Frequently Asked Questions
The physical Ithaca campus is large with some hilly terrain and some historic buildings that may not have certain accessibility features, such as elevators. However, we do have accommodations and services that can be provided, such as transportation and assistive listening systems, to help with this. Classes and meeting locations can also be changed to accessible spaces based on your specific accessibility needs.
We are excited that you are interested in Cornell and would love to have a conversation with you about your specific access needs and your program, so that we can let you know more in-depth about ways we can accommodate any potential accessibility barriers that you may encounter. Contact our office to schedule a meeting.
We want Cornell to be a welcoming place for everyone!
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 able to meet with you remotely.
At the high school level, accommodations are determined proactively through meetings with teachers, family members or caregivers, and school staff. However, in college you are responsible for being your own self-advocate. You can still ask your family or caregivers for guidance and share whatever information you wish to with them, but the college will only directly communicate with you about your access and accommodations.
In college, you are responsible for using the disability accommodation process at your school to request and use disability accommodations. The section below has more information about using accommodations specifically at Cornell, as well as your rights and responsibilities at Cornell.
If you are interested in more general information about the differences between using disability services in high school and college, we recommend reading the information on the U.S. Department of Education’s website on transitioning from high school to college.
SDS staff are here to help you navigate this transition. Please let us know if you have any questions!
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 family member or someone else 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.
Records sent to Cornell Health are not shared with Student Disability Services, and vice versa. If you want us to have a copy of certain health records, you will need to separately send them to our office.
Yes, we encourage you to do so! The disclosure form is an opportunity for you to describe in your own words how your disability impacts you. We need to understand how your disability may impact you within your classes and other Cornell settings.
While documentation is always helpful, the most helpful thing for us is to hear about your specific experiences. Our Disability Self-Disclosure Form asks questions that guide our understanding of what impact your disability may have on you during your studies at Cornell. You can learn more about this on our Documentation Guidelines page.
In higher education, accommodation and services are determined based both on the information about your disability, as well as how that impact may look in your program. We will look at your documentation and the other information you provide in the context of appropriate accommodation and services for higher education and for your Cornell program.
We will review the information you submitted and contact you regarding next steps. It is helpful to submit all of your information at once, if you can, so that we can take it all into consideration. If we have questions, we will let you know as well.
We provide reasonable accommodations for participation in Cornell programs and courses. Appropriate, reasonable accommodations are determined on an individual basis and are based on your specific situation. Your accommodation plan at Cornell will be unique to your time here and may be different than what you had received before.
After you submit the Disability Self-Disclosure Form to our office, we will 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. Though you are not required to, we encourage all students with disabilities to self-disclose their disability status to our office. Registering with our office does not obligate you to use services, nor will your information be shared anywhere else on campus. 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 us each semester.
If you are seeking new or different accommodations, you can request additional accommodations, or contact us if you have questions.
Services and Accommodations
There are not certain services or accommodations that are automatically granted. After you submit information to our office, we may meet with you or discuss via email 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.
You can learn more about accommodations and services at Cornell on our website.
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.
- We can also help refer you to appropriate support.
- The Learning Strategies Center (LSC) has drop-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, we 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.
Staff in Student Disability Services are here to help arrange disability accommodations and services, but do not provide any treatment or testing. We are happy to help provide referral information, or to connect with you with referral services at Cornell Health to help guide you.
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 have us email an official accommodation letter to 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.
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.
In some cases, we will need updated documentation. We will let you know if that is needed in advance of the housing process. If you have concerns, or need to know if this will be needed, please reach out.
Yes, you need to participate in the Continued Occupancy process and secure a housing contract. If the housing you secure does not meet your access needs, please let us know.
You should accept the contract and then work with our office to explore getting the room changed or modified to something that meets your needs. You must secure housing on campus in order for us to arrange your housing accommodations.
We try to the best of our ability to arrange a room that will meet your needs and also your housing preferences.
However, due to the manner in which rooms are assigned, it may not be possible for us to arrange rooms for other students when arranging a room for you (e.g., with blocking). If you have concerns or questions, please let us know.
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.
No, many of the older residence halls do not, though some low floor rooms may be accessible without stairs. Please see the Housing Website to learn about building amenities.
You can register with our office if you have concerns about your assigned building/room (or contact us if you are already registered).
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.
You can register with our office if you have concerns about your assigned building/room (or contact us if you are already registered).
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.
Service animals do not need to be approved. If there are concerns with bringing a service animal into certain spaces (e.g., labs), please contact our office.
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.