The Harvard GSD is committed to providing an accessible academic community. The Accessibility Services Office within the Office of Student Services at the GSD offers a variety of accommodations and services to students with documented disabilities, permanent and temporary injuries, and chronic conditions. If you are a student with a disability, we engage you in an interactive process to provide you an equal opportunity to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from our academic programs.

The Dean of Students and the Accommodations Coordinator work with you, your instructor(s), and staff on an individualized, case-by-case basis to provide appropriate services to ensure you have a rich and rewarding academic experience.

Academic Support Services 

What is a disability?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and 1998 define a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts a person from performing one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, or caring for one’s self. An impairment or diagnosis does not necessarily constitute a disability; it must substantially limit these activities.

Temporary Disabilities and Services

You are not considered disabled if you have a temporary illness or injury; however, you may be in need of services or accommodations similar to those provided to students with permanent disabilities. If you are a student with a documented temporary illness or injury, contact the Accommodations Coordinator as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Accommodations

Academic accommodations are adjustments and modifications that provide equal academic opportunity for students with disabilities. Academic accommodations are designed to provide equal access to courses and programs, but they do not guarantee an outcome or a level of achievement.

The purpose of accommodations and modifications is to reduce or eliminate any disadvantages that may exist because of your disability. Accommodations are not student preferences; they are determined through an established review process based on documentation received regarding the student's disability. The law does not require institutions to waive specific courses or academic requirements considered essential to a particular course or program. Rather, they are mandated to modify existing requirements on a case-by-case basis in order to ensure that individuals are not discriminated against on the basis of their disability.

Examples of Accommodations

Examples of Accommodations provided by Harvard GSD in the past include:

  • Extended time for in-class exams and in-class assignments
  • Exams administered in a distraction-reduced environment
  • Note-taking assistance
  • Communication access real-time translation (CART) and American Sign Language Interpreters (ASL).
  • Use of adaptive technology
  • Scribes
  • Readers
  • Van services
  • Accessible parking
  • Studio desk accommodations

Available Technology Resources

The Harvard University Assistive Technology Center in the Science Center, Room B06j (1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138) is equipped with software and hardware to assist students with disabilities. You may have access to voice recognition, screen-readers, and text-to-speech software. Available software includes:

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software
  • Kurzweil 3000 PC-based text-to-speech software
  • Kurzweil 1000 text-to-speech software designed for students who are blind or have low vision
  • JAWS (Job Access Windows with Speech) screen reader that enables students who are blind or visually impaired to navigate the Internet and most Windows-based applications
  • MAGic version 11 screen-magnification software helps students with low vision view information on the computer screen

How to Register for Disability-Related Accommodations

To be considered for accommodations, please complete registration materials and provide documentation for review no later than two weeks before your course begins.

Accommodations Request Form

Accommodations Documentation Form

Forms and documentation should be submitted to:

Accessibility Services
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Student Services Office
48 Quincy Street, Gund Hall, Suite 422
Cambridge, MA 02138
accessibility@gsd.harvard.edu
Fax: 617-495-8949

You will be contacted to schedule an appointment once your registration materials are received. In order to allow sufficient time to review documentation, please submit materials in a timely manner.

All documentation and materials will be reviewed by the Accommodations Coordinator. You may be asked to come in for a meeting in the Student Services Office. After your request has been reviewed and a determination has been made, you will be contacted via email with a decision. Additional information and/or instructions about exams and note-taking services will be emailed if you have been approved for these accommodations. Please note that information about a student’s disability is only released to a third party with consent from the student unless required to be disclosed by law.

Necessary Documentation

All requests for accommodations must be supported by recent clinical documentation. For requests based on a learning disability or ADHD, a current neuropsychological or psycho-education evaluation is required. Individual education plans may be submitted as a supporting document only and must accompany a full evaluation. Email accessibilty@gsd.harvard.edu for specific documentation requirements.

Deadline for Requesting Accommodations

You should submit a Request for Accommodation form and supporting documentation no later than two weeks before your course begins (four weeks for requests for materials in alternate format, CART, and ASL services). Requests are reviewed in the order they are received. It can take two weeks to review and approve a request and to coordinate the accommodations. You are encouraged to submit your request form and documentation as early as possible to avoid delays in services.

Late requests for accommodations will be reviewed. However, accommodations and services will not be arranged in time for the start of your course if you submit your request later than two weeks (or four weeks for CART/ASL services) before your course begins.

Your Rights and Responsibilities

As a student with a disability, you have the right to equal access to courses, programs, services, activities, and facilities available through the Harvard GSD; reasonable and appropriate accommodations, determined on a case-by-case basis; appropriate confidentiality of all information pertaining to your disability as required by law; and information reasonably available in accessible formats.

Every student with a disability has the responsibility to meet the Harvard GSD’s qualifications and essential technical, academic, and institutional standards; identify yourself in a timely manner as an individual with a disability when seeking an accommodation; provide documentation from an appropriate professional source that verifies the nature of the disability, functional limitations, and the need for specific accommodations; and follow specific procedures for obtaining reasonable and appropriate accommodations.

Disability-Related Housing Requests

Because the GSD does not have its own housing, students who wish to live in Harvard Housing must apply for housing accommodations through the Harvard Housing Office. All students must submit documentation of the need for housing accommodations to the Accessibility Services Office in the Student Services Office at the GSD when applying for housing accommodations. Housing accommodation requests are reviewed by the GSD Accessibility Coordinator.

Accommodations While on Studio Trips

If you are a student with a disability requesting accommodations abroad, please contact the Accommodations Coordinator, at accessibility@gsd.harvard.edu or 617-495-5454, to discuss accommodations.

Event Accessibility

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations for a GSD public event should contact the events office at (617) 496-2414 or events@gsd.harvard.edu. For student organized events, guests and students should communicate directly with the host of the event as soon as possible. Generally, at least two weeks prior to the event is needed to ensure that there is time to secure a provider. 

Disability Accommodations for Commencement

Accommodations are available upon request for people with disabilities on both Class Day and Commencement Day.  Accommodation requests must be made through the Commencement Coordinator for all Class Day and Commencement activities.

Accommodations for Class Day and Commencement Day include:

  • Accessible seating for candidates or guests
  • Accommodations for deaf and hard of hearing individuals
  • Sign language interpreters at both Commencement Day and Class Day
  • Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs)
  • Accessible parking
  • Accommodations for people with visual impairments

Although you or your guests are encouraged to bring your own, wheelchairs will be available for loan for Class Day and Commencement Day ceremonies via advanced request by emailing the Commencement Coordinator at commencement@gsd.harvard.edu.

Please note that, for Class Day and the GSD Graduation Ceremony, three seats will be reserved: one for the person requesting accessible seating and two additional seats for companions or guests.

Further information about disability-related accommodations for Class Day and Commencement please see the Harvard Commencement website https://commencement.harvard.edu/guests-disabilities or contact the Commencement Coordinator at commencement@gsd.harvard.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I received accommodations in a previous term from the Harvard GSD, do I need to re-submit my documentation and Request for Accommodation form?

Please contact the Accommodations Coordinator at the beginning of each term to review which accommodations will be appropriate for the upcoming semester. If your documentation still meets the requirements of the documentation guidelines for your type of disability, then you do not need to submit the Request for Accommodation form again unless requesting additional accommodations. Documentation for learning disabilities and AD(H)D must be no more than three years old, while documentation for physical and psychiatric disabilities and chronic illnesses must be within a six-month timeframe. Recent documentation is necessary to determine how the functional limitations of your disability currently impact your ability to perform in an academic setting.

If I am approved for accommodations, do I need to notify my professor?

We will inform your instructor of your accommodations and will coordinate with the teaching staff to make the necessary arrangements. Due to medical privacy laws, we do not disclose information regarding your disability unless it is absolutely necessary to provide your accommodations.

I am approved for note-taking services. How do I get copies of the class notes?

Class notes are shared directly by the note-taker. You will be connected with them once you are approved for this accommodation, and a note-taker is identified and hired.

How do I arrange for accessible parking on campus?

If you have a mobility impairment, you will need to submit medical documentation to the Accommodations Coordinator and complete the parking application at the transportation office located in the Smith Campus Center. For more information about parking, please visit parking services.

If I suffer an injury during the course of the term, can I still apply for accommodations after the accommodation request deadline has passed?

Yes, the Harvard GSD provides accommodations for temporary injuries. Documentation for temporary injuries must include (in addition to a diagnosis that rises to the level of a disability, functional limitations and a recommendation for accommodation) an estimation concerning how long the injury will take to heal, and therefore how long the recommended accommodation(s) will be necessary.

Confidentiality

All medical documentation and requests for accommodations will remain confidential. Confidential information is shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know. The Accommodations Coordinator may share some information with instructors and staff as necessary to coordinate student accommodations.

Disability Grievance Process

If you disagree with the approved accommodation, promptly provide a written statement of your concern, with supporting medical documentation, to the Dean of Students. All grievances must be filed within 30 days of the alleged act of discrimination.

If the Student Services Office cannot resolve the grievance independently and promptly, they will convene a committee to review the matter. The committee will be comprised of the Registrar, the Dean of Students, and, as a nonvoting member, the Accommodations Coordinator.

The committee may contact the instructor, program managers, or other appropriate personnel to discuss the requested accommodations, as needed. The committee may also request additional medical documentation or an independent medical evaluation on the request for accommodation.

In cases where timeliness of an accommodation is important, every reasonable effort is made to complete each stage of the process within 10 working days, unless the circumstances require a more rapid response. In some situations, we may provide the requested accommodation on a provisional basis, without obligation to continue the accommodation if it is found to be unreasonable or inappropriate.

If you are dissatisfied with a decision of the committee, you may appeal in writing to the Director of University Disability Services, by e-mail at disabilityservices@harvard.edu. Call (617) 495-1859 or (617) 495-4801 (TDD) if you have any questions.

Read about the University grievance process for more information. In most circumstances, the University disability coordinator will not overturn the decision of the committee unless presented with new information or other grounds that warrant a different outcome.

Questions?

If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment with the Accessibility Services Office, e-mail accessibility@gsd.harvard.edu. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 10am to 5pm EST.

Laura Snowdon
Dean of Students & Coordinator for Students with Disabilities
(617) 496-1236
lsnowdon@gsd.harvard.edu

Kelly Wisnaskas
Accommodations Coordinator
(617) 496-8306
ktwisnaskas@gsd.harvard.edu