Disability Services Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is eligible for services?

Any student (undergraduate or graduate, full- or part-time) who has a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities is eligible for services from Disability Services. Disabilities may include:

  • Hearing, mobility or visual impairments
  • Chronic medical conditions (arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, kidney disorder, lupus, epilepsy, etc.)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Psychiatric or emotional disabilities

I received special education services in high school, but do not know if I will need any help at the University. Should I register for services?

Yes, you should register for services if you received special education services in the past or if you have any medical or emotional issues that substantially limit one or more major life activities.

What does registering for services mean?

Disability Services provides services only to those students who are qualified under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504. We require students to "register" by:

  1. Meeting with the Director of Disability Services. Call 978.665.4020 to schedule an appointment.
  2. Sending your documentation prior to the meeting or bringing it with you on the day of the appointment.

During the registration for services, we will:

  • Answer any questions
  • Complete a short, informal interview to obtain emergency information
  • Review process of receiving accommodations and services
  • Review documentation and determine appropriate accommodations and services
  • Review student's rights and responsibilities

Who has access to my file at Disability Services?

All documentation and information in your file at Disability Services is confidential. Disability Services cannot release this information to faculty, staff, or even parents. Disability Services records never become part of a student's transcript or university record. All records are kept in locked files. Student employees do not handle any student records. Massachusetts State Law defines some limits to confidentiality.

These limits include:

  • A court of law or judge may require staff to produce confidential information (a very rare occurrence).
  • Staff must release confidential information to those who have a need to know if a client is a danger to him or herself or presents a danger to others.
  • Staff must report any knowledge of abuse or neglect of a child, elderly person, or person with a disability.
  • Staff may release confidential information with your written consent.

Can I have a classroom aide in the class with me like I did in high school? 

It's not typical for students with disabilities to have aides in the classroom with them at the college level. Some exceptions may be made for students with severe physical disabilities who may need physical assistance in the classroom, but these are rare exceptions. Students with disabilities do not typically have classroom aides in the college environment.

What materials do I need in order to register for services? 

In order to register with any disability services office students must submit medical documentation of their disability / disabilities. While an IEP or a 504 may be a good place to start, most disability services offices need more documentation aside from the IEP / 504. Medically documentation from a qualified provider is needed as students are covered under different disability laws in college than in pre-college and the purpose of accommodations are different. In elementary and high school accommodations exist to ensure success, while in college, accommodations do not necessarily guarantee success and exist to provide equal access to the academic environment. Fitchburg State's documentation requirements can be found here

Do I have to disclose my disability during the admissions process? 

No, you do not have to write that you have a disability on your application for admission to FSU. I would encourage students to not disclose during the admissions process unless they are using disability as rationale as to why they didn't meet an admissions standard. Once admitted, if students wish to use accommodations with our office, they should get registered with the DSO by filling out the application on our website and submitting documentation to us via email or fax at disabilityserviceslist@fitchburgstate.edu or 978-665-4786 respectively.

Does Fitchburg State provide mental health support to students? 

Yes, the Counseling Services Center on campus provides mental health therapy to all students (not just students with disabilities) who want therapy. More information can be found on the Counseling Services page.

Do you offer extended time accommodations? 

Extra time for exams (i.e. 1.5 or 2.0 extended time on exams and quizzes) is absolutely an accommodation we give. Extra time for homework or class assignments is a less common accommodation. All accommodation needs are evaluated based on individual needs of the student, and corroborated by their medical documentation. So there are some students for which extra time on assignments may be appropriate, but it's not a very common accommodation. Students with disabilities are expected to complete assignments largely on the same timeline as their able bodied peers.

How often can I meet with someone from your office? 

The frequency of student meetings is totally controlled by the student. There are some students who I only see once for their initial meeting, and others who I see on a weekly basis. I am happy to meet with students up to once a week as needed. Students are encouraged to use additional resources including the academic coaching and tutoring center to assist them with staying on track or to receive subject specific tutoring. More information about the academic coaching and tutoring center (open to all FSU students) is available at the Academic Coaching and Tutoring Center.

Can students with disabilities live on campus? 

Yes! Any student regardless of ability status is welcome to live on campus in the residence hall if they would like to. If you need disability-specific housing accommodations, it is important to get registered with our office early so we can assist in supporting your request. Once placed, it's often difficult for students to change housing assignments, so I would encourage students to reach out to housingto ask about how roommate conflicts are handled.

Can I add additional accommodations if I am doing poorly in my classes? 

Students are always welcome to meet with me or one of my colleagues to discuss their options and use of accommodations. Accommodations agreements can be updated at any point as long as sufficient medical documentation is on file. However, remember that accommodations in college are for equal access, and do not necessarily guarantee success. So just because a student is doing poorly, is not an automatic reason to receive additional accommodations. Other resources such as attending office hours or tutoring may be a more appropriate way forward than adding accommodations.