Accommodations for Disabilities

Your primary goal is to learn to manage your OCD symptoms so you can function productively in school and in the real world with all its triggers and stresses.

Know the Laws

Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, most colleges and universities are required to offer accommodations to students with a disability (defined as a physical or mental health problem that limits major life activities). These laws, which protect students from discrimination on the basis of disability, require schools to provide accommodations to help “level the playing field” for students with disabilities. Among many others, accommodations include extended time for tests, audio recordings of lectures and books, and preferential seating.

It’s important that accommodations fit your needs. Extra time on tests may work well for students with learning disabilities or ADHD, but those accommodations may not be helpful if you have OCD. The extra time may allow more time for ritualizing, which could help intensify your symptoms.

Before seeking formal accommodations, which are typically provided through the disabilities office or the dean of students, check into other services your school offers: a learning skills center with resources to help you acquire study skills and learn how to prepare for exams and decrease test anxiety. These programs are open to all students, and they do not represent official accommodations.

Some people believe that those with OCD should not seek special accommodations at school or in the workplace because it will take longer to get relief from symptoms. But if your grades are suffering, it can be extremely helpful to take advantage of some temporary accommodations while you get treatment.

College-Level Accommodations

You will be required to provide documentation to obtain disability accommodations at the college level. Be prepared to get a written statement from a licensed or otherwise qualified professional documenting your disability that includes how it affects your capacity to participate in and benefit from your academic program. The law requires that schools keep all information about a students’ disabilities confidential; nothing will be kept as part of your permanent school record.

While an individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan (such as one you may have had in high school) may help identify services that have been effective for you, it is generally not sufficient documentation because there are differences between postsecondary and high school education. What worked for you in high school may not be effective in college. The nature of your disability may be different, too; it’s common for OCD symptoms to change over time.

Although Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act actually protect elementary, secondary, and postsecondary students from discrimination, several of the laws’ requirements that apply through high school are different from those that apply beyond high school. For example, Section 504 requires school districts at the elementary through high school levels to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) { } to each child with a disability in a district’s jurisdiction.

A FAPE is not required beyond high school (the postsecondary level), but schools are required to provide appropriate academic adjustments as necessary to ensure that they do not discriminate on the basis of disability. It’s important to note that one reason accommodation requests at the college level are denied is that they go beyond the scope of  preventing discrimination for students with disabilities. Requests for accommodations may also be rejected if they lower or substantially modify essential requirements; fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program, or activity; or would result in an undue financial or administrative burden to the school.


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