Disability Resources

Grinnell College is dedicated to educating students whose achievements show a high level of intellectual capacity, initiative, and maturity. Every year, this highly qualified group of students includes people with physical or psychological challenges or learning disabilities.

For Students

Student Disability Resources

The Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising, Joyce Stern, advises students about the College's disability-related policies, procedures, and resources. The Dean oversees compliance with College policies and laws and, along with Ann Isgrig, assists in the day-to-day provision of support and accommodations for individual students’ academic needs.

Disclosure and Confidentiality

Disclosure of a disability is voluntary. The College keeps documentation concerning disabilities separate from the student's general academic record. Information and records are shared with members of the College staff and faculty only on a need-to-know basis or when specifically requested by the student. Accommodations will not appear on the transcript. Staff and faculty are advised that a student's disability and/or accommodations are confidential and should not be shared with others.

How Do I Receive Academic Accommodations?

Once you are admitted to Grinnell, we would like to plan with you for accommodations you need in order to have full access to your education.  Please contact Joyce Stern, Dean for Student Success & Academic Advising (641-269-3702), about your needs before you arrive on campus for your first semester.  Remember, for planning purposes sooner is always better.  If you are already a student here it's not too late to be accommodated.  Just call or email Academic Advising [advising[at]grinnell[dot]edu] to set up an appointment to get the process going.

In your first meeting Joyce will want to get to know you, talk to you about how your disability affects you, discuss your needs, and review your documentation. The documentation should include a diagnosis or description of your disability(ies), list results of tests (if appropriate) and include the recommendations of a specialist regarding appropriate academic accommodations. Specific guidelines in a .PDF format can be found within the Documents tab (shown on the left side of this page.)

We can also provide information about services that any Grinnell student can take advantage of to promote academic success:  such as Academic Coaching by a staff member in Academic Advising, Tutoring for just about any class, and visits to Student Health and Counseling Services. Of course, we will work together to determine what is appropriate for you.

At this point we will schedule another meeting that includes your faculty adviser. Together the three of us, in consultation with your documentation, will determine accommodations you will receive on our campus, and we will complete official campus forms.

Common accommodations include extra time on exams, testing in a distraction-reduced location, note takers or use of smart pens, texts and books in alternate format, and reduced course loads.   Students who need assistive technology as an academic accommodation will be directed to Angie Story, Coordinator of Academic Support & Assistive Technology, 641-269-4450.  Angie and her team of technology support specialists are well-versed in many devices and software.

After the paperwork is completed, you will be responsible for delivering the information to your professors at least one week prior to any accommodation you are entitled to.  Joyce will work with you on strategies for how to approach them, if that is a concern.  Each semester thereafter you will request, from the Academic Advising Office, new letters for each of your faculty, and it will be your responsibility to deliver them in a timely way and meet with them about your accommodation needs.

How Do I Receive Other Accommodations?

You’ll find Grinnell’s 108-acre campus to be accessible and user-friendly. Individuals with physical disabilities can get around: nearly every classroom and all dining facilities are accessible, as are the major social sites. Six of the college's 19 residence halls, as well as a college-owned student house on Park Street, are accessible to individuals with physical disabilities. In addition, there are access lifts in the bookstore, the campus post office, and the swimming pool. Water fountains and restrooms have been adapted for people with physical disabilities, and strobe light fire alarms have been installed for people with hearing impairments.

Physical Access
Jennifer Krohn, Senior Research Associate (641) 269-3707
College Services
Individuals with disabilities who are challenged by building access, using sidewalks, or other physical access issues are encouraged to bring their concerns to the attention of Jennifer Krohn and Rick Whitney, Director of Facilities Management.

Residence Life
Andrea Conner, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life and New Student Orientation, (641) 269-3713
Office of Student Affairs, JRC 3rd floor
Andrea Conner and Laura Gogg work with students whose disabilities or health-related conditions require accommodations in residence halls and college-owned houses.

Dick Williams, Director of Dining Services, (641) 269-3661
Dining Services, JRC 2nd floor
Dick works with students who have medically-documented food-related needs such as diabetes, food allergies, and eating disorders, as well as students who need specific access to the dining hall due to a motor or visual impairment. Students requesting accommodations in their food options and meal plans should first document their condition with the college's Health Center. Then the Dining Services staff will meet individually with students to discuss dining options, special food availability, or other specific accommodations.

Policy on Student Disability Accommodation Requests

Grinnell College, Division of Student Affairs

Grinnell College, in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, recognizes that qualified students who have diagnosed or identified disabilities are entitled to benefit from the educational programs of the College if reasonable accommodations can be arranged.

Costs associated with diagnosis, evaluation, and testing are the responsibility of the student except in cases of severe financial need demonstrated to, and upon recommendation of, the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Requests for adaptive equipment needs for academic purposes will be submitted through the Dean for Student Academic Support and Advising, who will consult with the Dean of the College. The Dean will assess the need and determine whether the college will purchase the adaptive equipment.

The Dean for Student Academic Support and Advising will report all accommodation requests and actions to the Committee on Academic Standing. Requests for curricular accommodation outside of the Grinnell College academic and residential model or the character of learning and instruction at this institution shall be taken to the Committee on Academic Standing for a recommendation to the Dean of the College.

Appeals of decisions regarding a students’ academic accommodation shall follow the Disability Accommodation Appeal Procedure.


"No otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

"No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation." Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The ADAAA (which also ammends Section 504 and the ADA) defines disability to means "any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, or (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment." "Major life activities" refer to functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, concentration, thinking, and working; also "major bodily functions" such as normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, immune system, and reproductive functions.

"Specific learning disability" means "a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain disfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage." Section 504.

"A qualified handicapped individual" is defined as "one who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the recipient's education program or activity." Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, revised as of July 1, 1988, Part 104.3. Note: The ADA regulations adopts this language by reference to public accommodations.

"Grinnell College is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in matters of admissions, employment, and housing, and in access to and participation in its education programs, services, aor activities. No persion shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, creed or disability." Grinnell College Catalog.

Grievance Procedures

Disability Accommodation Appeal Procedure

Testing Room

When a faculty member doesn't have a reasonable place for exam-taking, students with documented disabilities and testing accommodation can use the Testing Room on the third floor of the JRC. The Testing Room may be used for any of the following testing accommodations:

  • extended time;
  • use of a computer;
  • a “distraction-reduced” environment; and
  • needing the test questions in auditory format.

Students who want to reserve the Testing Room must do the following at least one week in advance of their scheduled exam:

  • Contact Ann Isgrig ([isgriga] or x 3702) to ask if the room is reserved;
  • provide the start time and end time of the exam;
  • provide the name of the instructor and the course;
  • ask the instructor to be in touch with Ann about (1) how the exam will be delivered to her (or to the student) in time for the test and (2) any testing guidelines/rules such as use of notes, etc.; and
  • verify with Ann and with the instructor that the arrangement has been made.  

The downside of using this testing room is that the student will not be in proximity of the instructor. Clearly it's best for the student to be near their professor in case he or she has a question.

What is a "Reasonable Accommodation"?

A "reasonable accommodation" is defined as any change in an environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal opportunities. Offering reasonable accommodations is one of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
Grinnell recognizes its responsibility to make reasonable accommodations in academic programs and physical sites. Students with visual impairments may use assistive technology for studying, classroom learning, or test taking. Other students may have a notetaker in their classes or receive extra time to take tests.  Because technology must be geared to the specific needs of the individual and also often quickly becomes obsolete, the college purchases assistive technology and adaptive equipment on an "as needed" basis. For example, if a student demonstrates a need for an FM system to boost hearing in the classroom, the college will explore options for purchase.

Transition from High School to College

If you are coming from high school, you need to know that accommodations in college may be quite different from what you are used to. We suggest a few things you might read:

·         U.S. Department of Education's Guide to Students with Disabilities "Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities" athttp://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html

·         "Going to College" - The contents of this Web site were developed under a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education by Virginia Commonwealth University's Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workplace Supports and Job Retention. That's a mouthful. This is great info on transitioning to college!

·         Ball State has posted a helpful and concise summary of the differences between high school and college: http://cms.bsu.edu/About/AdministrativeOffices/DSD/PoliciesProcedures/LegalHandbook/LegalRightRes.aspx

College is also different from high school academically. Think about taking tips from the DO-IT Center by reading their "College Survival Skills" at http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/survival.html.

For Faculty

Working with Students with Disabilities

Students with documented disabilities are accommodated at Grinnell College.  Not only is this required by law, but it is fair practice for those students who need assistance in achieving academic success.

All students seeking academic accommodations for a disability must meet with Joyce Stern, Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising (located on the 3rd floor of the Joe Rosenfield Center, x3702), so that she may review their documentation, meet with them, and make decisions about appropriate accommodations. This is the procedure the College has adopted to allow for thorough review of a student's request and determination of appropriate accommodations(s). If faculty make accommodations independently (directly with the student) without consulting this office, equity of treatment across courses and across individuals can come into question, or we may inadvertently over- or under-accommodate a student.

Procedure for Receiving Accommodations 

1.    Student discusses the disability and requested accommodations with Joyce Stern and presents relevant documentation.

2.    Student, Joyce, and the student's adviser meet briefly to discuss appropriate accommodations.

3.    Joyce completes Academic Accommodations Form indicating reasonable accommodations, as determined by the conversations and documentation. This official paperwork is signed by the student, by the student's adviser, and by Joyce.

4.    Student receives a copy of the official paperwork for each of his/her professors. It is up to the student to deliver the copies to his/her instructors. At the time of the delivery, or soon after, the student should discuss the logistics of making accommodations possible in the classroom setting. We encourage a student to do this as soon as possible at the beginning of each semester. According to our policy, arrangements for testing accommodations must be made at least one week in advance of an exam.

Typical Kinds of Accommodations 

Students with disabilities have a range of challenges that need accommodation in order to allow equal access to a Grinnell education. Typical kinds of accommodations include, but are not limited to, a seat at the front of the class, books/texts in an alternate format, a computer to type exams, or extra time on exams.

Accommodations specific to the individual student will be delineated on the Academic Accommodations form. Faculty members will need to implement some of the accommodations, others will be coordinated by the Academic Advising Office, others are a partnership.


Faculty will be presented with information about student disabilities on a need-to-know basis. Thus, you are being brought into a very small circle of people who are aware of the student's condition and challenges. Please maintain the student's confidentiality and make every effort not to disclose this information to other students or faculty. For example, this can happen inadvertently in the process of providing an accommodation on an exam.

Further Questions/Resources

If, after receiving official paperwork from the Academic Advising Office, you have concerns about the student, the accommodation process, or you question the validity of a student's request, please contact Joyce Stern directly.

Welcoming Statements for Your Syllabi

By law and ethical commitment, the College makes accommodations for students with disabilities. Legally, we must also inform students with disabilities that the College provides them with reasonable accommodations and how to access those accommodations. We do this by mail in the summer prior to their arrival to Grinnell and in the Student Handbook. However, a statement on your syllabus is an additional location where students can find that information; therefore, doing this helps the College fulfill our obligation under the law.

There are other good reasons to include a disability statement in your course syllabi. First, students seeking accommodation for a disability can find approaching their instructors particularly difficult, as they fear being stigmatized, especially if this is their first one-on-one encounter with the professor. Further, this practice may take some pressure off of you to make all of the decisions about what accommodations are reasonable; the statement on your syllabi will indicate to students whom to contact for review and approval of specific individualized accommodations (i.e., Academic Advising Office).

The following are some examples of welcoming statements which you may add to your course syllabi to indicate your willingness to work with students.

If you have specific physical, psychiatric or learning disabilities and require accommodations, please let me know early in the semester so that your learning needs may be appropriately met. You will need to provide documentation of your disability to the Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising, Joyce Stern, located on the 3rd floor of the Joe Rosenfield Center (x3702).

I encourage students with documented disabilities, including invisible disabilities such as chronic illness, learning disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities, to discuss appropriate accommodations with me. You will also need to have a conversation about and provide documentation of your disability to the Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising, Joyce Stern, located on the 3rd floor of the Joe Rosenfield Center (x3702).

Grinnell College makes reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Students need to provide documentation to the Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising, Joyce Stern, located on the 3rd floor of the Joe Rosenfield Center (x3702). Students should then notify me within the first few days of classes so that we can discuss ways to ensure your full participation in the course and coordinate your accommodations.

I strive to create a fully inclusive classroom, thus I welcome individual students to approach me about distinctive learning needs. In particular, I encourage students with disabilities to have a conversation with me and disclose how our classroom or course activities could impact the disability and what accommodations would be essential to you. You will also need to have a conversation about and provide documentation of your disability to the Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising, Joyce Stern, located on the 3rd floor of the Joe Rosenfield Center (x3702).

We encourage you to make the statement on your syllabus a reflection of your personal style and your commitment to honoring the diverse learners in your classroom.

Links to Additional Resources for Teaching

Working with Students with Learning Disabilities

"The Faculty Room" from Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology

(DO-IT)Tools for Universal Design in Instruction - a project at the University of Connecticut hosts this website to provide faculty with a broad range of information and tools to enhance the design and delivery of instruction for diverse college students.

Links to Teaching Science and Math

Teaching Math to Visually Impaired Students

Barrier Free Education

National Science Foundation

RFBD Symposium on Access to Math and Science

Math Education and Nemeth Code

Additional Information on Specific Disabilities

Information about Specific Disabilities