Graduate School Tip Sheet for students with disabilities

  1. Understand the regulations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; noting in particular that:
    • A disability is defined as “a 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."
    • Section 504 and the ADA mandate thatreasonable accommodation be made for students, faculty and staff with disabilities.  Programaccessibility means that all programs and activities "when viewed in their entirety" be accessible.
    • Pre-admission 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 persons with disabilities.
    • "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 flexibility in choosing the effective methods by which the aids will be supplied."
    • "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."
  2. Consider your disability-related needs regarding standard vs. nonstandard administration of graduate admissions tests.
  3. Make arrangements for nonstandard administration of standardized tests well in advance. Please note: although all tests are offered with a variety of accommodations, there are different guidelines for each testing service, and requirements for certification of disability may vary. For example, GRE certification for learning disabilities must be current within 5 years; the LSAT currency standard is 3 years.
  4. Make an informed decision about the issue of self-identification, consulting with graduate school disability services staff and current graduate students with disabilities. Information which could be included in a personal statement might consist of the following:
    • the history and treatment of your disability
    • how you have learned to meet different demands in light of your disability
    • disability-related needs regarding test-taking and other academic accommodations utilized at the postsecondary level
    • what skills you may have developed as a result of your disability
    • the relationship, if any, between your disability and your academic record
  5. To obtain information re: disability-related support services and academic policies and procedures, contact disability services staff and current students with disabilities at prospective graduate schools. Coordinator contacts may be obtained from ODS, the HEATH Resource Center (the online clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities) at ( or AHEAD (Association on Higher Education And Disability) at 704/947-7779 or (
  6. Discuss the issue of disability and your own decision-making regarding self-identification with all persons who will serve as references or will be writing letters of recommendation for you.    
  7. Use the BAID Network (Barnard Alumnae Involved with Disabilities) to obtain additional information about graduate/professional school information and career choices.
  8. Remember that postgraduate planning is a lengthy process.Plan ahead and start early.  Good luck!




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