Accessible Education

Students Requiring Accessible Education

Accessible Education Office

Smith Campus Center, Fourth Floor
Fax: 617-496-1098 

Harvard University is committed to providing students who have documented disabilities or medical conditions equal access to all affiliated programs and activities through the provision of reasonable accommodations.

The Accessible Education Office (AEO), which serves College, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) as well as the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) students, works with faculty to make this possible. Federal law defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts the condition, manner, or duration under which a person in the population can perform a major life activity, such as walking, seeing, hearing, reading, concentrating, speaking, breathing, learning, or taking care of oneself.

It is important that all communication with students regarding accommodations be individualized and confidential.

Ongoing communication and collaboration on the part of faculty, teaching staff, AEO, administrators, and students themselves is essential. Students who request accommodations should present instructors with an introductory letter from AEO giving an overview of their approved accommodations. Students making such requests without this letter should be referred directly to AEO. Providing accommodations in the course to students who are not registered with AEO can result in inconsistent performance by a student who is ultimately ineligible to receive accommodations for final examinations. Members of the Faculty best understand the essential components of their courses. Accommodations are not intended to compromise the central components of a course. For more information about essential components of a course, visit the AEO website.

The course head is responsible for implementing all AEO-approved academic accommodations and assistance needed for classroom instruction, midterm and hourly examinations, including finding a separate room for exam administration. If a student requires a scribe or similar service to write for a midterm or hourly exam, the course head is responsible for arranging for this service and coordinating payment through the department. Accommodated exams are expected to occur on the same day as in-class exams. All final examinations for students with AEO-approved exam accommodations are administered during the final exam period by the Exams Office and appropriate accommodations will be made in conjunction with AEO (see entry below.)

Course heads should routinely note in the course syllabus and announce at the first class meeting that students approved for accommodations should contact the teaching staff to discuss and implement satisfactory arrangements for sectioning, course materials, and examinations. Faculty are encouraged to include the following paragraph in the syllabus:

Any student needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to present his or her letter from the Accessible Education Office (AEO) and speak with the professor by the end of the second week of the term. Failure to do so may result in the Course Head’s inability to respond in a timely manner. All discussions will remain confidential, although AEO may be consulted to discuss appropriate implementation.

Faculty who take into account variations in learning for all students know that effective strategies for instruction frequently obviate the need for accommodations. Some suggestions are:

  • Provide students who are visually impaired, or have learning/reading disabilities with reformatted instructional and testing materials at the same time provided to all other students. The Assistive Technology Center (ATC) is available to help with preparation of accessible materials as long as they are provided to them in advance.  Increased reliance on and availability of digital text benefits all students. Other formats may include Braille or enlarged print.
  • Ensure students who are Deaf or hard of hearing have available seating space in the front of the room and by making sure the room has appropriate lighting. If movies or slide presentations occur, an alternative lighting source will be required for students who need to see interpreters. Some students may use FM listening devices associated with their hearing aids that require teaching staff to use a wireless (non-amplifying) microphone. Faculty should make advance arrangements to provide open-captioned films and videos by contacting AEO.
  • Call for volunteers from the class as soon as the need for a note-taker has been communicated, taking care not to disclose the student’s name or disability.  Typically note-takers who take their notes in an electronic format are preferred as they are able to email the AEO student their notes immediately after the class.
  • Ensure that lectures, sections, review sessions, etc. are held in physically accessible spaces when required. The Registrar's Office classroom section (617-495-1541) can assist when relocation of a course is necessary.

When students make course changes after Study Card Day and before the fifth Monday of the term, it is understood that significant delays in the preparation of reformatted materials may result, affecting both students and instructional staff.

Assistive Technology Center

Harvard University Science Center B06

The Assistive Technology Center (ATC) serves College, GSAS, and SEAS students registered with AEO and who depend on print alternatives to access course materials. The ATC provides support through technology, which can include electronic version of course materials, and access to course content in the classroom.

Faculty members who require assistance producing handouts, lecture notes, exams, or other course materials converted into digital text, Braille, or enlarged text, can contact the ATC for assistance. If a student requires the use of a laptop as an exam accommodation, a course staff member may email the ATC to arrange for an equipment loan. Arrangements for reformatted material or the loan of equipment should be made least 5 business days in advance.

Final Examinations for Students with AEO-Approved Exam Accommodations

All final examinations for students with AEO-approved exam accommodations are administered during the Examination Period by the FAS Registrar's Office, and appropriate accommodations will be made in conjunction with AEO. For questions concerning the administration of final exams (e.g., the date, time, or location of exams) contact the FAS Registrar's Office, or 617-495-1542. For questions concerning accommodations, contact the AEO, or 617-496-8707.