What are the deadlines to get connected with DAO?

All new-to-DAO students are strongly encouraged to schedule an access meeting and submit registration materials in advance of each upcoming term so that we have adequate time to provide effective support and timely notification to faculty. Note that accommodations cannot be implemented retroactively, and are implemented only after the request process is complete.

Our office will accept and review documentation at any point during the semester. We reccommend that students begin the process 3-4 weeks before the start of the new term to ensure timely review and delivery.

What is an Access Meeting, and why do I have to meet with someone in your office to receive accommodations?

Written documents do not usually give the entire picture of a student or what their experiences are. First and foremost, an interactive conversation helps our staff assess what the best services or accommodations are for a student. It also provides a time for open discussion and a chance for the student to pose questions that may not arise until speaking one-on-one in a personal setting. Students, being the experts on their disabilities, are asked to share their history of accommodation needs, current barriers in their living and learning environments, and discuss the best ways to create equity through the resources that DAO offers. This interactive process is what we call an Access Meeting. Students are not limited to one initial meeting, and are encouraged to continue to connect with DAO throughout their time at Harvard.

Who will know what my accommodations are?

Academic Accommodations

Students registered with DAO are given Faculty Letters to distribute to professors and other teaching staff. These letters document the accommodations the student needs in order to access the course. Additionally, the student’s current First-Year Resident Dean or current Allston Burr Assistant Dean receives a copy of undergraduates' letters. Faculty Letters do not include a student’s disability.


Housing Accommodations

Housing accommodations are assessed on a case-by-case basis through DAO. House Administrators or Resident Deans often are consulted to determine how the reasonable accommodations will be implemented, based on the specific residential environment. While DAO does not relocate students to specific houses based on preference, accessibility of their current placement is reviewed to determine if an in-house or inter-house move is necessary.

What do I do if my professor wants to know what my disability is?

You are under no obligation to share your diagnosis with faculty, you need only give your professor or Teaching Fellow your Faculty Letter from DAO stating what you will need for accommodations for the course. If a professor continues to question you about your diagnosis, please refer them to our office and we will remind them of our privacy policy.

Disclosure is always a personal decision. However, you may want to consider practicing a response to inquiries from others that not only conforms to your individual desire for privacy but also provides clarity surrounding your accommodation needs.


How do special education services differ from university accommodations?

Public schools are mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide a free and appropriate education to public school students through the provision of special education, which includes individualized instructional modifications and related services. The laws governing special education do not apply to universities or colleges, and are replaced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended in 2008), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Universities and colleges must ensure that an otherwise qualified student does not encounter discrimination due to a disability, and must provide reasonable accommodations that allow the student to fully participate in university programs/classes. In order to receive accommodations in higher education, students have to self-disclose their disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must not alter the fundamental requirements of a course or program. Curriculum modifications and individualized instruction in general are not implemented in higher education. 

What type of services are provided by the DAO?

DAO determines reasonable accommodations on an individual basis for students with disabilities. DAO offers consultation and accommodation management advising to students as requested. Students receive academic accommodations from faculty members and course staff directly. DAO staff also assist students by working with university faculty and staff if any difficulties arise in the implementation of accommodations. DAO may also refer a student to appropriate on and off-campus resources and services, such as tutoring, counseling, medication review and/or social services.

I missed the deadline to apply for housing accommodations for my disability. What should I do?

Housing accommodation notices from DAO generally go out to the Dean of Students Office and individual house administrators several months in advance of the housing assignment process. While our office will make every effort to consider your request, please note that late applications make it difficult to review and implement housing accommodations before housing assignments are finalized. For more information please see our housing section.