What do we mean by...?


With regard to a person: “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.” — Americans with Disabilities Act
Disabilities may be temporary — like a sudden illness or broken bone — or ongoing.


“The degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible.” — International Organization for Standardization
Ideally environments are accessible to everyone, with no one experiencing limits due to a disability.


An adjustment or adaptation made in order for a person with a disability to be fully included in an educational, workplace or social setting or in an activity.
Accommodations are made on an individual basis.


Information that supports the need for a requested accommodation and disability status.  Most commonly, documentation is a combination of information from a qualified provider, the individual, and records of previous accommodations.  

Documentation guidelines are provided by Disability Resources.  An example of documentation from a qualified provider is also  available. 

Universal Design:

"The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." — Ron Mace

Universal design applies not only to physical environments and objects, but also technology and teaching, among other things.

How do these fit together?

At Grinnell, we use the concepts of universal design to try to create an environment that is accessible as possible. That is, we try to remove as many barriers to participation as we can. For example:

  • Smooth sidewalks, curb cuts, and door openers allow wheelchair access to campus.
  • A wide variety of dining options mean those on special diets may find options readily available.
  • Closed captioning a video can help those with hearing impairments or who learn best by reading to fully participate in class discussions.

Many of these solutions make life better for everyone.

When we can't make something fully accessible, we provide accommodations to people whose disabilities would otherwise limit their participation. The accommodations allow them to fully participate.

What are some common accommodations and who provides them?

Two people coordinate accommodations on campus.

They arrange for accommodations, including those provided by other groups on campus like dining or facilities management.

Common accommodations used by Grinnell employees include:

  • Sit-stand workstations
  • Personal hearing loop
  • Assistive technology such as Dragon Naturally Speaking and Read&Write Gold
  • Specialized phones
  • Scheduling meetings in accessible rooms

The following lists, though not exhaustive, include accommodations commonly used by Grinnell students. Other accommodations may be available, and not all accommodations are appropriate for or approved for each person.


Classroom and instructional accommodations at Grinnell often include:

  • Academic materials in alternate formats such as:
    • Braille
    • large print
    • digital copies
  • Captioned videos
  • Disability-related absences
  • Environmental accommodation such as:
    • preferential seating
    • adjustable tables
    • space for wheelchairs
    • physically accessible rooms
  • The use of support people such as:
    • interpreters
    • note takers
    • readers
    • writers
    • lab assistants


Common testing accommodations at Grinnell include:

  • Extra time on exams
  • Testing in a distraction-reduced location
  • The assistance of a reader/writer
  • Alternative format exams

Assistive Technology

Grinnell students with disabilities commonly use assistive technology such as:

  • Note-taking support like smart pens, AudioNote, and Notability
  • Low vision support like OpenBook and Tiger software
  • Screen readers like Apple VoiceOver, NVDA, and JAWS
  • Reading and writing support like Dragon Naturally speaking, Read&Write Gold, Kurzweil 3000-Firefly, and accessible fonts

Grinnell's Assistive Technology team can help with these and other assistive technologies.

Residence and Campus Life

Common accommodations and services for students living on campus include:

  • Special assistance finding appropriate housing on campus, including housing for students with hearing loss, mobility issues, or vision issues
  • Emergency and safety plans
  • Assistance in hiring local aides
  • Special dietary counseling and meals
  • Substance-free housing
  • Transportation with an accessible van
  • Temporary accessible (handicap) parking permits

Some Grinnellians with disabilities also receive assistance from the service animals they bring with them.

Additional Services Often Used by Students with Disabilities

Some services are built into the Grinnell experience, including:

  • Captioning and sign-language interpreters at certain major events
  • Telecoil loops in major speaking venue and academic spaces
  • Accessible academic buildings

In addition, services available to all students can be particularly useful to students with disabilities, including:

  • Tutoring and study sessions for just about any class
  • Academic skills training
  • Health and counseling services
  • Technology services
  • Career services