Six Facts About Student Disability Services

| July 1, 2020

Navigating higher education while managing a disability can present unique challenges. At Johns Hopkins, Student Disability Services (SDS) exists to ensure that students receive the accommodations they need to remove barriers and fully focus on their studies, extracurricular activities, and social lives. 

Whether you are an incoming or returning student, you can always reach out to SDS or the disability services coordinator at your school. Sooner is always better than later, so if you anticipate making disability requests or are interested in learning more about how they work, please contact us. 

SDS recognizes that all students may not have had access to the same resources or services in the past, and we are happy to explain how the process works and potential ways to address needs. 

In the meantime, here are a few more things to know about SDS and disability: 

  1. You might qualify for a disability accommodation, even if you’ve never had one before. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Some students arrive at Hopkins aware of their disabilities and are familiar with the process of seeking accommodations. Others discover a need for accommodations in college (or grad school) that they didn’t have in high school or (during undergraduate studies). Additionally, people at all phases of life develop new and/or temporary disabilities that are either mental (anxiety, depression) or physical (a broken leg). If you’re wondering whether you might qualify for disability services, feel free to contact the SDS coordinator at your school to talk about your experience.  
  2. The process of requesting accommodations starts with the SDS Registration Form. The form is quick and straightforward, and it includes a section to upload supporting documents from your provider. We understand that getting in touch with some providers can be a complicated task during the current pandemic, so please check out our SDS Documentation Guidelines beforehand for more information on required documentation. 
  3. Completing the registration form is just the first step. After your registration form and supporting documentation have been reviewed, a Student Disability Services staff member from your school will reach out to schedule a meeting to learn more about you and determine potential accommodations. From there, students work in partnership with SDS, faculty, and other university staff to ensure that the student’s needs are met. This process takes time, so we encourage you to get started as soon as possible. 
  4. Students are not required to disclose information about the nature of their disability to faculty, and working with SDS can help students maintain their desired level of confidentiality. SDS provides an accommodation letter for each student to give to faculty that informs them about the specific accommodations the student will need in their course. Unlike many high schools, university students drive the process and will always have the right to decide if they need to request an accommodation in a particular course. 
  5. Accommodations exist for many aspects of the student experience, not just the classroom. While students often seek out SDS for academic considerations—such as assistive technology (reading software like Kurzweil or note-taking software like Sonocent); testing accommodations (extra time or reduced distraction space); and interpreting (American Sign Language or real-time captioning)—disability accommodations extend beyond the classroom. From housing and dining to transportation and building accessibility, SDS is here to ensure that you can experience Hopkins to the fullest. 
  6. There’s no wrong time to contact SDS, but it is best to contact us as soon as possible. Accommodations can take time to get in place and are not provided retroactively. We want services and accommodations implemented and barriers removed before a student experiences any negative impact. We strive to make the experience welcoming and affirming, and we look forward to meeting new students.