Accessibility and Student Services

The Extension School is committed to providing an accessible academic community. The ASO offers a variety of accommodations and services to students with documented disabilities, permanent and temporary injuries, and chronic conditions. If you are a student with a disability, we engage you in an interactive process to provide you with an equal opportunity to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from our academic and residential programs.

The manager of accessibility services works with you, your instructor(s), and staff on an individualized, case-by-case basis to provide appropriate services to ensure you have a rich and rewarding academic and campus experience.

Contact Information

Accessibility Services Office (ASO)

51 Brattle Street Cambridge, MA 02138 (7th floor)

617-495-4024

Email: accessibility@extension.harvard.edu

How to Request an Accommodation

Step 1. Submit the Request for Accommodation form for each course you plan to take for the term, along with required documentation (see Necessary Documentation below) starting July 1 for fall registration, October 1 for January session, and November 1 for spring registration.

Requests are reviewed in the order they are received. It can take two weeks to review documentation, approve a request, and coordinate the accommodations. You are strongly encouraged to submit your request form and documentation as early as possible to avoid delays in services.

The latest a request can be submitted is four weeks before your course begins to provide materials in alternate format, CART, and ASL services and no later than two weeks before your course begins for other services. Late requests for accommodations will be reviewed. However, if you submit your request later than the four or two week time frame, accommodations will not be arranged in time for the start of your course.

Step 2. Contact ASO by phone or email to schedule an intake appointment to review your documentation and accommodation requests.

After your request has been reviewed and a determination has been made, ASO will email your request for accommodation form to you with a decision. Additional information and/or instructions about exams and note-taking services will be emailed if you have been approved for these accommodations.

What is a disability?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and 1998 define a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts a person from performing one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, or caring for one’s self. An impairment or diagnosis does not necessarily constitute a disability; it must substantially limit these activities.

Temporary Disabilities and Services

You are not considered disabled if you have a temporary illness or injury; however, you may be in need of services or accommodations similar to those provided to students with permanent disabilities. If you are a student with a documented temporary illness or injury, contact the ASO as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Accommodations

Academic accommodations are adjustments and modifications that provide equal academic opportunity for students with disabilities. Academic accommodations are designed to provide equal access to courses and programs, but they do not guarantee an outcome or a level of achievement.

The purpose of accommodations and modifications is to reduce or eliminate any disadvantages that may exist because of your disability. Accommodations are not student preferences; they are determined through an established review process based on documentation received regarding the student's disability. The law does not require institutions to waive specific courses or academic requirements considered essential to a particular course or program. Rather, they are mandated to modify existing requirements on a case-by-case basis in order to ensure that individuals are not discriminated against on the basis of their disability.

Accommodations Provided by the Extension School

The Extension School offers the following accommodations based on a disability:

  • Extended time for in-class exams and in-class assignments. Extended time for exams is generally time and a half. Exams administered with extended time begin earlier than the rest of the class to provide extra time and to allow the proctor to return the completed exam to the professor before the end of class. For example, 5:30 to 7:30 pm exams are scheduled from 4 to 7 pm.
  • Exams administered in a distraction-reduced environment.
  • Note-taking assistance. The Extension School uses peer note-takers for students who are approved for this accommodation. Note-takers are volunteer students enrolled in the same course as the student with a disability. This accommodation is generally provided for lecture-based courses and for regular class meeting times. Not all courses are suitable for note-taking assistance; especially those that are discussion-based or offered online where the class video can be paused and rewound in order to fill in any gaps within a student’s notes. Some courses may have additional sections or review sessions. If your course has additional sections or class meetings, you are expected to inform the ASO of the dates, times, and locations of the review sections no later than one week before the meeting, so appropriate accommodations can be made as needed.
  • Course materials converted to e-text. Most texts are available in electronic format from the publisher for students with vision impairments. The ASO completes and submits the publisher’s request form on the student’s behalf. A sales receipt for the textbook must accompany the request form. Texts also can be converted in an alternative format such as e-texts and enlarged print materials. Students should allow a minimum of four weeks to receive materials from the publisher and convert materials to digitized formats.
  • Exams in large print.
  • Communication access real-time translation (CART) and American Sign Language Interpreters (ASL). CART services and ASL interpreters are available for students with hearing impairments. It can take as long as four weeks to coordinate CART and ASL accommodations. Students should submit their requests early.
  • Captioning. Captioning of course lectures is available for students with hearing impairments who register in online and web-conference courses.
  • Use of adaptive technology.
  • Scribes.
  • Readers.
  • Van service. On-campus van services are available to students with mobility impairments.
  • Accessible parking. To request accessible parking, please contact the accessibility services office at accessibility@extension.harvard.edu. Current medical documentation is required to qualify for this accommodation as well as completion of the parking application and applicable fees.

Available Adaptive Technology Resources 

An adaptive technology laboratory at 53 Church Street is equipped with software and hardware to assist students with disabilities. You may have access to voice recognition, screen-readers, and text-to-speech software.

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking version 10 is speech recognition software that allows students to dictate to the computer and interact with a computer using their voice instead of a keyboard. The student can open icons, browse the Internet, and work in Windows applications. Students train the system to recognize their voice. They are responsible for creating their own voice file and maintaining it on their own storage device.
  • Kurzweil 3000 version 10.4 is a PC-based text-to-speech system designed for students who struggle with reading. It allows the student to view a scanned page on the computer screen while listening to the text as it is read aloud. It speaks and highlights the text simultaneously and enables the student to insert typed or spoken notes anywhere in the document. It also contains study skills and reference tools. Files can be stored in Word, Kurzweil, Daisy, and mp3 formats.
  • Kurzweil 1000 version 11 is a text-to-speech software designed for students who are blind or have low vision. The software reads dialogue boxes as well as materials that have been scanned. The student can also type within scanned documents while the software reads what is being typed. Files can be stored in Word, Kurzweil, and mp3 formats.
  • JAWS (Job Access Windows with Speech) version 10 is a screen reader that enables students who are blind or visually impaired to navigate the Internet and most Windows-based applications by using keystrokes to input data and commands.
  • MAGic version 11 screen-magnification software helps students with low vision view information on the computer screen. Students can customize backgrounds and font colors, the appearance of the cursor, and the level of text magnification. MAGic also has speech output that announces events as they display on screen.

Necessary Documentation

All requests for accommodations must be supported by recent clinical documentation. For requests based on a learning disability or ADHD, a current neuropsychological or psycho-education evaluation is required. Individual education plans may be submitted as a supporting document only and must accompany a full evaluation. Download the guidelines below for specific documentation requirements.

Your Rights and Responsibilities

As a student with a disability, you have the right to equal access to courses, programs, services, activities, and facilities available through the Extension School; reasonable and appropriate accommodations, determined on a case-by-case basis; appropriate confidentiality of all information pertaining to your disability as required by law; and information reasonably available in accessible formats.

Every student with a disability has the responsibility to meet the Extension School’s qualifications and essential technical, academic, and institutional standards; identify yourself in a timely manner as an individual with a disability when seeking an accommodation; provide documentation from an appropriate professional source that verifies the nature of the disability, functional limitations, and the need for specific accommodations; and follow specific procedures for obtaining reasonable and appropriate accommodations.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I received accommodations in a previous term from the Extension School or Harvard Summer School, do I need to re-submit my documentation and Request for Accommodation form?

If your documentation still meets the requirements of the documentation guidelines for your type of disability, then you need only submit the Request for Accommodation form for each class. Documentation for learning disabilities and AD(H)D must be no more than three years old, while documentation for physical and psychiatric disabilities and chronic illnesses must be within a six-month timeframe. Recent documentation is necessary to determine how the functional limitations of your disability currently impact your ability to perform in an academic setting.

If I am approved for accommodations, do I need to notify my professor?

We will inform your instructor of your accommodations and will coordinate with the teaching staff to make the necessary arrangements. Due to medical privacy laws, we do not disclose information regarding your disability unless it is absolutely necessary to provide your accommodations.

If I receive testing accommodations, how will I know when and where the exam will take place?

Our exams specialist will email you the details of your exam accommodations at least a week before the exam takes place.

I am approved for note-taking services. How do I get copies of the class notes?

Class notes are available on a secure website which you access with your HarvardKey. The volunteer note-taker uploads the notes to the website within 48 hours of the class. The exams specialist will email you with more information about the note-taking services if your request is approved.

How do I arrange for accessible parking on campus?

If you have a mobility impairment, you will need to submit medical documentation to the accessibility services office and complete the parking application at the transportation office located in the Smith Campus Center. For more information about parking, please visit parking services.

I am a distance student. How do I receive accommodations?

If you are a distance student and have been approved for disability-related accommodations, we will inform the proctor at your testing center of the approved accommodations. If you have been approved for extended time on exams and are enrolled in a distance course that administers online exams, we will adjust the time accordingly.

If I suffer an injury during the course of the term, can I still apply for accommodations after the accommodation request deadline has passed?

Yes, the Extension School provides accommodations for temporary injuries. Documentation for temporary injuries must include (in addition to a diagnosis that rises to the level of a disability, functional limitations and a recommendation for accommodation) an estimation concerning how long the injury will take to heal, and therefore how long the recommended accommodation(s) will be necessary.

Confidentiality

All medical documentation and requests for accommodations will remain confidential. Confidential information is shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know. The disability services coordinator may share some information with instructors and staff as necessary to coordinate student accommodations.

Grievance Process

The Schools of Harvard University do not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, gender identity and expression, or other legally or policy protected status in the university’s services, educational programs, and activities. 

Grievance procedures across the various schools at Harvard University differ.  In the Division of Continuing Education, the first step in the majority of instances where an individual is dissatisfied with a DCE decision or treatment is to seek an informal resolution.  By way of example, if a student believes that a faculty member has not satisfied a disability-based obligation, the ASO office often successfully remediates these disputes in an efficient an informal manner.  Students and others with disabilities should not hesitate to register their disability-based concerns directly with the ASO office, even if the dispute may be with the ASO.

Students may request reconsideration of accommodation decisions (including eligibility decisions) made by the ASO on the basis of a failure of judgment, failure of process, or failure of information. Individuals also have the right to file a grievance with the ASO if they believe their rights as an individual with a disability have been violated.

The ASO respects each individual’s rights under the law. To this end, the complainant should trust that regardless of the registering of a concern, such will have no impact on our collaborative working relationship.

Requesting Reconsideration

An individual may request reconsideration of a decision based on a failure of judgment when he/she/they believes the determination made by the ASO was incorrect regarding the need for, application of, or implementation of an accommodation or any other form of disability-based discrimination.

An individual may request reconsideration of a decision based on a failure of process when he/she/they believes the determination made by the ASO was incorrect due to a failure on their part to dutifully perform the process of determining eligibility, or determining a reasonable accommodation.

An individual may request reconsideration of a decision based on a failure of information when he/she/they believes the determination made by the ASO was incorrect due to a lack of information or documentation. In many cases, a failure of information is corrected by the student providing updated or requested documentation.

To request reconsideration, the individual must submit a request to the Director of the ASO for reconsideration. The request must explain why he/she/they believes a decision failed on the basis of judgement or process. Once the written request has been received, the Director will attempt to resolve the issue based upon an inquiry into the matter with the appropriate parties. The individual may be asked to participate in an interview with the Director (or designee) to better understand the circumstances that led to the requested reconsideration.   

Formal Grievance

At any time, an individual with a disability may file a formal grievance with the Director of the ASO based on the belief that his/her rights as an individual with a disability have been violated. Grievances will be handled in a prompt and equitable fashion, affording the grievant appropriate due process.

To file a formal grievance with the ASO, the individual must submit a written statement regarding the alleged acts of discrimination. Grievants are encouraged to bring their complaint forward in an expeditious manner to enable the University to address disputes as quickly as possible.  To be considered timely, grievances must be filed within six months from the underlying adverse action. The process is as follows:

  • Within five working days, the Director of ASO or designee will confirm receipt of the grievance.
  • The ASO may offer the grievant an opportunity to address his/her concern informally or through an alternative dispute resolution process.
  • If the grievance is not resolved informally or through alternative dispute resolution, the ASO official or designee will conduct an investigation to include the following:
  • Interviews of the grievant and others deemed necessary to obtaining an understanding of the underlying allegation and the factual circumstances
  • Review of appropriate documents submitted by the grievant and/or other stakeholders
  • Review of relevant DCE policies and procedures
  • Other measures deemed appropriate by the investigator
  • Upon completion of the investigation, the ASO will issue a written report to the grievant outlining the allegation, the evidence gathered, the factual determinations made and a conclusion whether there is sufficient evidence to establish that DCE has failed to comply with disability-based legal obligations.
  • If the investigator determines that one or more of the grievant’s allegations is supported by the evidence and that a corrective action is appropriate, the report will indicate what measures DCE will undertake to address the identified failure and to address the grievant’s particular circumstances.
  • Barring extraordinary circumstances, such as the unavailability of witnesses or if the nature of the allegations involve a significant level of interviewing, the investigative process at the formal stage should be completed within 45 working days from the ASO’s determination that a formal grievance is proceeding.
  • In the event that ASO anticipates that it may exceed this timeframe, it will notify the grievant in writing and indicate when the ASO reasonably believes that the investigation will be completed.

University-Level Grievances

If the grievant is dissatisfied with the outcome of an inquiry, he/she may file an appeal with University Disability Services. For more information regarding that process please consult the University Disability Services webpage.

Questions?

If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment with the accessibility services office, email accessibility@extension.harvard.edu. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm Eastern time.