Accommodation Policy and Procedure

I. Scope 

This is the policy and procedure for all qualified students with a disability to obtain reasonable accommodations at the College of William & Mary, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (the university).  It is for all types of students - undergraduate and graduate, degree-seeking and non-degree seeking, full-time and part-time. Only students who identify themselves as having a disability and seek accommodation using these procedures are eligible.  Students who have been accepted but have not yet enrolled may also access this policy.  Applicants are also covered by this policy for accommodations needed in the admissions process.

This policy defines the process for eligible students to seek reasonable accommodations in any of the university’s programs and activities.  Students engaged in academic work off site (such as internships for course credit and study away) should contact the Office of Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to determine whether William & Mary or the other entity (such as the business where the student is interning) is responsible for making accommodations.  (The ability to accommodate a student with a disability should be a precondition to any business, agency, or organization that wants to participate in an internship or externship agreement with the university.) In the case of academic course work taken at another institution of higher learning, the Director of SAS will serve as consultant and information source for students arranging accommodations at these locations. 

II. Purpose

This policy and procedure enable the university to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which require reasonable accommodations made for qualified students with disabilities and prohibit the university from excluding such students from, or denying them the benefits of, its programs or activities.  They help satisfy William & Mary’s Code of Ethics, Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, and Discrimination Policy. 

 III.  Definitions

Note: The following terms are applied by the university in accordance with the definitions supplied by federal law and regulations, which are summarized here.

Accommodations are defined as any reasonable adjustment required for a student to have equal access to  the university’s programs and activities, inside or outside the classroom.   Accommodations do not include:

  • Substantial modifications to academic standards,
  • Modification or adjustment of requirements essential to any program of instruction, program or activity, or essential to any directly related licensing requirement, or
  • Modifications or adjustments that result in undue hardship, considering the nature, cost, impact of the accommodation, and other factors. 

Disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

A student is “qualified” if he or she “meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or to participation in the educational program or activity, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices; the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers; or the provision of auxiliary aids and services.”

IV. Policy

It is the policy of William & Mary to provide qualified students who have disabilities with reasonable accommodation based upon relevant law, the university's educational standards, and sound ethical practice in disability services. 

Decisions about whether a student is a qualified student with a disability and what constitutes reasonable accommodation are made by the Director of SAS.  Accommodations are considered on a case by case, as well as a class by class, program, or activity basis. 

V. Procedure for Requesting Accommodations

Documentation of Disability and Need for Accommodation

Students who may wish to document a disability include:

  • those entering the university for the first time or returning after a period of non-enrollment, who have a known disability;
  • those experiencing educational difficulty who are referred by a faculty member or university official for consultation regarding the possibility of disability; and
  • those whose health and/or physical abilities are altered during their educational tenure resulting in disability (permanent or temporary).

Students may always choose whether or not they want to identify themselves as having a disability, but students who want the university to provide an accommodation must do so.  The student assumes full responsibility for providing all diagnostic information to sufficiently support the existence of disability and the need for reasonable accommodation. An accommodation is not needed if the student would still have meaningful access to the program, service, or activity without it.  The Director of SAS is responsible for deciding whether a disability or need for accommodation(s) has been adequately documented.

Information regarding a student's disability provided by someone other than a university professional must be in writing and submitted to the Office of the Dean of Students, SAS. Reports must be provided by a qualified professional, most often a physician, educational diagnostician, learning disability specialist, or mental health professional who is not a blood relative. SAS can offer outside referrals for diagnostic services not provided by the university. All costs associated with diagnostic study incurred off campus, however, are borne by the student.  Further information about documentation and verification of a disability is available on the SAS website.


Students should make accommodation requests as far in advance of the relevant course, exam, activity or program, to allow for appropriate consideration and planning.  Because the reasonableness of any individual accommodation request can vary substantially depending upon a student's current course load, schedule, or course content, accommodation requests must be reviewed by the Director of SAS each semester or summer session of enrollment.

When possible, students entering the university for the first time should submit information related to disability at least six weeks prior to enrollment so that reasonable accommodation can be arranged and delivered in a timely fashion.

Accommodation Determinations

Having provided sufficient evidence of a disability and need for accommodation, a student may make official requests for accommodation through the SAS Office. The Director of SAS will consider the information (documentation) provided by the student, consult with faculty and/or other university officials as needed, and determined what constitutes reasonable accommodation(s) for the student’s disability.  (See Section III for a definition of accommodation.) 

Accommodations not provided by the university include personal aids/devices and specialized transportation. 

The Director will identify a list of approved accommodations in accordance with the manifestations of the disability, a copy of which will be shared with the student.  For academic accommodations, following review and approval at the start of each semester of enrollment, the Director will prepare individual letters for each professor summarizing the approved accommodations relevant to his/her course. These letters will be emailed to the student and appropriate professors through a secure email program.  Faculty and other university officials then are required to provide reasonable accommodation(s) in accordance with the SAS’ letter(s).  If a professor or other university official does not agree to an accommodation request, the student should seek the assistance of the Director of SAS.

In addition to academic accommodation, the Director makes accommodation determinations for other university programs and activities, such as athletics programs, and coordinates the efforts of university departments such as Facilities Management, Parking Services, Residence Life, Office of the Registrar, Athletics and Student Activities to address special access and service issues related to a student's educational experience.

Disability and the Foreign Language Requirement

Students with conditions that adversely affect the learning of foreign language may request reasonable accommodation within the structure of required foreign language courses. If accommodation proves unworkable, however, students may petition the Committee on Degrees for authorization to substitute select courses for foreign language courses. They should petition as soon as possible, but no later than the pre-registration period of the first semester of their senior year.

To ensure that modification is considered only when truly needed, students must provide documentation of disability meeting specific criteria. Students experiencing exceptional difficulty with foreign language course should also consider approaching any current foreign language instructor to discuss concerns.

VI. Confidential Handling of Disability Records

All information submitted to or developed by the university related to the diagnosis, documentation, or accommodation of a disability is considered confidential and will not become part of any other student record at William & Mary. Staff of the Dean of Students Office have access to all disability records and may arrange access for other authorized university officials in the event of an emergency or other unusual necessity. Disability information may be released in confidence to faculty members or other members of the community who have an educational need to know. The Compliance and Policy Office may collect accommodation data for reporting purposes as well as quality control.

All documents supporting a disability on file in the SAS Office will be retained and destroyed in accordance with Virginia law. 

VII. Appealing Accommodation Determinations

Students may petition for a review of SAS' determinations under the university’s ADA/Rehabilitation Act Grievance Procedure

VIII. Approvals and Revisions

Revisions to this policy and procedure were approved by the Provost, effective October 1, 2011.

IX. Interpretation: ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator 

Questions concerning the application of this policy and the application of the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act to students may be made to the Director of SAS or to the university’s ADA/Rehabilitation Act Coordinator.

Lesley Henderson
Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Accessibility Services
109 Campus Center
College of William & Mary 
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187

Kiersten Boyce
Chief Compliance Officer 
108 James Blair Hall
College of William & Mary 
P.O. Box 8795 
Williamsburg, VA 23187