Letter to New Students and their Parents

Memo:  Transitioning from High School to College

From:   Dr. Patricia Tesar, Director, Office for Students with Disabilities

To:        Incoming Gallaudet students and their parents 

The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSWD) at Gallaudet welcomes you to the exciting adventure that starts here. For entering students with disabilities, OSWD is a campus unit you want to be familiar with: OSWD is the Gallaudet unit responsible for documenting students' disabilities and determining students' eligibility for reasonable accommodations. OSWD is here to help new Gallaudet students achieve their academic goals through equal access, just as we currently help more than 12% of the Gallaudet student body.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 still govern disability support, but with significant differences. While Section 504 requires a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each child with a disability in the district's jurisdiction, a university is required to provide appropriate academic accommodations as necessary to ensure that it does not discriminate on the basis of disability.

Here are two key differences for students and parents to keep in mind:

  • Students are responsible for disclosing their disabilities to OSWD; students are not required to disclose a disability unless they wish to obtain an accommodation because of it.
  • Students' information about their disabilities and their accommodations is confidential. It is medical, psychological; or psycho-educational information that OSWD and Gallaudet are NOT permitted to disclose TO PARENTS unless the student has signed a release form that allows it.

To determine eligibility for disability support services, OSWD requires supporting medical, psychological, and/or psycho-educational documentation as part of an intake procedure:

  1. Student contacts OSWD to disclose one or more disabilities;
  2. Student provides basic information on short intake form provided by OSWD;
  3. Student arranges for appropriate medical, psychological, and/or psycho-educational documentation to be sent to OSWD; and
  4. Student has an intake appointment with the Intake Coordinator to establish eligibility.

After a student's eligibility is established, further discussion with an OSWD counselor determines what academic accommodations the student qualifies for. Faculty teaching classes that the student has enrolled for will then be informed of the appropriate accommodations provided the student has signed an OSWD "Release of Information" form.

For more information, please read the document from the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights: "Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities"; link.

For more general information, please visit the OSWD website.

Download a PDF copy of the OSWD "Intake Form" at this link.

For additional questions, please contact OSWD by email, OSWD@gallaudet.edu, by phone at 202-651-5256, or by Video Phone at 202 250-2059.

Thank you.

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