Disability Support Services (DSS)

Disability Support Services (DSS) assists RISD students who have cognitive (learning), psychological and physical disabilities. In order to receive accommodations, students must be registered with DSS. To register, please follow the five steps to making accommodation requests, listed below.

Keep in mind that accommodations may take time to arrange, some up to 2-4 weeks. Academic accommodation requests are accepted on a rolling basis; there is no deadline for submission. However, in order to receive prompt accommodations and services, students are advised to submit a request with documentation prior to the beginning of the semester. Keep in mind accommodations are not retroactive. Students requesting accommodations should refer to RISD’s prescribed accommodation timeline in order to ensure they complete their requests in a timely manner and remain within reasonable accommodations.

Disability Support Services offers time management drop ins and pop up programming open to all RISD students. One-on-one time management coaching is available to students registered with Disability Support Services.

How to Request Accommodations

  1. Contact Disability Support Services
    Please schedule your initial appointment to begin the process.

  2. Provide documentation and complete our Online Intake Form
    Questions about specific types of documentation required should be directed to the Director of Disability Support & Academic Support. Documentation should be submitted to the DSS office prior to your meeting with the DSS coordinator. Please review the accommodation timeline to ensure you receive accommodations in time for the semester as requests may take time to complete. Note: CE and/or Pre-College students should email a completed application for services PDF form to

  3. Participate in an initial appointment to determine reasonable accommodations
    At your initial appointment you will discuss:

    • your documentation
    • any previous accommodations
    • your eligibility for accommodations
    • any potential accommodations and the related processes
    • next steps
    At this time, will determine if additional documentation is necessary. You will have the opportunity to ask any questions about any part of this process. If no further action is required prior to receiving accommodations (i.e. additional documentation or assessments, etc.), you will receive your accommodations letter at this meeting.

  4. Deliver copies of your disability accommodations letter to course instructors
    You are responsible for delivering copies of this letter to course instructors or other relevant faculty. Each instructor or faculty member retains that copy. When delivering each copy, you need to discuss which of the approved accommodations you intend to use in that particular class and what you will need from the instructor to make those accommodations work smoothly.

  5. Meet annually to reassess accommodations and receive an updated letter
    An accommodations letter is valid for one academic year. You will need to meet with the DSS Coordinator every fall, at the minimum, to reassess your accommodations and receive an updated accommodations letter for the new academic year. You are also encouraged to meet with DSS each semester to look at how needs may change based on a changing academic schedule.

Student FAQs

Q: Should I provide information about my disability in my application to RISD?
A: RISD cannot ask if a student has a disability during the application process. Therefore, it is the student’s personal decision on whether or not they wish to disclose their disability on their application. However, students may feel that their disability shows uniqueness and strength and may choose to use it in their personal essay for application. It is not necessary for students to include documentation in their application for RISD either. Students may send their documentation to Disability Support Services in preparation for enrolling or to inquire about which accommodations may be available. This information will not be shared with admissions and is kept strictly confidential.

Q: When are Accommodation Requests denied?
A: Circumstances in which accommodations are likely to be denied include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Student does not provide required documentation
    If a student does not submit required documentation of his/her disability to DSS, RISD cannot provide disability accommodation. Please note that students may take advantage of other support services at any time (such as the Writing Center, which is available to all students). In addition, DSS staff provide support on an interim basis to students awaiting the required documentation. This includes scheduling one-on-one meetings to assess pressing academic needs, time management and organizational skills.
  • Fundamental alteration
    If an accommodation fundamentally alters the academic standards RISD is required to uphold, the accommodation will be denied. Alternative accommodations will be discussed.
  • Unreasonable/undue burden
    If a requested accommodation is unreasonable DSS will deny it and work to find a reasonable alternative accommodation, assuming sufficient documentation has been provided. If providing a requested auxiliary aid or service would present an undue burden, RISD does not need to provide it, but will work with that student to try to provide another auxiliary aid or service that does not present such a burden.
  • Personal service
    If a request for an accommodation falls under the definition of a personal service, DSS denies the request because it is unreasonable. Personal services are those that a person with a disability must use regardless of attendance at the College. These personal services may include independent living/personal care attendants, transportation other than shuttle services, diagnostic testing and rehabilitation, among others. In addition, RISD will not provide individually prescribed devices. However, RISD will work with the student to make space for and access to personal services they intend to bring with them to RISD.
  • Direct threat to health or safety of others
    If a requested accommodation would cause a significant risk to the health or safety of others, RISD will deny it.

Q: What should I do if I feel as though I am not being accommodated properly?
A: If you feel that the approved accommodations are inadequate and you have already expressed this to DSS without result, you may file a grievance by following the instructions outlined in RISD's Grievance Policy.

Q: How do I request housing accommodations?
A: In order to receive housing accommodations, students must have documentation supporting their request from a currently treating, outside professional provider. Students also need to fill out an application. Requests must be submitted annually and students should contact Residence Life to find the deadline for submission. Application and documentation forms can be found on the

Q: Will my professors automatically be notified if I receive accommodations?
A: No. Students receiving accommodations through Disability Services must deliver their accommodation letters to their professors at the beginning of each term. Students do not need to disclose their specific disability, but we encourage students to talk with their professors about their accommodations.

Q: What if I think I have a disability but do not have an official diagnosis?
A: In cases of documented financial need, Student Financial Services (SFS) and Disability Support Services (DSS) may be able to cover the cost of your neuropsychological evaluation. Our consideration will take into account circumstances that might affect the amount you are expected to contribute toward the evaluation. DSS and SFS engage in an interactive process with the student to determine the best referral or support. Financial assistance requests are considered on an individual basis, and decisions related to support are based on available funds each year. If you think you have unusual circumstances that would make you independent (ex. no familial support), please let DSS know and fill out the attached form. If the circumstances surrounding your request for financial assistance for neuropsychological testing fees are/were traumatic and you feel that writing about them in a personal statement would cause you distress, please reach out to DSS. We can also put temporary accommodations in place while you are in the process of getting tested off campus.

Faculty Resources

Welcome to Faculty Resources for supporting students with disabilities. The information below is to help you be an inclusive faculty member within the RISD community to help all students succeed. As stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, institutions of higher education must provide students with disabilities with reasonable accommodations to provide them with equal access to education. We encourage you to contact Disability Support Services with any questions regarding accommodations, making your classroom inclusive, accessibility concerns on campus and any other questions you may have at 401 709-8460 or

Faculty: Supporting Students

Below are some important concepts to keep in mind when supporting students with disabilities. Please see our Faculty and Staff Guide to Disability Support Services for more detailed information.

  1. Respect Confidentiality – When a student discloses that they have a disability and require accommodations, ensure them that the information will remain between the two of you. If you have questions about an accommodation talk to the student directly or contact Disability Support Services.
  2. Remain Understanding – Students are NOT required to disclose their disability to faculty. The only information they must share with you is what accommodations they receive.
  3. Be flexible and work with the student to ensure their success.
  4. Provide Equal Treatment – Treat students with disabilities as you would a student without a disability. While certain accommodations may be necessary, students with disabilities have the same concerns and issues as their peers. Be sure to include students in classroom activities, hold the same expectations for coursework, and ensure they receive the same level of education as all students.
  5. Utilize Disability Support Services – If you have a question about an accommodation or need advice on how to create an inclusive classroom, we are always here to help!
  6. If you believe a student may benefit from working with Disability Support Services please contact us at 401 709-8465 or to coordinate services.
  7. Syllabus Statement – Putting a statement on your syllabus communicates that you are accommodating, encourages interaction to discuss accommodations, and mentions Disability Support Services as a resource for students to visit have they not requested accommodations already.

Sample Syllabus Statement:

“STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: Rhode Island School of Design is committed to providing equal opportunity for all students. If you are a student with a disability that may require accommodations to complete the requirements of this class, I encourage you to discuss your learning needs with me during the first week of the term. Once an approval letter from the Office of Disability Support Services is submitted, accommodations will be provided as needed. For more information on how to receive accommodations, please contact Disability Support Services at 401 709-8460 or”

Faculty: Students Using DSS

  • Cognitive Learning Disabilities
  • Mental Health/Psychiatric
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Physical Disabilities
  • Health Related Disabilities
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Visual Impairment

Faculty: Common Accommodations

  • Extended time on tests and separate location for tests – Students may require additional time and a separate location for a variety of reasons. Some examples include reading test questions aloud and reducing distractions. Disability Services will coordinate these efforts.
  • Requiring a notetaker – In the case that a student requires a peer notetaker, Disability Services will coordinate these services for the student.
  • Extended time on written assignments when assigned within less than two weeks of the due date
  • Alternative textbook formats – Coordinated through Disability Services.
  • Permission to record lectures
  • Use of calculator, spellcheck or grammar check, when appropriate

Please note that the above list is a sample of common accommodations, but there are many more students may receive. As a faculty member, you will not be told the students disability. Disability Support Services has the required documentation to support the student’s accommodations.

Q: What is a “reasonable accommodation”?
A: A reasonable accommodation refers to an accommodation that provides equal opportunity to education for students with disabilities. These accommodations must not fundamentally alter the program or class requirements and must not result in undue burden for the faculty or staff at the Rhode Island School of Design. This explains why certain accommodations are not approved by Disability Services or expected by faculty members. An example of this would be if a faculty were to lower their grading standards for a student with a disability. This fundamentally alters the requirements for the course and therefore the student is not benefitting from the learning experience as fully as their peers.

Faculty: Creating Inclusive Classrooms

  • Create Power Points and handouts that are available online
  • Use simple color schemes for classroom materials
  • Close caption videos being shown in class
  • Use inclusive, “people first” language
    • Acceptable Terms: “Person with a disability”
    • Unacceptable Terms: “Disabled person”
  • Consider the classroom environment and accessibility
  • Clearly define class expectations and offer feedback
  • Use multiple methods to present information and periodically check-in with students if they need clarification
  • Assume there are disabilities in the room that you are unaware of. Do not always assume a student who did not retain readings or works slowly is disengaged or lazy.
  • Avoid requiring students to read aloud in class.

Campus Accessibility Improvements

The Office of Disability Support Services works closely with RISD Facilities in order to make our campus as accessible as possible. All projects completed will be compliant with ADA and as buildings get renovated accessibility updates are made. Some projects that have been completed in the last few years include:

  • Illustration (ISB) and Apparel buildings have both recently had power-entry doors installed, compliant elevators, and accessible bathrooms
  • Automatic Door Openers have been installed in the following places:
    • Carr House
    • The Fletcher Building
    • The Mason Building
    • 55 Angell Street along the quad pathways
  • Open Access on the upper level of the MET once off the elevator
  • Complete and detailed building signage for accessible pathways

RISD Disability Support Services and Facilities continue to work in collaboration to make our campus as accessible as possible. If you have any campus accessibility concerns please contact Disability Support Services at 401 709-8460 or

Remote instruction tips for faculty

DSS is committed to supporting faculty in developing accessible curricula and virtual learning environments. We encourage faculty to review this overview of remote instruction accessibility tips for more information and to reach out to DSS for additional guidance.

Remote learning tips for students

Remote coursework can pose unique challenges. Here are some helpful tips for remote learning:

  • Organize your workspace, gather and store necessary materials and think about what you will need.
  • Communicate with instructors consistently through email, phone, video and other means.
  • Log in often and regularly check email or other learning management platforms used in your courses.
  • Minimize distractions by using headphones to block out background noises, closing distracting browser tabs, etc.
  • Keep in touch with your classmates.
  • Participate and ask questions during Zoom sessions.
  • Create consistent routines in your schedule, morning through night.
  • Make space in your schedule for breaks, exercise and self-care.