Accessibility and Disability Services
Please always feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions/comments/concerns with this document or with accessibility at UMD in general. If I don’t know, I will try to find out for you!
I created this document because the ADS website is primarily applicable to undergrads and I wanted there to be a clear, helpful guide for GRADUATE students with disabilities. We belong here, and we deserve support, not only as students but also in our many many other roles as workers, teachers, and researchers.
This document will primarily cover the subject of securing accommodations in research and work (as well as things like parking and housing). For classroom accommodations, the prospective and current student ADS pages are fairly informative (scroll down for a full list of Assistive Technology offerings, if interested).
Also: we have a Google space and a WhatsApp group just for grads with disabilities! We get together occasionally and mainly share resources and support. If you would like to join, just email me at email@example.com.
I followed up with Tessa (the director of ADS) and Dr. Joshi (the director of the Counseling Center) after this article came out: https://dbknews.com/2023/04/03/requiring-documentation-hurts-students-accommodations/.
ADS is not willing to share their current policies/procedures regarding accepting/rejecting documentation. However, in my meeting with them, both Tessa and Dr. Joshi said that ADS routinely accepts “old” documentation (from before the last 6 months) and documentation that is not on their official forms. They said that the purpose of the official documentation is only to acquire additional information, if/when the student’s self-report is not adequate.
This is all to say that your disability specialist SHOULD NOT tell you that your documentation has to be less than 6 months old, or that it has to be on the official paperwork, especially if you have a chronic/childhood condition. Tessa said that in the past, they have accepted documentation that was literally only a single sentence. The ADS registration process is difficult enough without being told you have to find time to go to UHS or an expensive specialist and get additional forms filled out or replace documentation for a condition that hasn’t changed in years. If your accommodation request is rejected based on the age/format of your documentation please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for support with informal ADS resolution. You also now have the option of filing a formal complaint with the ADA coordinator, the procedures of which are described here: https://accessibility.umd.edu/policies-procedures/ada-complaint-resolution-procedures-for-students-with-disabilities.
How to Get Work / Research Accommodations
This interactive process may require additional meetings and conversations with supervisors, course instructors and/or the department, as accommodations for your work/research may need to be more specialized or creative, in order to make things accessible to you without removing essential functions/responsibilities. Your disability specialist should set up meetings with the director of graduate studies, your supervisor(s), and anyone else they need to talk to to determine the essential functions of your GA position in a timely manner. They will then hopefully do the research on your disability to determine the most appropriate accommodations. You should not have to do the majority of the legwork, however you may have to advocate for yourself. You can always suggest a new accommodation, or an accommodation that you received in the past that helped you. Your specialist should take these suggestions into consideration and work with you on what will best secure you access to your work/research. (If this is not your experience I recommend switching counselors ASAP. Hannah Witschey is my current counselor and I would recommend her highly.)
At any time in the semester or year, you should always be able to set up a meeting with your disability specialist and ask for changes or modifications. What accommodations are needed or used can change with the nature and intensity of work, and the ADS specialists are supposed to always reassess and provide additional support as needs change. However, ADS does not have funding for accommodation requests. (Neither does ESSR, and they also make recommendations about assistive technology/aids/ergonomic equipment.) For employment-related accommodations, the financial burden is supposed to fall on the entire university system. It first falls on your particular lab supervisor/department. If they say they can’t afford it or just refuse to allocate the funds, there is recourse.
From ADS: “There is no specific person that is solely responsible for assisting students implement their accommodations; including those that involve questions related to funding. Disability Specialists and the ADS Leadership Team are jointly responsible for working with students, faculty and assistantship supervisors throughout this process. Students should communicate directly with their Disability Specialist regarding any concerns. If things are not resolved by the Disability Specialist's intervention; students can ask to speak with one of the Assistant Directors, or the Director Tessa Cahill.”
If the accommodations continue to not be implemented, you can make an ADA complaint; the guidelines for students are here. Again, if you are having a hard time with this, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com for solidarity and support.
For any ADS issues, reach out to the assistant director Cassandra at firstname.lastname@example.org (ADS has made clear that this is their preferred conflict resolution path.) You should be offered the option of switching to a new counselor. Katie at email@example.com is the specialist coordinator, and should be able to help you with this if Cassandra doesn’t.
Here are 2 great ADS resources that you may need to explicitly ask for:
Access to the Adaptive Technology lab so that you can be properly assessed to see if a technological aid could help you. Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org is the contact for the AT lab and he is also a great resource if you are registered with ADS. They can give you expensive software for free, including Dragon (speech recognition) and Glean (note taking with audio). See below for a more detailed list. You can also express interest in the AT lab by filling out this google form.
An ergonomic assessment done by ESSR. The assessor would come into your work space with you and assess what is needed to establish comfort. Hannah contacted the Assistant Director of the ESSR Occupational Safety and Health office and they are able to conduct these assessments for students.
If you/your counselor are struggling to come up with reasonable accommodations for your condition, the Job Accommodations Network is an AMAZING resource. I would start here: https://askjan.org/a-to-z.cfm
If you need mental health support, a warm referral to a counselor, help navigating health insurance, assistance with degree planning, contact Simone (the Grad Academic Counselor) at email@example.com.
This 9.8.22 Graduate Student Circle covering ADS is super helpful, it's basically like an orientation for graduate students with disabilities and it explains what ADS is supposed to offer. You can access Zoom recordings of the session here:
You can also find the slides for this presentation and all of the other recordings of Graduate Student Circles on this website : https://gradschool.umd.edu/students/gradcounselor/gradcircles.
Things to Sign Up For
Including Disability Global Summit - "HopePunk: Persevering, Building Community, Chasing Hope"
Tuesday, April 25 through Thursday, April 27, 2023
The President's Commission on Disability Issues (PCDI) is one of the main disability-focused organization on campus. PCDI-SAC is a group for students that identify as having a disability and student advocates of the disability community. They communicate information about upcoming events and meetings as well as disability-related resources and opportunities through our list-serv as well as our GroupMe.
PCDI Resources page: https://pcdi.umd.edu/selected-resources/home
You're invited to join my group "PCDI SAC" on GroupMe. https://groupme.com/join_group/54204112/qa54wGxg
To join the listserv, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm also a part of a "Disabled Academic Collective" on Discord that has over 100 people from different institutions. I'm not very active there but it's a nice place to check in every once in a while. You can access the server at https://discord.gg/WksGfuj
ADS does not approve housing accommodations for any private off-campus housing entity. If you reside in one of the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) locations like Courtyards, ADS only reviews requests for an emotional support animal for students in these locations. If a student needs any other housing accommodations while residing within a PPP location, they should contact their leasing office for assistance.
To get a disability placard from MDOT, you need to send them the VR-210 form, which is the form you take to your physician to get a disability placard for parking. This has been huge for me personally in terms of getting to and around campus. You fill out parts A and B, and the doctor fills out part C, and then you upload it online here: https://mymva.maryland.gov/TAP/IND/_/
With a disability placard and any valid campus parking permit, which you must purchase here, you should be able to park in any of the handicapped spots on campus. Unfortunately I do not believe there is a map of where all these spots are located and how many there are in each location, I am currently working with GSG and DOTS to try and remedy this.
Waiting for your placard from MDOT can take a little while, if you need parking accommodations ASAP you can submit this form to DOTS. They say that typically, this results in permission to park in any student lot.
Paratransit is also available (must ask your disability specialist to approve), but can be difficult to schedule. When you try to access the website, you will be shown the following message multiple times:
You have to hit “Advanced” and then hit “Proceed” to get to the website (may pop up multiple times).
Assistive Technology Lab Offerings (as of Spring 2023)
Magnifiers - CCTV
Magnifiers - handheld lens
Manual Brailler - Perkins
Noise suppression devices
Alt library text retrieval
AT general introduction/training
Exams with adaptive tech
Morphic setup and use
Study carrel access (in McKeldin library – often full)
Tactile image creation
Text to audio conversion
Text to braille creation
Dictation on Mac
Dictation on Windows
Built in adaptive software on Windows/Apple
Inspiration (outline, brainstorm)
Kurzweil 1000 (scan and read with voiced menus)
Kurzweil 3000 (ADD/LD scan and read)
ZoomText (screen magnification)
Leave of absence related
I (Lasair) took a leave of absence due to disability in Fall 2022, more than happy to talk to anyone about the process and answer questions. Simone, the graduate counselor mentioned earlier, (email@example.com) is also a great resource. Some assorted resources below: