Americans with Disabilities – Rights and Responsibilities

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, educational institutions are required to make reasonable accommodations to meet the needs of students with documented physical or mental infirmities. This law is complicated and has become a battleground of intense litigation in recent years. Students should contact the Center for Students with Disabilities at for additional information. Although what follows is not meant to be exhaustive and should not be taken as legal advice, there are certain issues that you should be aware of if you wish to receive help under ADA:

  1. You should declare your disability early (and certainly prior to receiving any consequences as a result of poor performance). Such a declaration will help us negotiate accommodations that will enable you to be successful in the Program. Your declaration will be treated with delicacy and in confidence by the faculty. You may also wish to contact the Center for Students with Disabilities, which will assist you in procuring needed educational accommodations.
  2. The law protects those who are, notwithstanding a disability, otherwise qualified to perform a particular job, or practice a profession. That is, the law does not provide protection or redress for individuals whose disabilities directly prevent them from functioning in a particular profession (e.g., surgery cannot be practiced by an individual with both arms amputated). For individuals with mental disorders, the situation is murkier. We assume that you enter the Program free of serious behavioral problems that will adversely affect your ability to maintain constructive interpersonal relationships or to function in your various capacities as a graduate student. We also assume that, should you experience emotional or behavioral difficulties, you will follow Principle 1.13 of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists, by disqualifying yourself from engaging in potentially harmful activities and obtaining appropriate remedial help. Finally, it is possible that some mental disorders (those that loosen personal boundaries unduly or make it impossible for a student to learn from experience) may directly prevent an individual from functioning as a professional psychologist.
  3. The University and its constituent units have the obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for your documented disabilities. We will do our best to negotiate “reasonable accommodations” to promote your success in the Program. In the past, we have provided a quiet place of rest for a student with multiple sclerosis, long-term leave for a student with chronic fatigue syndrome, modified furniture and testing procedures for a quadriplegic student, and also have helped other students obtain state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation support for orthopedic devices as well as visual and hearing aids.
  4. Discussion of your needs should be an ongoing process as both your situation and our resources are in constant flux.