evaluation and discuss whether you’ll be needing a new one in the next year or two.

Senior Exit Interview Protocol

Date of ODS Registration 

  1. What services have you received at ODS? (check all that apply):
    accommodative aide/s
    career/employment info
    classroom/academic accommodations
    resource collection
    test accommodations
  2. Are there any additional areas of service delivery which you would like to recommend?
  3. Are there any concerns/complaints re: services that you would like to share?
  4. Overall, please rate your satisfaction with ODS services:
    very satisfied satisfied somewhat satisfied not satisfied
  5. What are your plans post-Barnard? (grad school, travel, work/career path vs. non-career path) Would you like to join the BAID network?
  6. How has your disability influenced your future plans re: school/work?
  7. How do you plan to deal with your disability in graduate school and/or the workplace? Do you plan to self-identify? Do you anticipate using disability-related accommodations at school or work?
  8. For our brochure called "What We’ve Learned: Thoughts on Disability from Graduating Seniors to Entering Students at Barnard"—would you like to offer any ideas?
  9. Please use reverse side for any additional comments.

What kinds of disability awareness training do you provide to campus security personnel?

As part of a one-hour workshop on disability issues, we designed the following "Access Scavenger Hunt" which addresses a variety of disability and access-related issues and includes both Barnard and Columbia campuses. Since security personnel are often the first college staff members that campus visitors -- disabled as well as nondisabled -- may encounter, it is imperative that they be familiar with campus access issues, along with the resources provided by Disability Services.

Access Scavenger Hunt

  1. You are standing in front of the Diana and strike up a conversation with a new acquaintance. The two of you decide to continue your conversation over herbal tea in Liz's Place. Your friend is a wheelchair user. How do you get to Lower Level Diana?
  2. After you've finished with tea, your friend asks where the closest wheelchair-accessible women's restroom is. Can you direct her?
  3. Your friend (a Columbia student as it turns out) remembers that she had told a deaf friend that she would call her with some information about this weekend's Bill Clinton rally. She asks you if there's a TDD that she could borrow or use to make a phone call. Is there one available on the Barnard campus?
  4. After making the TDD call, the two of you decide to go to the reserve room of the Wolman Library in Lehman Hall. The reserve room is on the first floor, but since you're already on the ground floor level, you decide to take the tunnel. Can you and your friend get to the reserve room from the tunnel level?
  5. After studying for several hours you decide to go to a lecture over on the Columbia campus in Earl Hall -- but first you need to stop by Barnard Hall to pick up an envelope at the security desk on the first floor. From the first floor of Lehman, what is the most direct route for the two of you to take?
  6. You cross Broadway and proceed across college walk to the Low Library steps. How can the two of you get to Earl Hall from here?
  7. You reach the front of Earl Hall and see many steps in front of you. Your lecture is in the Schiff Room on the first floor. How can you both attend the lecture?
  8. The lecture worked up your energy level so you decide to work it off by doing some weight-lifting at the Columbia gym. How do you get to the Dodge Fitness Center?
  9. Now you are both exhausted but starving so you decide to grab something to eat at John Jay Lodge. How do you get there?
  10. You are both fit and fed and it's time to hit the books back at Barnard. Rather than go back to your room where you know you'll procrastinate, you both decide to study in Brooks Living Room. What is the most direct route for you to take?

Have you developed a basic Section 504/ADA quiz that I could use in awareness training sessions?

Yes! Try the following:

  1. True or False Section 504 states that there can be no discrimination on the basis of disability* ('handicap') in any program receiving federal financial assistance.
  2. rue or False The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided on the basis of face, sex, national origin and religion under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  3. True or False The federal definition of disability is any physical or mental impairment that substantially impairs or restricts one or more major life activities such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, learning and working.
  4. True or False The legal standard for providing access/accommodations under Section 504 is known as maximum accommodation.
  5. True or False Preadmission inquiries about an applicant's disability are strictly prohibited, except when institutions are taking steps to correct past discrimination or to correct conditions which may have led to limited participation by person with disabilities.
  6. True or False Programs and activities which must be operated in a nondiscriminatory manner include (but are not limited to): recruitment, admission, academic programs, research, occupational training, housing, health insurance, counseling, financial aid, physical education, athletics, recreation and transportation.
  7. True or False Students with impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills must be provided with auxiliary aids such as taped texts, interpreters, readers and classroom equipment adapted for persons with manual impairments. The institution has the flexibility in choosing the effective methods by which the aids will be supplied.
  8. True or False Academic requirements must be modified on a case-by-case basis, to afford qualified disabled students and applicants an equal educational opportunity. However, academic requirements that the institution can demonstrate are essential will not be regarded as discriminatory.
  9. True or False All programs and activities must be offered in the most integrated setting appropriate.
  10. A three-part question!

a. True or False

Institutions must provide access to all existing services.

b. True or False

Institutions may charge separate fees for very specialized services not routinely offered to all students.

c. True or False

Costs of sign language interpreters are the responsibility of the institution.

Any suggestions for putting together a student panel for our campus disability awareness day?

We have sponsored a number of brown-bag "Dialogues on Disability" and find that a disabled student panel can be an excellent way of providing ongoing disability awareness.  Make sure that you have a diverse panel, including students with both congenital and acquired disabilities--as well as students with both visible (mobility, vision, hearing) and hidden (LD, chronic illness, psychiatric disability, etc.) disabilities.

Questions for student panel: postsecondary and beyond

  1. Tell us who you are, where you're from, your class and major (undergraduate/graduate school), and when you were first diagnosed with a disability.
  2. When it was time for you to consider college, graduate school, and/or the world of work, did your disability have any impact on your decision-making process? Did you receive any help in finding schools that provided services to students with disabilities? Were you encouraged or discouraged to attend specific schools because of your disability? If you are a transfer, did disability in any way affect your decision to change schools?
  3. What are the biggest obstacles and disadvantages that you face because of your disability? How does your disability affect you: academically... including degree requirements...socially... with respect to your extracurricular activities?
  4. We've talked of the disadvantages of having a disability. Are there any advantages?
  5. Have you experienced bias or discrimination on the basis of your disability in either college, graduate school or the world of work?
  6. How have you utilized the services of the Office of Disability Services with respect to your disability?
  7. Do you see any value in awareness training sessions for various members of your school/work community?
  8. Are there additional things that need to be done at your school or workplace to make them both programmatically or attitudinally more accessible?
  9. Are there specific suggestions that you would like to make to faculty members, administrators, students, employers or parents to help them become more aware of the needs of students with disabilities?

Do you see any value in the use of simulation activities to promote disability awareness?

The most direct way to enhance disability awareness and sensitivity is to provide many opportunities for "culture contact" between students with both visible and hidden disabilities and members of the larger campus community. There has been much debate within the field of disability services regarding the use of simulation activities and the positive and (potentially) negative impact of such activities. Two excellent articles on the subject can be found in the archives of AHEAD, the Association on Higher Education and Disability, originally published in 1984.

The Trouble with Simulation (reprinted with AHEAD permission from AHSSPPE Bulletin,Vol. 2, No. 3, Summer 1984)

by Charles E. Hallenbeck, Ph.D., Director, Rehabilitation Psychology Subspecialty, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045.

There was a practice in Victorian England, popular among the gentry, called "poor-peopling on Wednesday afternoons." It was a practice about which Charles Dickens wrote most eloquently. It did very little for the "poor people," but it was very rewarding for the gentry who practiced it.

I was reminded of that practice recently, when a friend telephoned to read me an item from the local paper. The 28th annual program of the Kansas Association For Retarded Citizens had just been held in Lawrence, and one of its features caught the attention of a reporter. The article, entitled "Group Gets Feel of Handicaps," told of a workshop in which a dozen people participated.

According to the article, "first they were blind, then mute, then they lost the ability to speak and write properly." They completed the workshop "knowing they would not be handicapped when the 2 hours were over" (a remarkable guarantee), "and for some, the most common feeling afterward was relief, because the handicaps they experienced were only temporary." The article went on to say that "even in the artificial setting (of simulated disabilities), participants experienced very real fear, anger, and frustration, often felt by the handicapped." Participants reported that because of their simulated handicaps, their priorities had changed. "Instead of being concerned with the quality of their work," they said, "they were primarily concerned with just finishing it."

My friend knew that the article would concern me, as it did her. As a psychologist and a blind person, I have been a critic of the practice of simulating blindness, as in the so-called "trust-walk" popular on many college campuses. With no training in the alternative techniques of blindness, persons who wear blindfolds are forced to "trust" in the help of others with unobstructed vision. This practice usually strengthens the misconception most people have about being blind. In fact, the trust walk is designed to teach sighted people about dependence and not about blindness. The trust walk is one of the standard techniques of human relations training, where it has only an accidental connection with blindness or blind persons. If, in the process of learning about dependence and trust, harmful attitudes about blindness are reinforced, that is often regarded as a "cost" well worth the "benefit" of the practice. The Helping Hand Strikes Again!

The article in our local paper convinced me once again that there is a great deal of mischief being created by those charged with the task of providing services to others. In expressing this opinion, I run the risk of revealing the "fear, anger, and frustration" the experts tell us is characteristic of the "handicapped." However, with unemployment among adult blind persons of working age still running at 70%, statements such as those concerning the quality of work by the blind must be challenged. I hope that even if I had the X-ray vision of Clark Kent, I would still experience the fear, anger, and frustration that this practice deserves.

I believe that with the proper training in the alternative techniques of blindness, and given a fair opportunity to compete, the blind can function independently as equals in this sighted society. Blindness can be reduced to an inconvenience or nuisance and need not be carried around as a crushing burden to turn life into tragedy and failure. I believe in myself, and look upon my blindness as just another characteristic, much like being from New York or weighing 160 lbs. I manage to lead a productive and gratifying life in spite of my weight, my place of birth, and my blindness.

How then shall sighted people learn about blindness, if not by putting on blindfolds and frightening themselves? That is easy. Get to know someone who is blind. Say hello to the next blind person you encounter on the street, without asking him or her if you can be of help. The blind are not constantly in need of help. Read about the organized blind movement. It has been on the national scene since 1940, and provides a clear voice on matters affecting the blind. There is no need to be afraid or to play parlor games. White persons do not learn about black persons or the civil rights movement by simulating blacks, nor do men learn about women or the women's movement by simulating women. The real trouble with simulation is that it only teaches one what one already knows, and it prevents one from learning anything new. Shall we stand in front of a mirror and marvel at ourselves, or in front of an open window and learn what it is like out there?

Disability Simulations Revisited (reprinted with AHEAD permission from AHSSPPE Bulletin,Vol. 2, No. 4, Fall 1984)

by Jane E. Jarrow, Ph.D., Executive Director, AHSSPPE, P.O. Box 21192, Columbus, OH 43221.

I felt compelled to write this position paper after reading Dr. Hallenbeck's condemnation of simulation exercises as a means of teaching nonhandicapped people about disability (AHSSPPE,Summer, 1984). All of Dr. Hallenbeck's concerns may be justifiable, but as a strong advocate of the use of simulation I think there is another set of possible outcomes to consider.

If the simulation of a given handicap is too brief, it may, indeed, leave the individual fearful, frustrated, and left with that "if-it-was-me-I-couldn't-cope" attitude. I think simulation activities ought to be structured to give the participant a chance to get past the initial shock of not being able to do something -- walk, see, hear, etc. -- and on to exploring what can be done. In my own experience, largely in workshops for college faculty, I find that participants will quickly begin to develop (at least to seek out) compensation strategies. How much time is needed will vary with the task presented, but I like to wait until we are past the "good grief, I can't handle this" and on to the "how-can-I-beat-the-system" stage. Surely, that is what is really important -- not the disability, but the coping. As someone (Cole Porter?) once said, "you've got to accentuate the positive!"

I always structure simulation tasks to be done twice, once with the functional limitations imposed and a second time with the same limitations but with appropriate accommodations provided. In this way, the last thing participants experience is the successful completion of the task regardless of the limitation, rather than the anxiety of being unable to perform. Moreover, I think simulation exercises should always be followed by a de-briefing. Talk about experiences, feelings, etc. Then, if by chance one participant failed to recognize the appropriate coping strategies, someone else in the group can bring them up!

Dr. Hallenbeck proposes to substitute personal interactions with handicapped folks for simulation exercises. I know of no better technique for changing attitudes than such interaction IF it is available and IF it is positive. The first problem in such a program of awareness training is that, human nature being what it is, some of the folks you most want to reach may find one-to-one interaction too threatening to even attempt until they have some objective information about disability and what to expect from a handicapped individual. Then, too, if ALL awareness training is left to personal contacts, you had better cross your fingers that the handicapped folks with whom initial contacts are made are good models for all the things you want that "novice" to learn. Stereotyping is NEVER appropriate, but it happens; its most common underlying cause is lack of information. If you have only met one handicapped person in your life, you are likely to assume that all disabled people have the same skills, abilities, interactional patterns, etc. If the only handicapped person you'd ever met was Helen Keller or Beethoven that wouldn't be too bad (though you would have some very unrealistic expectations for future acquaintances!); on the other hand, if your only contact was with Captain Hook or a bedraggled street beggar selling pencils, it is likely that you would form some very different (and not very pleasant) perceptions. The only way to combat such prejudice (and the restricted freedom and opportunities that it engenders for the disabled population) is through education. I believe everything we teach about disability and disabled people should emphasize similarities, not differences, with able-bodied people. In my experience, simulation exercises can serve this goal admirably when presented appropriately and used judiciously.

A college administrator I know has a sign hanging above his desk which reads:


"In a bureaucracy, the way to manage
is to make YOUR problem THEIR problem!"

I think simulation experiences can be a useful means of achieving that end.

V. Beyond Barnard

How can I make a telephone call to a person who is deaf?

You should dial 711 which will connect you to a Teletypewriter (TTY) Relay Service, which all states have as a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some people who are deaf have a TTY which allows the user to type his/her telephone conversations to the other TTY user. However, if you do not have a TTY, a relay service will enable you to speak through an operator who will read you the responses from a TTY user and type and send your message to the TTY user. Just dial 711 and follow the prompts. There may be a short waiting time and some beeps.  Stay on the line and an operator will pick up.
It is toll free to call 711 but you will be billed your standard rate for the call itself. 
For more information on telephone services for people with disabilities please visit: