The Top 5 Things You Should Know as a Graduate/Professional Student

My name is Charnessa Warren, and I’m the Director of Student Disability Services. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you the top five things you should know as a student with a disability.

  1. Student Disability Services is located on the lower level of the Campus North Parking Garage, on the corner of 55th Street and Ellis Avenue. Currently, we’re available Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    SDS is committed to facilitating the full participation of students with disabilities in the life of the University, through the provision of supports, services, and accommodations for various types of accessibility needs. Whether you arrive with a disability, or you require a new diagnosis while at UChicago, or even if you become temporarily injured, SDS could be a valuable resource.
  2. You must self-identify.┬áIn order to become eligible for accommodations and support services, you’re responsible for identifying yourself as a person with a disability. If your disability is not obvious, we will request that you provide supporting documentation that supports your eligibility for disability accommodations and services. You will be asked to share with SDS staff your diagnosis and describe its functional impact or limitations you experience in major life activities which might impact your academic performance. Examples of major life activities include your ability to read, write, walk, see, hear, and concentrate.
  3. You must engage in the interactive process. The disability accommodation process is an interactive and collaborative one between you, SDS, and other relevant campus partners.
    The first step in the process is to register with the SDS Office by submitting a Request for Accommodation Form available on the SDS website via the AIM Student Portal. Upon receiving your request form, the SDS staff will contact you to schedule an intake interview to learn more about your access needs and to explain the procedures of using disability services at UChicago. Documentation is not required if your access need is obvious. Documentation will be needed for non-obvious disabilities to provide information about the severity of the functional limitations caused by the condition. It is also helpful to provide supporting documentation of past use of accommodations at previous institutions or accommodation approval letters from testing agencies.The SDS staff will review and confidentially store all supporting documentation. The interactive process may also include a consultation with a treating physician, therapist, or a third-party reviewer if necessary. And sometimes it requires a consultation interview between SDS staff and your instructors or an academic department representative, such as the dean of students or the designated disability liaison.
    Once SDS staff has obtained and reviewed all the necessary information, you will receive an accommodation determination letter, also known as as an ADL, listing your accommodations. The ADL will be shared with you and the Dean of Students Office or your department’s disability liaison in order to facilitate implementation. The diagnosis or specific details about the nature of your disability is not shared in the letter. The ADL will only state the list of approved accommodations.
  4. You will have quarterly responsibilities. Once you have been approved for accommodations, you are responsible for following the disability accommodation procedures within your academic divisions each quarter. If you are unclear about the procedures, you should meet with the disability liaison in your division to review the procedures used on a quarterly basis. SDS has a list of divisional disability liaisons on our website. Also, if you’re planning to take courses outside of your academic division, be aware that you will need to work with the disability liaison of the applicable division, which may also have different essential program requirements that can affect the implementation or use of approved accommodations. Concerns about this should be discussed with SDS in advance of the quarter.
    If you use disability services that are provided centrally through SDS, such as document conversion services and sign language interpreting and captioning services, you must use the SDS procedures for requesting these services on a quarterly basis as outlined on the SDS website.
    Additionally, timely communication is key. By the end of the first week of classes, you should know which accommodations you would like to use in your courses. Students are encouraged to communicate their need for accommodations for the quarter and to discuss with instructors, liaisons, or staff the implementation of the approved accommodations during the first two weeks of class. Failure to provide timely notification of accommodation needs will likely result in either a delay or your inability to use the accommodations. So be on time.
  5. Finally, I’d like to close by reminding you that you belong at UChicago. You were selected as an eligible student for admissions based on your strengths, just like everyone else. Although you may use alternative tools, methods, and strategies, you’re expected to complete the same fundamental requirements as your peers. Know that SDS is here, and we are a great resource for you. We’re so glad that you’re a part of the UChicago community.

Remember, SDS staff is available to provide support in person, by appointment, or remotely via Zoom and telephone. For more details or registering with SDS, please visit our website at or call 773-702-6000.

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