New York Makes Work Pay - Developing a path to employment for New Yorkers with disabilities

Equal Opportunity;
Access and Accommodations in Higher Education

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act (Rehab Act), colleges and universities must ensure they do not exclude qualified persons with disabilities from their programs, services, and benefits by reason of disability. They are thus prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and are responsible for establishing practices that allow students with disabilities to have meaningful opportunities to participate in and benefit from higher education.
Colleges and universities have obligations to:

How to Secure Accommodations:

Contacting Student Services:

Students are not required to disclose a disability on an application for admission to an institution or upon enrolling in a college or university. However, a student who chooses to disclose their disability to the college or university can receive accommodations and educational counseling.

Under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act, students who choose to disclose a disability in order to receive accommodations have some rights to medical privacy. Disclosing a disability to the appropriate college or university office does not mean the disability will become broader public knowledge.

Most colleges and universities have a disability services office dedicated to disability-specific issues. If the college or university does not have a disability services office, students should seek services from the student affairs or student services offices.

It may be helpful to speak with a disability services or student affairs/services representative before applying or enrolling in a college or university to ensure that the types of accommodations the student requires will be fully provided to the student by the college or university.


After self-disclosure, a college or university has the right to require official documentation of a student's disability before providing any requested accommodations. Normally this is satisfied with a statement from a doctor or healthcare provider that indicates the student has a disability. In some instances, documentation may need to specify or explain the types of limitations or needs associated with the disability, and/or the accommodations the student has received in past, if any.

What Accommodations Can Be Provided?

After admission, the college or university is not permitted to exclude an individual from services or activities provided by the university, including extracurricular activities, such as athletics, or student clubs.

Examples of accommodations a college or university may provide include, but are not limited to:

College or universities also have partial responsibility to provide access to buildings on campus. In practice, a university is not required to provide access to all buildings on campus as long as all programs or services are made available to persons with disabilities to participate with their peers.

Colleges and universities are usually not required to change the substance or content of an examination, or fundamentally change the service, program, or activity.

A college or university is also not required to make accommodations that would be extremely costly or pose an undue burden on the school’s resources.

The college or university does not have to provide or pay for devices or services that are personal to a student, such as a service animal.

Protecting Your Rights to Access and Accommodation:

Although colleges and universities are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities, not all schools are successful in fully complying with the laws or responding to the needs of students with disabilities.

If you find that you are not receiving the accommodations, or getting the access you are legally entitled to, you have a number of options:

Filing a Complaint with Applicable State Human Rights Commission

Under the law, everyone has the right to be free from discrimination at work, in housing, in a public accommodation, or when seeking credit and insurance. Discrimination occurs whenever we treat someone differently and deny him or her equal treatment or access.

If you believe you are being discriminated against, try to document what is happening:

You have a responsibility to act in a timely manner. Under the Law Against Discrimination, you must file a formal complaint with the Commission within six months of the alleged discriminatory incident or action.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against call one of the Commission offices and ask to speak with an Intake Officer. When you speak with the Intake Officer, you should have some basic information on hand to assist in expediting your complaint:

Investigative Procedure:

  1. The regional office will: Receive your complaint of discrimination and notify the respondent(s). (A respondent is a person or entity about whose action you complain). If you are unable to file, a complaint will be prepared and forwarded to you for your review and notarized signature.
  2. Resolve questionable issues of jurisdiction.
  3. Forward, upon your request, a copy of your complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  4. Investigate through appropriate methods (written inquiry, field investigation, investigatory conference, etc.)
  5. Determine whether or not, there is probable cause to believe that an act of discrimination has occurred, and will notify you and the respondent(s) in writing.

More Information:

For more information on the obligations of post-secondary schools, please see:

For more information on auxiliary aids, please see: