Policies and Procedures

1.0 Introduction

Southern Methodist University (SMU) and the Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS) team are committed to providing a supportive and challenging environment for students with disabilities who choose to attend SMU. Additionally, federal law requires that all students with disabilities be provided with reasonable accommodations for their certified disabilities. SMU is proud to be an educational institution that welcomes and supports a diverse student body, and we hope to create a learning environment that encourages as well as challenges all students.

SMU provides a variety of services to assist students with disabilities in becoming active members of the University community. These services vary, on a case-by-case basis, according to the individual needs of each student. The majority of these services are coordinated by the Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies team. Supporting the academic efforts of students with disabilities is an important goal of DASS.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 help to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. The purpose of accommodations and modifications is to assure that students with disabilities have equal access to programs and services offered by SMU.

2.0 Mission Statement

Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies is a part of the Provost's Office's Student Academic Support Programs (SASP). As such, it shares its mission to: 

  • to support new students in their transition to the academic culture of the university;

  • to assist students in developing comprehensive, advanced reading and learning techniques and in applying these global skills to specific coursework challenges; 

  • to offer services that encourage students to build confidence in their ability to learn and to overcome the challenges they may confront at SMU; 

  • to offer services that strengthen—and where necessary develop—the foundational skills (mathematical literacy, reading, writing, computer literacy, critical thinking) that are central to every student's continued academic success; 

  • to offer services that support students' pursuit of the institution's most challenging programs of study and mastery of their chosen curricula;

  • to ensure that the Center's administrative practices, operating principles, and staff development activities are designed to further the academic well-being of SMU's undergraduates. 

The mission of DASS is carried out by:

  • Assisting students with disabilities in overcoming environmental barriers and by providing them with reasonable academic accommodations and support services that may reduce the impact of their disabilities on their experiences at SMU 

  • Promoting community awareness of the needs and capabilities of students with disabilities 

  • Serving as a resource for members of the University community, prospective students, parents, and members of the public who interact with the University community 

  • Exploring, researching, and improving service options for students with disabilities in postsecondary education. 

3.0 Disability Law

The rights of students with disabilities are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), both of which are laws aimed at ending discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Section 504 reads as follows:

"No otherwise qualified individual with a [disability] in the United States shall, solely by reason of a [disability], be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

Under the provisions of Section 504, SMU may not:

  • Limit the admission of otherwise qualified students with disabilities based upon their disabilities 

  • Make pre-admission inquiries mandating an answer as to whether an applicant has a disability 

  • Exclude an otherwise qualified student with a disability from any course of study 

  • Provide less financial assistance to students with disabilities than is provided to other students 

  • Counsel students with disabilities into more restrictive career paths than are recommended to non-disabled students

4.0 Outreach and Identification

Students with disabilities are not required to identify themselves as having a disability; thus their use of the services provided by DASS is optional. Therefore, DASS staff attempts to ensure that students know of these services so they may avail themselves of the opportunities if they wish to do so. Also, DASS staff works with faculty, staff, and administrators to inform them of the services available so they may refer students to this office as appropriate. Outreach efforts include the following:

  • Information about services is included in admissions information and brochures for prospective students. 

  • Requests for information about disability services are met by telephone or mail reply. 

  • Open lines of communication are maintained for dialogue between DASS and academic advisers in the colleges, among faculty and residence assistants, with Health Center and Learning Enhancement Center personnel, and others, to enable them to refer students to the appropriate office on campus.

  • Presentations about available services and working with students with disabilities are made to departments, such as Residence Life and Student Housing and the Advising Center.

  • Fliers giving information on DASS are included in the orientation materials distributed on our website and in hardcopy to new students. 

  • During summer orientation, DASS briefs students and parents about DASS and the accommodation process at SMU by: publicizing and leading on-site and/or virtual meetings and linking a 15-minute DASS Orientation video to the front page of the DASS website. 

  • SMU course syllabi include a referral to DASS regarding accommodation needs.

5.0 Student Contacts

If a student is in need of a reasonable accommodation, it is that student's responsibility to contact the DASS Office, as the ADA requires the person with a disability to self-identify, provide bona fide certification of a disability, and request a reasonable accommodation or accommodations. The DASS office will work directly with the student with a disability to explore needs and services. Accommodations are not approved retroactively, so DASS encourages students to make their requests known as soon as possible.

When students initially contact DASS, they will be asked to describe the nature of their concerns in order to determine the most appropriate assistance to provide. Students will be informed at this initial contact that they will need to provide appropriate documentation (see Section 6) of their disabilities, suggested accommodations if applicable, and histories of the accommodations they have received in prior educational environments.

It is our policy that documentation must be kept on file with DASS in order to determine accommodations, as well as to justify approval or denial.  

This section is primarily for office use. Our online interface and data management system, DASS Link, has been implemented to keep a student's data in their electronic file indefinitely. We are phasing out paper files and the associated system listed here. We expect to have no paper files by 2029 at the latest. The status options of paper files (before DASS Link) were Contact, Pending, Active, or Inactive.

  • Contact - Files are in Contact status after students have contacted the DASS office requesting information, but before the students have submitted documentation. An alphabetical listing of students in the Contact status will be maintained by DASS for one semester, indicating when they contacted DASS, what steps the students plan to take, and any recommendations or referrals made to the students.

  • Pending - Files are in Pending status once a student has submitted adequate documentation of a disability, but has not had an intake interview. All students in Pending status will have an individual student file created by the support staff. Files considered Pending for two full semesters will be shredded at the end of that time period. 

  • Active - Student files will be considered Active when the appropriate documentation (see Section 6) has been received and approved by DASS, and after completion of an intake interview. Files are considered Active once DASS has completed the intake form. All files in Active status will be entered and will remain on the database. Such files will retain Active status as long as the student is enrolled in the University. 

  • Inactive - Active files will be moved to Inactive status if a student is not enrolled for one long semester, but will be returned to Active status upon the student’s re-enrollment. Students who re-enroll after missing one full semester must notify DASS that they have returned in order to reactivate their files. The files of students who return to the University after one full semester will be reevaluated to determine if circumstances have changed necessitating the receipt of additional documentation. Effective June 1, 2015, all files will be shredded after five (5) years of Inactive status. 

A student can have access to their entire DASS file (a copy of it), but only after making a written request and giving us at least 2 business days’ notice.

Students who provide DASS with an Accommodation Request Form (available online) and appropriate documentation of a disability will be asked to schedule an intake interview with DASS. DASS will discuss what services are available from DASS and other University offices, and what academic, programmatic, or physical accommodations might be appropriate for the student. The list below contains examples of the types of information that may be gathered. The interview will be tailored to meet the needs of each student based on the disability and the types of accommodations and services he/she might need.

  • Biographical information - student's name, Social Security Number, classification, intended major, campus and e-mail addresses 

  • Referred by - who referred the student or how the student learned about the DASS office 

  • Academic Background – high school attended, year graduated, previous colleges or universities attended, academic achievement as perceived by the student and/or academic records, length of time since last enrolled in an educational setting, brief description of the student’s perception of his/her educational experiences. The type and level of detail may vary depending upon the student's situation.

  • Pertinent History – information that would be relevant to making decisions about appropriate accommodations and modifications. Examples of such information include: etiology, age of onset, description of disability or the problems that the student has had or is currently experiencing, the depth of knowledge the student has regarding his/her disability, functional limitations, the student's method of handling his/her disability emotionally and in terms of his/her educational process. Identify what accommodations, if any, the student has been granted in the past. Identify what accommodations and/or services the student would like to receive and his/her expectations of the office. Indicate any current concerns that the student may have as well as any past experiences that may have an impact on his/her educational progress at this institution. If accommodations are suggested and the student indicates that he/she does not need the suggested accommodation, that decision should be documented. 

  • Documentation -presented by the student, including the current diagnosis and diagnostician. Documentation is required before services and accommodations can be provided, except in cases where the impact of the disability is obvious and does not require any supporting evidence. DASS will explain to the student what documentary information is needed and the process that is used to determine eligibility for services and accommodations. This information should be noted as well. (See Policies and Procedures Section 6) 

  • Action - Based upon the information obtained, this will indicate what the plan of action will be. 

  • Accommodations - All accommodations or services that the student will receive from this office will be indicated in their electronic file and on their Accommodation Letters.

6.0 Documentation of Disability

Since each student has different needs for accommodations, the University requires that each student provide documentation from an appropriate licensed professional detailing the student's disability, i.e., a mental or physical condition that substantially limits the student’s functioning in a major life activity. This documentation should preferably be from within the last three years in order to clarify the current impact of the disability on the person. The report must include a diagnosis of the student’s disability, define the functional limitations he/she will experience in an academic environment, and describe possible appropriate academic accommodations. (For more specific guidelines for documenting a disability, see our Documentation Guidelines.) Students are to be diagnosed at their own expense. All documentation will go through the same review process regardless of the testing or diagnostic source.

In all cases, certification that a student is a client of the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, the Texas Commission for the Blind, or the Texas Council for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing will make him/her eligible for services provided by DASS. However, in order for decisions to be made regarding the accommodations for each student, documentation by an appropriate licensed professional of the disabling condition and resulting functional limitations will be required in any case where the disability or appropriate accommodations are not readily apparent.

Non-SMU college students (transfer or visiting students, for example) should provide a letter to DASS from the disability office at their own institution. The letter (on letterhead) should include (a) the student's specific disability and (b) the accommodations that have been authorized by that institution.

It is the policy of DASS that documentation must be kept on file with DASS in order to determine accommodations, as well as to justify approval or denial.  Students are expected to keep a copy of their own documentation, but should expect that DASS will require documentation of their disability to remain in the file, regardless of approval or denial of the accommodations requested.

SMU follows the "Guidelines for Documentation of a Learning Disability in Adolescents and Adults" developed by the Association of Higher Education and Disability. Students wanting accommodations must provide a diagnostic report that includes the information listed below. The psycho-educational evaluation should discuss the student's strengths and weaknesses and allows for more effective decisions regarding appropriate accommodations. Such evaluations should include these minimum requirements:

  • A clear statement of the diagnosis. If the report does not contain a line stating that the individual has a learning disability, then, without further clarification, there is not valid documentation to support the presence of a learning disability or the need for academic accommodation. (Statements that the student has a 'learning difficulty' or 'learns differently' are not sufficient.)

  • Scores from the tests administered and interpretation of them. The battery of tests used should contain widely accepted instruments, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised, the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-educational Battery-- Revised Tests of Achievement, etc. 

  • Recommendations of appropriate academic accommodations. An explanation for recommending each accommodation should be provided, showing a clear relationship with the student's particular disability

Letters stating only that the student has a learning disability but which do not provide any diagnostic information or evidence of a history of accommodation are not acceptable. DASS reviews the documentation for diagnosis of a disability and the limitations experienced by the student. If the documentation is unclear, it may be referred to a psychiatrist for review, and those recommendations will be considered by DASS in the review process. DASS will make the final decision regarding the reasonable accommodations based on all of the relevant information, and in consultation with the student.

Students who are requesting a substitution of a degree or course requirement must provide documentation that the disability has a direct impact on their ability to fulfill the requirement and evidence of past attempts to do such work with academic accommodations. This documentation will be referred to the appropriate DASS staff member(s) to review and recommend particular accommodations to be communicated to the student through DASS. (See Section 10.6.)



Students who provide DASS with appropriate documentation from a professional trained to diagnose ADHD with either a medical degree or a doctorate in psychology, indicating a diagnosis of an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, may be eligible for accommodations. For more specific guidelines for documenting ADHD, see our Guidelines for Documentation webpage.

Letters stating only that the student has ADHD are not acceptable. When composing the documentation, the diagnostician must bear in mind that the purpose of accommodations and modifications is to assure that there is access to programs and services and an opportunity to succeed academically, rather than to assure that students are academically successful. The diagnostician must establish that the individual not only has a disability, but one for which academic accommodations are appropriate to fulfill this purpose. For students who wish academic accommodations, the documentation must contain information about: how the individual meets the diagnostic criteria for this disability, including the level of severity; the findings that support this diagnosis; the limitations the student is likely to experience in an academic environment which are directly related to the disability; and suggested accommodations. The latter should include an explanation of why the suggested accommodations are needed by relating those accommodations to the impact of the student’s disability on his/her functioning. The documentation will be reviewed by DASS who, in consultation with the student, will determine reasonable accommodations and services based upon the documentation.

Students who are Deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing must provide the DASS office with an audiogram conducted by a licensed audiologist. The audiogram and any additional medical documentation provided should be current. For academic accommodations, including use of adaptive equipment, information about the functional limitations caused by the hearing loss should also be included in the report. The documentation will be reviewed by DASS who, in consultation with the student, will determine reasonable accommodations and services based upon the documentation.

Students whose disabilities are readily apparent are eligible for services. However, at times, documentation of the disability and the resulting functional limitations to the student may be required to assist DASS in determining reasonable accommodations. Such documentation must be prepared by an appropriate professional and should be current. In some circumstances, such as diagnosis of a disease with which DASS is unfamiliar, the documentation may be referred to a physician in the Memorial Health Center for review. Following review of the documentation, the physician will make recommendations for appropriate accommodations to DASS. DASS will make the final decision regarding reasonable accommodations based on all of the relevant information and in consultation with the student. 

For students with some medical conditions, such as food allergies, it is expected that DASS will receive documentation to demonstrate how the condition reaches the level of a disability.  If this is confirmed by DASS, the student will be referred to other campus entities, such as Dining Services and Residence Life and Student Housing, for consultation and implementation of accommodations.

Students who provide DASS with documentation from a licensed professional indicating a diagnosis of a psychological or emotional disability may be eligible for services. To obtain academic accommodations, students must provide recent documentation prepared by a licensed mental health professional detailing the current diagnosis of a disability, the basis for making this diagnosis and the impact such condition will have on the student's academic activities. Based on the particulars of the disability, DASS will determine the appropriate accommodations in consultation with the student. In some circumstances, such as unclear documentation or diagnosis unfamiliar to DASS, the documentation may be referred to the mental health staff at the Memorial Health Center to review the diagnosis of a disability and the resulting limitations. The Health Center staff will recommend reasonable accommodations, and DASS will make the final decision regarding the reasonable accommodations based on all of the relevant information, and in consultation with the student.

Students who have any disability that renders them sensitive to their environment and results in an inability to function in the classroom should contact DASS as soon as they have been admitted to the University to learn what reasonable accommodations are possible. As with any disability, the student must provide documentation from an appropriate licensed professional clearly stating the disability and its impact, particularly with regard to a complex university community. The University is unable to stop regularly scheduled maintenance, construction work, or other work involving the use of chemicals and pesticides, nor is the University able to control the use of chemical substances in buildings, housing, laboratories or other research facilities. A student who has sensitivity to such substances must provide DASS with a list of these substances. The documentation provided will be reviewed by the appropriate University agency for diagnosis of the disability and the resulting functional limitations of it, and will recommend reasonable accommodations. DASS will make the final decision regarding the reasonable accommodations based on all of the relevant information in consultation with the student.

7.0 Determination of Accommodation and Follow-up Appointments

When a student has provided DASS with an Accommodation Request Form, his/her documentation, and completed an intake interview, DASS will make a determination as to the sufficiency of the documentation. If additional information is necessary, DASS will explain what is needed to the student or, when appropriate, to the provider of the documentation. If the documentation is complete as indicated in the above sections and the student qualifies for services, or the disability is readily apparent, DASS will proceed to determine which accommodations are appropriate based upon certification of the disability and in consultation with the student.

The student will be informed of his/her rights regarding academic accommodations. The various timelines, deadlines and processes for obtaining such accommodations will be explained by DASS personnel. Also see Section 11 for Appeal Procedures.

8.0 Student Progress Notes

All interactions with students related to services, accommodations, complaints, academic difficulties or other disability issues will be recorded in a progress note in the student's electronic file. Relevant interactions with other parties, including parents, SMU faculty and staff, etc., will be recorded here as well.

9.0 Privacy

Under FERPA, the University may not release information specifically identifiable to a student without the student's written permission, with some exceptions. This includes any currently enrolled student regardless of age. For parents to have access to student records, the student must have filled out a Declaration of Dependence with the Registrar or other acceptable form complying with FERPA’s consent requirements.

Generally, information about a student's disability will not be shared with anyone without the student’s written permission, and then only on a "need to know basis" as may be required to arrange reasonable accommodations for the student or some other legitimate educational reason, or as required by law. Forms for authorizing the release of information are available in Learning Enhancement Center. There may be times when it would be in the student's best interest to allow the release of selected information to University personnel attempting to help him/her, e.g., the Advising Center or a faculty member. If the student wishes his/her records or any information regarding the student to be shared with an individual outside the SMU community, the student must sign a Release of Information Form. However, if a DASS student requests a copy of his/her documentation to be sent to someone off campus, DASS will provide the documentation (one time) to the student themselves so he/she can share with others. Students should always keep a copy of their documentation before providing it to DASS for this exact purpose.

Using DASS Link, students upload their documentation to their electronic file, or if needed, DASS staff members will upload their documentation for them. Students will have direct access to their documentation and may copy and release it to whomever they wish, without DASS needing to be involved.

10.0 Services and Assistance

DASS staff will work with each student to determine appropriate services and accommodations based on the individual student's functional limitations in an academic environment and the types of university classes and activities in which he/she will be participating. Since a major goal of DASS is to help students become capable of managing their own disability circumstances, students have the right not to use a service for which they are eligible or not to request an accommodation which has been determined to be appropriate.

In general, students who need to meet with DASS should try to schedule an appointment in advance. This is especially true for complicated issues and concerns. However, DASS recognizes that some issues need to be handled immediately and some warrant merely a short interaction. DASS will try to meet with any student who requests immediate attention or has a question that is likely to take a short time to resolve.

Early Enrollment is available in circumstances where the impact of a disability makes this accommodation advisable. For example, Early Enrollment would be appropriate to provide ample time to arrange interpreter services in class or to insure classroom accessibility for students with mobility impairments. Students must request Early Enrollment at the time of the intake interview. A student who is granted Early Enrollment must first meet with his/her academic advisor for academic planning prior to registration, as well as clear any holds or Service Indicators on his/her registration.

DASS will facilitate Early Enrollment for eligible students through communication with the Registrar's office. In general, early registration may enable students with documented disabilities to enroll as early as the first day of registration for their classification (i.e., senior, junior, sophomore, first-year). After registering, students who wish to change their schedules will do so during regular 'add/drop' times.

All students are responsible for completing the enrollment process during their appropriate time slot. Therefore, students who miss their enrollment time slots must wait until the next open enrollment period. Except in highly unusual circumstances, the DASS staff will not change the enrollment access time for students who fail to register on time.

Students requesting academic accommodations in the classroom must use DASS Link to request that DASS prepare electronic Accommodation Letters to particular instructors verifying the need for reasonable accommodations. Students must have made a request for accommodations, presented proper documentation of their disabilities, and must have completed an intake interview prior to the preparation of these letters. It is DASS's responsibility to review the student's request after it has been received and forward electronic copies to applicable faculty members. An additional copy can be accessed by the student in his/her DASS Link account. Students should meet with each of their professors to discuss the accommodations that will be necessary in each specific class. In order to ensure adequate time for arranging reasonable accommodations, students must notify instructors at the beginning of each semester (or as soon as the student is made eligible for accommodations) and seven days prior to each test of the agreed-upon reasonable accommodations. Failure to follow these steps may delay or prevent provision of the agreed-upon reasonable accommodations. Note that Law School students will have only one letter sent to the Associate Dean for Student Affairs of the Dedman School of Law, who will make the accommodation arrangements. When necessary, the Associate Dean will consult with law School faculty members about specific accommodations. If a faculty member believes an accommodation may not be appropriate for his/her class, then he/she should immediately contact the student's DASS Coordinator listed at the bottom of the Accommodation Letter.

The University provides services designed to make printed text material accessible when such an accommodation is appropriate. Students have access to Kurzweil e-text reading software at no charge. High-speed and top-down scanners are located in Fondren Library and other access points on campus. For students unable to use Kurzweil and/or the scanners and who are being supported by Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, but whose support does not meet all of their needs, DASS will aid in procuring or creating accessible print material.

Students who wish to use DASS reader services for exams should make their request as early in the semester as possible.

Possible accommodations in the classroom include physical accommodations, adaptive equipment, note taking assistance, and learning accommodations. Because reasonable accommodations may take time to implement, it is critical that the students give ample notification to the parties involved. Reasonable accommodations come about when the parties agree to them. It is crucial that students asking for a change in a professor's teaching or testing method meet with their instructors during the first two weeks of class when possible, during summer sessions within the first two days of class, and in intersessions on the first day of class, if not earlier.

SMU has made a number of physical changes in recent years to make the campus more accessible. However, there are several older buildings on campus that have not been renovated and are inaccessible to students with certain physical impairments. The University has the obligation to make classes and programs accessible and will make reasonable accommodations to do so. Examples of appropriate physical accommodations include changing the location of the room in which the class is held, removing fixed seating to allow wheelchair access, and asking a professor whose office is not accessible to meet with the student in another setting. The DASS staff will work with the student, Facilities, the academic department, and any other parties to make such reasonable and appropriate accommodations. Students must notify the DASS office immediately of any physical barrier to their participation in a class or program to give the staff adequate time to arrange for modifications. (See Section 10.2.)

It may be a reasonable accommodation for a student to use special equipment in the classroom or in the preparation of class assignments. The University provides some adaptive equipment for general student use, and a list of such equipment is available in DASS. DASS staff will work with the student and faculty member to determine when it is reasonable for such equipment to be used in the completion of class assignments.

Students who believe they will benefit from using a personal FM System may make that request to DASS. Depending on the disability, DASS may refer the students to an audiologist who will make recommendations to DASS concerning whether the use of such equipment would be appropriate. DASS will make the final decision regarding this accommodation based on all of the relevant factors and in consultation with the student.

Students whose disability supports the need for assistance taking notes in class should discuss this accommodation's implementation with each instructor. Ideally, the instructor can facilitate access to notes in the student's preferred mode, be that peer notes, audio recording, and/or use of laptop to take notes. In the case of paper notes, the student can find a note-taker by asking a fellow student in the class, or if the student wishes to remain anonymous, asking the professor to find a volunteer. Students should alert their DASS Coordinator if there is a delay in this accommodation for any reason. DASS staff can assist in this process as necessary. The DASS office does not provide or pay for note-takers.  

Accommodations to the learning process, like all reasonable accommodations, depend on the individual student and the impact of his/her disability, as well as the material being taught and the teaching methods used by the instructor. Therefore, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Examples of possible learning accommodations are modifications to lecture delivery, allowing the recording of lectures, or use of adaptive technology in the classroom. The University is not required under the ADA to change the nature of a course or the standards of performance expected. Changes are not made in the level or type of information students are expected to learn, nor are changes made in the grading of assignments. All students are expected to make satisfactory progress in class as defined by the instructor.

There are two main types of reasonable testing accommodations: (1) test-taking assistance and (2) extended test-taking time.

In all situations, the documentation submitted by the student must support the need for the accommodation requested. In such cases and upon student request, DASS will provide electronic letters for faculty via DASS Link establishing the student’s eligibility for services and enumerating the accommodations the student has requested and for which he/she is eligible. The student is expected to discuss their testing accommodations personally with his/her professor in a timely fashion, giving the faculty ample time to make arrangements for the testing accommodations. (See Section 10.3) At this meeting, the student should discuss with the instructor the type and method of accommodation he/she will need. The faculty member is under no obligation to provide testing accommodations to a student if that student has not requested that DASS send an Accommodation Letter to that instructor to verify the student's eligibility for such an accommodation. 

If an instructor does not have the resources to administer a student's exam, the instructor may decide that the student should test at the University Testing Center (UTC). The UTC is located in the basement of Clements Hall and is not affiliated with the DASS office. Detailed steps for scheduling an exam at UTC can be found on their website:  https://www.smu.edu/provost/provostoffice/saes/AcademicSupport/utc.

In rare cases, such as students who utilize a reader or a scribe for testing, a student may need to be proctored by the DASS staff. Students should consult with their DASS Coordinator or the UTC about the plan.

NOTE: Within the Dedman School of Law, individual professors do not administer tests, so testing accommodations must be made through the Law School's Associate Dean for Student Affairs. If the accommodation as arranged by the faculty member is not reasonable or if a faculty member refuses to make an approved accommodation, the student should notify DASS immediately.

Students may need to have someone read the exam to them (a reader) or have someone write the answers to the exam on an in-class essay (a scribe). Once a reasonable accommodation has been agreed upon, the student may request that DASS arrange to have a proctor read or scribe assist during the test. When such assistance is being used, the faculty member generally provides the location and monitors the testing situation, or if the faculty member does not have the resources to do so, DASS will provide the service. The student must remind his/her instructor one week before each test that the student is to receive accommodations and if the test needs to be sent to the DASS office; it is not the faculty member's responsibility to remember to do so. The student must also notify DASS staff one week prior to the test and inform the staff member of the type of assistance the student will need from the DASS office. DASS staff will make arrangements for both the proctor and the room in which the test will be taken, if necessary. The faculty member will be responsible for arranging delivery and return of the test to and from the DASS office. The faculty member will also notify DASS staff and the student of the parameters of the testing situation. Unless specifically allowed by the instructor, books, notes, or other course-related material will not be allowed in the testing room, and the student will not be permitted to exit the room without supervision.

Extended test-taking time will ordinarily be one and one-half the amount of time allowed others in the class. Faculty members should either proctor the exams themselves or make arrangements to have a teaching assistant or someone in the academic department handle this responsibility. The University Testing Center (UTC) should be contacted to facilitate these arrangements if any problems arise. As with other accommodations, the student should inform the faculty member of the need for such accommodation in a timely fashion, and remind the instructor about this accommodation at least seven days before each test.

All students must be qualified to participate in any program of academic study with or without reasonable accommodations. Therefore, students with disabilities are not excused from course prerequisites, GPA requirements, degree requirements, and/or all other standards applicable to performance. However, in some limited circumstances, a substitution or waiver of an academic requirement may be appropriate. Such accommodations are made only when it is clear that the student's disability makes completion of the requirement impossible, that such an accommodation does not damage the integrity of the academic program, and that such an accommodation is the only reasonable one. Consideration of a substitution or waiver is done on a case-by-case basis. The final decision rests with the dean of the student's college or school. Evidence of a disabling condition affecting the skills needed for the required course must be provided to the DASS office, and DASS will work with the student and the deans of the academic colleges and schools.

With appropriate documentation supporting a student’s need for interpreter and captioning services, DASS will arrange for these services. Student requests for this service must be made in a timely fashion, giving sufficient time for the University to arrange for such services. See our Interpreter/CART Transcriptionist Procedures.

The staff of the general libraries of the University are available to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Students should request assistance at the Information Desk in the library. DASS can find staff members and/or volunteers to work with students who will need assistance over an extended period of time to complete research tasks. The general libraries may allow individual students who need distraction-reduced study space to use group study rooms, permit students to check out materials by proxy, and, when possible, modify regulations applicable to use and removal of reserved materials. In order to receive these accommodations, students must provide documentation to DASS of the disability that necessitates these services. DASS works with students and library staff to make arrangements for such services.

It is not DASS's responsibility to provide students with personal attendants, nor is it the role of DASS to make referrals. If a student makes an inquiry regarding personal attendants, the DASS staff member will refer that student to local, off-campus services.

DASS provides a number of services through the efforts of hired test proctors and volunteers. For example, volunteers may assist students with library research, and serve as note-takers in class. Hired proctors monitor students taking exams in a proctored environment, when unable to take the exam with his/her professor. DASS reserves the right to provide accommodations and assistance through volunteer services and hired proctors as appropriate. DASS recruits volunteers by way of the individual professors and by e-mail announcements to the SMU student body. No information about a student served by DASS is disclosed to volunteers without authorization from the student with the disability or through self-disclosure by the student. Hired proctors are trained to maintain confidentiality as they will be monitoring students with disabilities during exam times. DASS policy states that proctors usually will be graduate students or graduated in order to maintain professionalism and minimize breaches of confidentiality. A student's unique needs may be met in other ways, at times.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

Students requesting an emotional support animal must use DASS’s established procedure for requesting this accommodation. Documentation presented for review must support the need for an emotional support animal and make a direct link between the impact of the disability on the student's functioning and the necessity of the animal. Residence Life and Student Housing must also approve in advance the allowance of a service animal or emotional support animal within student housing.


SMU Policy 1.17, Animals details limitations to animals on campus, including student housing, who is notified of the animal in student housing, procedures for faculty/staff living on campus, along with other relevant information about owner responsibility.

To determine if an animal is a service animal, a public entity or a private business may ask two questions:
1.)Is this animal required because of a disability?
2.)What work or task has this animal been trained to perform? 

These questions may not be asked if the need for the service animal is obvious (e.g., the dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair). A public entity or private business may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability or require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been asked to investigate websites that purport to provide documentation from a health care provider in support of requests for an ESA. The websites in question offer for sale documentation that is not reliable for purposes of determining whether an individual has a disability or disability-related need for an ESA because the website operators and health care professionals who consult with them lack the personal knowledge that is necessary to make such determinations.

The DASS staff provides academic assistance for SMU undergraduates with documented learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and students on the autism spectrum. This includes learning strategies instruction, self-advocacy skills, time management and organizational skill building, educational planning, and referring to appropriate resources (HDEV 1210: Academic Success and Personal Development, Students for New Learning student org., tutoring, professors, mentors, advisors, etc.).

Students should contact DASS to inquire about individual coaching, and the student and DASS Learning Specialist will work together to determine the goals of the sessions as well as frequency of sessions. 

11.0 Appeal Procedures

No qualified student with a disability shall, on the basis of the disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any academic program or activity at SMU. In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability should be made to SMU's Office of Institutional Access and Equity.

Complaints should be submitted according to the current Complaint Procedures.

Appeals involving grade disputes should be discussed with the course instructor. Grade disputes that are not resolved and all other academic appeals should be submitted in writing to the department chair or other designated administrator of the academic program to which the appeal relates. Appeals may be directed to the appropriate academic dean. Ultimately, however, the decision to make a grade change or not rests with the course instructor. This process applies to all students whether or not disabled. See the process set forth in either the Undergraduate Catalog or the Process for Undergraduate Student Academic Petitions under "Appeal of Grade."

12.0 President's Advisory Committee on the Needs of Persons with Disabilities (PACNPD)

Since late in the 1980s, the President has appointed members of the University community to serve as advisors to monitor the needs of persons with disabilities and make yearly, written recommendations regarding needed improvements to accommodate persons with disabilities. The Commission meets monthly. Persons interested in seeking appointment to this Commission may inquire at the DASS office.

Last revision – August 2023

Thanks to The University of Texas at Austin for the use of its policy and procedure manual in designing SMU's policies and procedures.