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Background and Legal Requirements in the Post-Secondary Setting

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are designed to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to public services and programs. In a post-secondary setting, these acts require that reasonable university accommodations be made for qualified students with disabilities and prohibit the university from excluding students from, or denying them the benefits of, its programs or activities. While universities and colleges must "level the playing field," they are not required to ensure that a student reach their potential in their class, or succeed academically. For example, William & Mary may build a ramp so wheelchairs can gain access to buildings and classrooms, or may allow extra test-taking time for a student with a learning disability. However, an accommodation would not be required to ensure that a student get a passing grade in a class, or a 'B' instead of a 'C' on an assignment. 

At William & Mary, accommodations are provided for all types of students - undergraduate, graduate, degree-seeking, non-degree seeking, full-time and part-time. 

Definition of a Disability 

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

A student is qualified to receive an accommodation if they meet the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or to the participation in the educational program or activity, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices. 


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. The Compliance and Policy Office may collect accommodation data for reporting purposes as well as for quality control. 

Faculty and staff are expected to keep information related to the diagnosis, documentation, or accommodation of a disability confidential. All documents supporting disability on file in the Student Accessibility Services Office will be retained and destroyed in accordance with Virginia law. 

Universal Design and Open Educational Resources (OER)
Learn more about making your courses accessible
About Universal Design for Learning
Importance of OER for Students with Diagnosed Conditions
Research Study Showing Effectiveness of OER
Open Educational Resources for every Subject

DIY Guide for Professors: Create Accessible Material for Students

Accommodating/Teaching Students with Diagnosed Conditions
Creating an Inclusive College Classroom
Hidden Rules of Lectures and Office Hours
Accommodating Students with Disabilities
Accommodating Students with ADD/ADHD and Dyslexia
Students with Asperger’s
Free course on Improving Communication and Career Readiness
ADHD and Writing Learning Disabilities
Ted Talk: How Autistic Minds Work (and How to Work with Young People with ASD)

Auxiliary Aids for College Students

EBooks Through Swem

Smith, B. (2013). Mentoring At-Risk Students Through the Hidden Curriculum of Higher Education. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Thurlow, M. L., & Ysseldyke, J. E. (1995). Testing accommodations for students with disabilities. Remedial & Special Education, 16(5), 260.

Gregg, N. (2009). Adolescents and adults with learning disabilities and ADHD assessment and accommodation / Noël Gregg ; foreword by Donald D. Deshler. New York: Guilford Press.