Frequently Asked Questions
Please reach out to us if your question is not answered below, or if you have other concerns. We would be happy to speak with you.
If you have any questions about Cornell's plans for instruction given the current pandemic, please refer to the Cornell Coronavirus website. We also have information specific to our operations during this time.
Applying to Cornell
No. The admissions process and criteria are the same for all students applying to Cornell. Disability status is not a consideration in the admissions process.
For specific questions about admissions, contact the Cornell school or college you are interested in.
No. Documentation should be submitted to SDS only after you have been admitted to Cornell and have decided to attend.
Yes. We are happy to meet with you to answer general questions about disability services and accommodations here at Cornell. Contact us to schedule a time to meet with someone. We are happy to meet with you in person, by phone, or by Zoom or Skype.
We recommend the following resources:
- College Planning Resources from The Western New York Collegiate Consortium
- Preparing for Post-secondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
- AccessCollege from the University of Washington DO-IT Program
Registering with Student Disability Services
You can complete our Self-Disclosure Form and indicate that you want someone to follow up with you. You only need to complete the sections of that form that you feel comfortable filling out.
If you do not feel comfortable completing that form first, we would still be happy to speak with you about your situation and can help refer you to some resources to learn more. You can contact our office to schedule a time to meet with someone.
We will work with you to determine appropriate accommodations for our college environment and your courses. Your high school accommodation plan (IEP, 504, etc.) does not automatically transfer. Please follow the steps to register with our office so that we can begin working with you to develop an accommodation plan for your time here at Cornell.
We recognize that a person can develop or become aware of a disability at any time. For that reason, we do not have formal deadlines. However, the sooner we hear from you, the sooner we may be able to assist you with your needs.
Below are the suggested timelines for non-housing requests:
- Summer Semester
- May 31
- Fall Semester
- Submit by June 15th to allow us adequate time to review your request
- Winter Semester
- December 15th, or as soon as possible to allow enough time to arrange accommodations
- Spring Semester
- December 15th
Reference our housing page for deadlines for requests involving housing.
No, it should be completed by you, the student. You can have a parent help if assistance is needed. We will be communicating with you regarding your request and it is important that we receive the self-disclosure form in your own words.
You will be assigned a point person in our office, called an “SDS Counselor,” who will review the information you submitted. They will contact you to schedule a time to meet to discuss your access needs.
We provide appropriate accommodations for participation in Cornell programs and courses. Appropriate reasonable accommodations are determined on an individual basis and are based on your unique situation. Everyone is different and we look forward to getting to know you.
Your accommodation plan at Cornell will be unique to your time here and may be different than what you had received before.
When you meet with your SDS Counselor, they will be able to discuss an accommodation plan with you and what services or accommodations may be appropriate.
Cornell is committed to creating a campus community that is inclusive of all aspects of diversity and identity, including disability identity. We encourage all students with disabilities to self-disclose their disability status to our office. There is a place on our Self-Disclosure Form to indicate that you are not currently requesting services or accommodations.
At the beginning of each new semester you must request your accommodation letters in order to receive your academic accommodations. Filling out a new self-disclosure form is not required, nor are you required to meet with your counselor each semester.
If you are seeking new and/or different accommodations, you will need to arrange a meeting with your counselor.
Services and Accommodations
There are not certain services or accommodations that are automatically granted. After you submit information to our office, we will meet with you to discuss your individual situation and what an appropriate accommodation plan may be. There are many factors that go into this, including the types of courses you are taking and the impact of your condition or disability.
SDS does not charge for accommodations. However, you are responsible for aids or assistance of a personal nature such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, computers to be used at home, or attendants for services of a personal nature (including assistance with bathing, dressing, or life coaching).
There is not tutoring available through SDS, however there are a number of tutoring resources available at Cornell.
- Your college’s advising office can provide direction on the best places to find support in your specific courses. Many colleges, schools, departments have their own support services.
- Your SDS counselor can also help refer you to appropriate support.
- The Learning Strategies Center (LSC) has walk-in tutoring for a number of undergraduate courses. Study skills workshops and learning support courses are also available.
- The Knight Writing Institute provides writing support.
There is not formal coaching of this nature at Cornell. However, your SDS Counselor can assist you with identifying resources in the community.
The Learning Strategies Center has workshops and select services on study skills and time management.
We would be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation and provide some guidance. We do not provide testing in our office, but can discuss the testing process and provide you with information on how and where you could go to be tested.
We can work with you to identify housing options to address your disability-specific needs. Examples of disability-related housing accommodations:
- A wheelchair-accessible room
- A ground floor room, or a room near an elevator
- Access to a low-use, shared bathroom
- Strobe or vibrating alarms in the room
- Air filtration and/or air conditioning in the room
- A room in a quieter hallway
More information about Housing Accommodations.
Our office can help you with your disability-related transportation needs. Transportation accommodations may include:
- a free bus pass
- the approval to purchase an accessible parking permit for campus
- the use of CULift (the Cornell paratransit service that provides pre-scheduled rides on and near campus).
The accommodation process may require that we disclose your accommodation needs (though, not your disability) to certain faculty or staff members who are helping to implement your accommodations. This is only done when needed. We recognize your right to determine who receives this information and your right to confidentiality. Your disability-related records are not stored in any central student database at the university, only within our office.
You are not obligated to disclose what your disability is to your instructor or other course staff. If you receive academic accommodations, you can share an official accommodation letter from us with your instructors. The letter will detail your accommodations, but will not state what your disability is.
Your disability-status or registration-status with our office will never appear on your university transcript or any other official document from the registrar’s office. Neither will your accommodations.
The Housing Website has information about what is provided in rooms, and other building features. Please refer to it for answers to many questions about room and residence halls.
If you live in a program house or in upperclass housing (West Campus, Collegetown), your SDS Counselor will contact you to let you know if you should participate in the Continued Occupancy process to continue to remain in housing that meets your need. Contact your SDS Counselor with any questions.
If you have a new need for housing accommodations, and the housing you are in currently does not meet your need, please let us know.
You can accept it and work with our office to explore getting the room changed or modified to something that meets your needs. You must secure housing on campus (i.e. have a contract) for us to be able to arrange disability accommodations. You are still required to go through the Housing Office to secure a room (e.g., sign a contract), in order for us to be able to assist you in changing or modifying your room to meet your needs.
We try to the best of our ability to arrange a room that will meet your needs and also your housing preferences. You may be able to live with specific roommate(s). We can discuss that with you meet with us.
Due to the manner in which rooms are assigned, we cannot arrange rooms for other students when arranging a room for you (e.g., with blocking). If you have concerns or questions, please talk to your SDS Counselor about this.
No, the accommodation provided by a room change is for you only.
Single rooms are approved as an accommodation if you have a disability that would prevent you from living with another person.
We will review the information that you provide to us to learn more about how your condition limits you and how it may affect your housing needs. A single room may be appropriate, but we may also explore other options with you.
If you work through our office, and we are approving the room change as an accommodation, then you do not have to pay the room change fee.
However, certain buildings have different rates and you are still responsible for paying the rate for your assigned building.
Some buildings have air conditioning, some have centralized air filtration (but not cooling), and some do not have either. Please see the Housing Website to learn about building amenities.
Nothing can be hung or mounted on or outside windows, which limits air conditioners as an option. Air purifiers can be brought if they meet the wattage requirements. Fans are also an option.
Refer to Housing’s Rules and Standards for guidance about wattage for devices.
Animals on Campus
Pets are not generally allowed in campus buildings.
Emotional support animals in campus housing can be allowed in certain circumstances if approved by our office.
Service animals (animals trained to perform a task to help someone with a disability) are allowed on campus.
Learn more about Cornell’s Policy for Animals on Campus.
Learn more about the process to have an Emotional Support Animal on campus.
For other types of animals, refer to Cornell's Animals on Campus Policy.
Clubs and Organizations
There are many active student organizations on campus! The list is changing every year, and each group has various means of advertising (e.g., websites, Facebook pages). We maintain a selected list of student organizations that have a disability-focus. A full, searchable listing of all the organizations on campus (there are over 1,000!) can be found on Cornell's Student Organizations website.
For students returning from a health leave, there is a Returning from Leave Student Group that provides connections on campus once you are back.
Cornell Health also offers different student groups each semester for those with certain medical or mental health conditions.
Learning About Disability
Cornell University has a diverse offering of disability studies courses across multiple disciplines.
- The ILR School offers many courses on Disability Studies.
- Additional examples of disability-related courses:
- ASIAN 4420 – Cultures of Disability in Japan
- DEA 3510 – Human Factors and Inclusive Design
- FGSS 4035 – Intersectionality in Disability Studies
- HIST 2721 – History of Mental Health and Mental Illness in US
- FREN 3520 - (Dis)ability Studies: A Brief History
- Please note these classes may not be available every semester, or may change.
Costs related to disabling conditions may affect your financial need, but having a disability does not automatically qualify you for financial aid.
You can contact the Financial Aid Office at Cornell to discuss your specific situation and to get more information about possible resources.