Academic Accommodations Request: Disclosing a Disability Effective January 2003
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and require the University to make accommodations for those otherwise qualified individuals with a disability who request accommodations. An academic accommodation is a modification or adjustment that allows an individual to gain equal access and have equal opportunity to participate in the University's courses, services, activities and use of the facilities.
The University is not obligated to provide an accommodation that requires a substantial change in the curriculum or alteration of any essential elements or functions of a program. Students requesting accommodations must do so by registering with Disability Resources and Services in a timely manner. Students shall also be required to provide documentation of their disability that 1) meets the University of Pittsburgh's established guidelines for documentation of a disability, and 2) demonstrates or documents how their disability functionally impacts their participation in courses, programs, jobs, activities and/or the use of facilities at the University.
Procedure for Requesting Accommodations
- The student schedules an intake interview with Disability Resources and Services (DRS). The DRS coordinator conducting the interview and the student discuss the condition and its functional limitations. Services are explained and the student's rights and responsibilities are reviewed.
- Students are required to submit documentation of their disability. Documentation must meet the documentation guidelines established by the University of Pittsburgh. The documentation guidelines are available in the menu at the left or by contacting DRS at (814) 362-7609.
- Documentation is reviewed and evaluated by the DRS coordinator. Students will be notified once their documentation is reviewed as to whether or not the documentation has met the established guidelines and verifies the existence of a functional limitation relevant to the academic environment.
- The process of determining accommodations is collaborative among the student, the DRS coordinator, the professional providing the diagnosis and the course instructor or program director if necessary. An accommodation letter will be issued to the student for each of his or her instructors once accommodations are determined.
- This process for receiving accommodations is specific to the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and, thus, accommodations received at this University may not be applicable to other institutions, professional schools or standardized testing boards.
- In the event of a dispute, a student can petition the Academic Accommodations Grievance Committee. The purpose of this committee is to assist the Dean, on a case-by-case basis, in resolving any disagreements that arise concerning specific requests for academic accommodations. The Committee serves as a resource for faculty, academic administrators, and University students for a final review of disagreements concerning specific academic accommodation requests.
For further information about Disability Resources and Services, contact Carma Horner, DRS Coordinator, at (814) 362-7609..
Academic Accommodations - Disputes
The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford provides both informal and formal processes to attempt to resolve disagreements regarding academic accommodations. The University's formal grievance procedure for challenging a decision regarding academic accommodations can be found at Section 504/ADA - Grievance Procedure. The University also strongly encourages individuals to attempt to resolve issues informally, though the informal process need not be pursued prior to filing a formal grievance. In addition, pursuing the informal process will not delay the time within which a formal grievance must be filed, which is within 30 days after a complainant becomes aware of the disputed decision.
The procedure to be followed for the informal process is as follows:Informal Process
- The student requests accommodation(s) and provides supporting documentation according to University guidelines to Disability Resources and Services (DRS).
- In instances where there is disagreement concerning the appropriateness of the requested accommodation, the student, instructor teaching the course for which the accommodation has been requested, and the DRS coordinator will make every effort to resolve the disagreement.
- If agreement cannot be reached, the student, instructor, or University administrative staff may seek informal resolution by submitting a Request for Review of the disputed decision to the Academic Accommodations Review Committee, which will convene within seven (7) working days of receiving the Request for Review.
- The Committee will review the Request for Review and any additional relevant information from University personnel in order to render a decision within ten (10) working days from the date of receiving the Request for Review.
- If the individual is not satisfied with the decision of the Committee, a formal grievance must be filed under the
Section 504/ADA - Grievance Procedure.
- While a Request for Review is under consideration by the Academic Accommodations Review Committee or the Dean, the instructor will provide the reasonable accommodation as indicated by Disability Resources and Services.
Information and Resource Members
The DRS coordinator will provide general information regarding determination and implementation of accommodations. The faculty chairperson or designated representative of the Department offering the course(s) in which the accommodation is requested may be asked to provide information to the committee.
At Pitt-Bradford, a request for text material to be provided in an alternative format is considered an accommodation. Students seeking alternative formats must follow the process for
Academic Accommodations Requests: Disclosing a Disability. Once the accommodation is approved through DRS, the procedures below should be followed.
Procedures for Requesting Materials in Alternative Format
New as of Summer 2016: The University of Pittsburgh has partnered with SensusAccess to offer a file converter tool that makes inaccessible documents (such as Word or PDF files) into more accessible media (such as searchable PDFs, audio MP3 files, Braille, or e-text). SensusAccess is available to all Pitt faculty, staff, students, and alumni that have an active University email address. Please note that the quality of the converted document depends on the quality of the original document, and all conversion files will be delivered via email. To try it out click:
Find the list of your required course materials.
- Open your class schedule through my.pitt.edu and click on ‘books,’ or
- Check your syllabus for all course reading materials, or
- Contact your professor or department for course reading materials.
Check if your course materials exist already in an accessible format. You can order books directly from the following sites:
Bookshare: an accessible online library for people with print disabilities.
CourseSmart: a digital rental service which lets you rent eTextbooks and online course materials.
Learning Ally: previously Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic or RFB&D, is a non-profit volunteer organization which produces a library of accessible educational materials.
National Library Service: a network of libraries that provides free library service to persons who are unable to use standard printed material.
Project Gutenberg: offers over 40,000 free ebooks.
Read How You Want: an accessibility site from which you can obtain a title in whatever font size or accessibility format you desire, including DAISY and other text-to-speech editions.
- If your book is not available through any of the above resources, you can request alternative format text through DRS.
- It is the student’s responsibility to purchase all course materials and to provide proof of purchase to DRS.
- If DRS is able to acquire the course material through the publisher, DRS will contact you once we have received it.
- In the event that DRS is unable to acquire a textbook, DRS will request your copy of the textbook to be scanned and converted. Bindings will be removed from the book in order for the process to occur and, once complete, rebound with a spiral binding. All requests will be handled in a timely manner but may vary depending on availability, size and complexity of material.
Assistive Technology refers to any item or equipment to improve the access and capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
Campus Computing Labs
Accessibility software is available in campus computing labs. This software includes: JAWS, MAGic and Kurzweil 3000. Headphones are not provided.
For information on how to modify your my.pitt display preferences and Student Center information (PeopleSoft) with assistive technology, please go to:
Free Text-to- Speech Software
Students who utilize print materials in an alternative formats should consider downloading free text-to-speech software, including the following:
Other assistive technology items are available through Disability Resources and Services. Please contact DRS Coordinator, Carma Horner, 202 Hanley Library, 814-362-7609 for more information.
Confidentiality and Release of Information
Disability Resources and Services established policies and procedures regarding confidentiality and releasing information from a student's file.
- The University of Pittsburgh accords students all rights under The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 ("FERPA"). Under FERPA, all students in attendance at the University who are 18 years of age are deemed emancipated, and parents/guardians will thus not have authority to inspect, review and/or discuss the confidential information supporting and/or relevant to a son or daughter affiliated with the office of Disability Resources and Services, without written consent of the said student unless the release of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other persons.
- Information acquired by Disability Resources and Services including but not limited to; psycho-educational testing, neuropsychological testing, disability information, medical information, psychological information, case notes, educational information and records (grades, standardized test scores) will be maintained as confidential as required and/or permitted by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Information contained in Disability Resources and Services files will not be released except in accordance with federal and state laws, which require the release of information on a “need to know basis” or to protect the health or safety of the student or other persons.
- Disability Resources and Services files that are requested to be produced by a court order or subpoena will be handled by the University of Pittsburgh's Office of General Counsel.
- A student may provide written authorization for the release of information to an appropriate professional, agency or institution. Information will not be released without written consent.
- Information submitted to or contained in a Disability Resources and Services student file will not be released or copied for a student's personal use without written consent from the documentation originator, as designated by letterhead or signature.
Students with documented disabilities can access support services through Disability Resources and Services (DRS) located in 202 Hanley Library. The goal of DRS is to provide students with the opportunity for the development of skills and strategies that will assist them in successfully fulfilling University policies and requirements. In instances where the documented disability precludes learning with accommodations, the University will permit the substitution of specific courses in order to best serve the student. Because these requirements are important elements of a program, each case must be carefully considered on an individual basis before a decision can be made.
The following are procedures that must be adhered to if a student with a documented disability is seeking a modification of course requirements:
- The petition process should begin as soon as there is strong objective evidence (e.g., previous documented difficulties, current documented difficulties) that the student will be unable to fulfill the requirement.
- The student must provide the Disability Resources and Services (DRS) with current, relevant and comprehensive documentation and assessment data from certified professionals. Detailed guidelines for documentation are available from DRS. This documentation must substantiate both the specific learning disability and its specific impact the student's ability in the area of concern.
- A complete case history is required to document the student's history of problems in the area of concern from high school until the date of the petition.
- Disability Resources and Services will make the final determination and will notify the student. Any student who is granted the petition is expected to fulfill the University's course requirements according to the guidelines for selecting alternative courses.
Directory Information Notice
The University may establish categories of information known as "Directory Information" and release this information without student consent, upon request. A student may request, in the format provided below, that the following categories be excluded from Directory Information that would be released without the student's consent if requested by a third party.
The University designates the personally identifiable information contained in a Student's Education Record listed below as "Directory Information":
- The Student's name
- The Student's address, phone number and electronic mail address
- The Student's major field of study
- The Student's achievements, degrees, academic awards, or honors
- The Student's weight and height, if a member of an athletic team
- The Student's previous educational institutions
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Dates of attendance
- The Student's photograph
When the Office of the University Registrar receives a student's refusal to permit the release of "Directory Information," no further disclosures of directory information are made without that student's written consent (except to parties who have legal access to student records without written consent.) A student may rescind this action by submitting the request in writing to the Office of the University Registrar. Note that the following procedures apply:
- Students may review their educational records by submitting a written request to the Records Custodian in the appropriate University unit. A listing of those University offices which routinely possess educational records of students are set forth in University Procedure 09-08-01.
- Students may request amendment of educational records by submitting a written request to the Record Custodian and following the steps set forth in University Procedure 09-08-01.
- As set forth in University Policy 09-08-01, access to a student's educational records may be required and permitted by University faculty and staff for legitimate educational purposes where access by such individuals is necessary to complete their University-related duties.
If you choose not to have Directory Information released, complete and return this form to Hangar Building (Office of the University Registrar).
Documentation Review Board
Documentation is necessary to validate both the presence of a disability and the need for reasonable accommodations for candidates seeking to register for various services with Disability Resources and Services. Disability Resources and Services has adopted a standard set of criteria for documenting disabilities based upon consultation with various professionals and professional organizations including the Association on Higher Education and Disabilities. Disability Resources and Services recognizes that each student's circumstances are unique, and that a flexible approach to reviewing documentation is necessary.
Students are to submit documentation of their condition to the Disability Resources and Services office. The DRS Coordinator will compile the documentation and when it is reasonably complete the file will be forwarded to the Documentation Review Board for evaluation.
The DRB will verify that the information the student has provided meets the University of Pittsburgh's established criteria for the disability category under which it is submitted. The Board will also evaluate the accommodations being requested by the student and determine whether the accommodations are appropriate in light of the documentation and relevant applications of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 incorporating the changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. If the documentation does NOT meet the established guidelines, the Review Board may grant provisional accommodations until the necessary information is submitted. Students will be notified in writing of the decision of the Documentation Review Board.
Section 504/ADA - Grievance Procedure
The University of Pittsburgh has adopted an internal grievance procedure for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by federal regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Section 504 and ADA state, in part, that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by such an entity."
Issues that are grievable include, but are not limited to, a denial of a requested accommodation, the inadequacy of an accommodation, the inaccessibility of a program or activity due to disability, or discrimination or harassment based on disability.
All such complaints should be addressed to the attention of the Office of Diversity Inclusion, c/o Cheryl Ruffin, Manager of Affirmative Action, 200 Craig Street 5th Floor Pittsburgh, PA 15260, Tel: (412) 648-7292, who has been designated to coordinate the University’s Section 504 and ADA compliance efforts.
The following steps explain the procedure:
- A complaint should be filed in writing or verbally, and shall contain the name and address of the person filing it, and briefly describe the nature of the complaint and the alleged violation of the regulations.
- A complaint should be filed within thirty (30) days after the complainant becomes aware of the alleged violation. Complaints received later than thirty (30) days after complainant became aware of the alleged violation will be dismissed as untimely.
- An investigation, as may be appropriate, will follow the filing of a complaint. The investigation shall be conducted by the University's Compliance Officer (or another University office acting at the Compliance Officer's request). These rules contemplate a prompt and informal, but thorough investigation which afford the complainant, the subject of the complaint, other interested persons, and their representatives, if any, an opportunity to submit documents and information relevant to the consideration of and resolution of the complaint.
- A written determination as to the validity of the complaint and a description of the resolution, if any, shall be issued by the University's Compliance Officer or another University office acting at the Compliance Officer's request and a copy forwarded to the complainant no later than fifteen (15) working days after receipt of the complaint.
- The University's Compliance Officer shall maintain the files and records of the University of Pittsburgh relating to complaints filed.
- The complainant or the affected department or business unit can request reconsideration of the resolution if he or she is dissatisfied with the resolution. Requests for reconsideration should be made within seven (7) days to the appropriate senior officer of the University, i.e., the Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences in complaints where a faculty member is the accused, the Executive Vice Chancellor in complaints where a staff member is the accused, or the Dean for Student Affairs where a student is the accused. The senior officer has thirty (30) days to respond to the request for reconsideration. Decisions of the senior officer are final.
- The right of a person to a prompt and equitable resolution of the complaint filed hereunder shall not be impaired by the person's pursuit of other remedies, such as the filing of a Section 504/ADA complaint with the responsible federal department or agency. Use of this grievance procedure is not a prerequisite to the pursuit of other remedies.
- This procedure shall be construed to protect the substantive rights of interested persons, to meet appropriate due process standards, and to assure that the University of Pittsburgh complies with Section 504/ADA and implementing regulations.
- Retaliation against any complainant under this grievance procedure or against any person who assists a complainant in his/her pursuit of a complaint under this grievance procedure is prohibited.
Student Rights and Responsibilities
Students with disabilities at the University of Pittsburgh have the right to:
- An equal opportunity to access the courses, programs, services and activities at the University of Pittsburgh.
- Request accommodations, academic adjustments or auxiliary aids and services.
- Appropriate confidentiality of information regarding their disability, except as disclosures are required or permitted by law.
Students with disabilities at the University of Pittsburgh have the responsibility to:
- Maintain institutional standards for academic performance and conduct.
- Register with Disability Resources and Services and request an accommodation.
- Provide appropriate documentation of a disability including the functional limitation(s) of the disability and its impact on the access to and participation in courses, programs, services and activities at the University of Pittsburgh.
- Follow published procedures for requesting accommodations, academic adjustments or auxiliary aids and services.
- Request, in person, academic accommodations for each term the student is registered.
Guidance on Service and Emotional Support Animals
The University of Pittsburgh complies with The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and amendments in allowing the use of Service Animals on campus. The ADA defines Service Animal as “…any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The work or tasks performed by a Service Animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability. A Service Animal is permitted to accompany the person with a disability at any time, which includes places where pets are not permitted.
Dogs that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including dogs that are used purely for emotional support, are not Service Animals. Students who require the use of a Service Animal on campus are encouraged to contact Disability Resources and Services (DRS). The Service Animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the Service Animals’ work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the student must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal or other effective control.
Inquiries regarding Service Animals
Individuals cannot be asked about the nature or extent of their disability, but two inquiries can be made to determine whether an animal qualifies as a Service Animal
- If the animal is required because of a disability and;
- What work or task the animal has been trained to perform.
The University of Pittsburgh cannot require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a Service Animal. Also, individuals are prohibited from making inquiries about a Service Animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability).
Emotional Support Animals
The University recognizes the importance of emotional support animals to individuals with a documented disability. An emotional support animal may provide emotional support, stability and comfort. Emotional support animals are not required to be trained to perform a specific job or task and therefore they do not qualify as “Service Animals” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Emotional support animals are only permitted in University of Pittsburgh residence halls if the animal has been determined to be a reasonable accommodation for an individual with a disability by DRS.
To receive housing accommodations, Disability Resources and Services requires that you submit appropriate medical documentation that confirms that you are an individual with a disability. Should the housing accommodation be deemed reasonable, you will be required to agree to the established Emotional Support Animal guidelines of the University.
University of Pittsburgh FERPA Notification of Rights
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights include:
- The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the University receives a request for access. Students should submit to the registrar, dean, head of the academic department, or other appropriate program director, written requests that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The University official will make arrangements for access and notify the students of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the University official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes is inaccurate. Students may ask the University to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate. They should write the University official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate. If the University decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the University will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing and is available at UP Policy and Procedure 09-08-01.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception, which permits disclosure without consent, is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the University has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility. Upon request, the University will disclose education records without consent to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll. The University will forward records on request of another school.
- (4) The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by University of Pittsburgh to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-4605
Questions concerning the University’s FERPA Policy may also be directed to the Office of the Registrar at 814-362-7602.
University of Pittsburgh Rights and Responsibilities
The University of Pittsburgh has the right to:
- Request and receive, through Disability Resources and Services, current documentation that identifies the existence of a disability and explains the functional limitations of the disability.
- Suggest reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments or auxiliary aids and services based upon documentation submitted to the office.
- Establish essential requirements and standards for courses, programs, services or activities at the University of Pittsburgh.
- Select equally effective accommodations, adjustments or auxiliary aids and services.
- Deny an accommodation, adjustment or auxiliary aid that fundamentally alters a course, program or activity.
The University of Pittsburgh has the responsibility to:
- Review submitted documentation without bias and seek appropriate relevant professional expertise when necessary.
- Confer with the student and other relevant parties when determining accommodations, academic adjustments or auxiliary aids and services.
- Provide information in accessible formats upon request.
- Respond to requests in a timely basis.
- Maintain appropriate confidentiality of documentation and information.