Students Requiring Accessible Education
Accessible Education Office
Smith Campus Center, Fourth Floor
Harvard University is committed to providing students who have disabilities with equal access to all affiliated programs and activities through inclusive design and 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, collaborates with faculty and students to make this possible.
Disability information, including diagnoses and clinical documentation, is protected under FERPA, and it is important that all communication with students regarding accommodations be individualized and only shared with other university officials on a need-to-know basis.
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 implementation of university procedures. Members of the Faculty best understand the essential components of their courses, and accommodations are not designed to alter or eliminate any essential requirements of a course.
The course head is responsible for implementing all AEO-approved academic accommodations needed for classroom instruction, and midterm or 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 should reach out to AEO for assistance. 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 elements of the course that may be inaccessible and develop a plan together on how their accommodations will be implemented, based on their letter from AEO.
Faculty who utilize universal design in learning for all students know that effective strategies for instruction frequently obviate the need for accommodations. Some suggestions are:
- Provide course materials in accessible formats, including documents/PDFs that are screen-readable. 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, which the ATC can provide.
- Ensure students who are Deaf or hard of hearing have available seating space in the front of the room and that 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. If microphones are available in the classroom, they should be used at all times. Faculty should make advance arrangements to provide open-captioned films and audio material and can receive assistance with captioning by contacting the 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 the registration deadline and before the fifth Monday of the term, it is understood that delays in the preparation of reformatted materials may result, affecting both students and instructional staff.
Assistive Technology Center
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, firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-495-1542. For questions concerning accommodations, contact the AEO, email@example.com or 617-496-8707.