Disability Rights and Accommodations in Higher Education

“Know your rights, If you are a college or grad student with a disability, you have a right to accommodations” + College student at a desk in a classroom + DRA logo
“Know your rights, If you are a college or grad student with a disability, you have a right to accommodations” + College student at a desk in a classroom + DRA logo

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national non-profit law center with offices in Berkeley, California and New York City, is investigating the experiences of higher education students with disabilities who are denied disability-related accommodations or are experiencing other accessibility issues on campus. We are also interested in learning about higher education students’ experiences in seeking counseling and taking leaves of absence.

To share your experiences: 

Please fill out the relevant survey below:

Accommodations and Accessibility in Higher Education

Mental Health in Colleges and Universities

If you would prefer to share your experiences via email or phone, please contact the paralegal on our higher education investigation, Amy Ollove, by email at higher-ed@dralegal.org or by phone at (510) 665-8655. 

Know Your Rights: 

Federal law requires schools to make reasonable modifications as necessary to avoid excluding or otherwise discriminating against students with disabilities. Learn about your rights and how they specifically pertain to leave of absence policies.

Historical DRA Cases in Higher Education:  

Complainants v. State Bar of California

In May 2023, DRA and DREDF filed a group complaint with the United States Department of Justice on behalf of four law school graduates with disabilities against the State Bar of California for consistently violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide accommodations on the California bar exam.  

Westchester Independent Living Center v. SUNY Purchase

On September 14, 2021, Judge Cathy Seibel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York preliminarily approved a class settlement with the State University of New York, Purchase College regarding the accessibility of the pedestrian paths of travel on the SUNY Purchase campus for students and visitors with mobility disabilities. DRA had filed this class action lawsuit against SUNY Purchase College, located in Westchester County, in July 2016 alleging that it violated federal and state disability law by not providing students and visitors with mobility disabilities equal access to its educational and cultural programs.  

Guerra v. West LA College

On April 30, 2020, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of students with disabilities seeking access to West Los Angeles College (WLAC). The District Court will need to evaluate what reasonable steps WLAC can take to provide equal access, such as the shuttle service that the college used previously to provide access to all students, staff, and visitors with disabilities.  

Mental Health & Wellness Coalition v. Stanford

In 2019, on behalf of the Stanford Mental Health and Wellness Coalition and three students, DRA reached a historic settlement with Stanford University which resulted in making Stanford University’s leave of absence policies and practices a significant step forward not only for Stanford but for colleges and universities across the country. 

DRA and UC Berkeley Reach Landmark Settlement Improving Academic Success for Students with Print Disabilities

Nationwide, college students with print disabilities – individuals who cannot read standard print because of vision, physical, developmental, or learning disabilities – face major barriers and disparities to academic success because colleges and universities fail to provide these students with materials in alternative formats that they can read. To address this critical issue, DRA worked with the University of California, Berkeley resulting in a new set of policies and practices. The Settlement reached in 2013 is a model plan that colleges and universities should consider adopting nationwide to remove barriers to academic success for students with disabilities in higher education.