2.6 Confidentiality & Release of Information

Confidentiality, especially when disclosing a disability and the need for accommodations, is critical in all matters pertaining to students with disabilities. Disability-related information is handled under the same strict rules of confidentiality as is other medical information, specifically including the documentation that persons with disabilities disclose to OSWD when arranging accommodations. OSWD has procedures in place to secure the confidentiality of documents in its offices. All discussion between the student and faculty member are protected. For instance, a Note Taker may be identified in the classroom, but no disclosure should be made about whom the Note Taker is assisting. The Note Taker maintains confidentiality by delivering copies of the notes for the student to pick up at the OSWD office.

OSWD is the single office at Gallaudet charged with the responsibility for collecting and handling disability-related documentation, and OSWD does not disclose confidential matters concerning a student's disability without the express permission of the student. Faculty inquiring about a student's disability must discuss the matter directly with the student if the faculty feels that the knowledge gained will enhance accommodations for the benefit of the student. Legal opinion holds that faculty members generally do not have a need to know what a student's disability is, only that it has been appropriately verified by OSWD.

The need for disclosure, or its necessary extent, may change with circumstances. For instance, if a student with a disability moves into university housing, Resident Life may need to know about the condition in order to provide proper emergency access. Similarly, if a student files a grievance regarding treatment by a faculty member, the administrator charged with handling the matter may need to know the specifics of the individual's disability and history at Gallaudet.


Students are required to sign a form authorizing release of personal information to specific recipients at Gallaudet; without this release, students may not receive accommodations.


[Some information in this section is based on the pamphlet "Confidentiality & Disability: Issues in Higher Education", Association on Higher Education and Disability, Huntersville, NC, 2011.]