College Disability Rights During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Video transcript

– Hi, my name is Angelica Sander and I’m an attorney for Disability Rights Texas. In this video, you will learn what to do if your education is disrupted by the coronavirus also known as COVID-19.

We note that this is a difficult time, and unpredictable time for students, in college, graduate, professional, vocational or technical schools, and we want you to be prepared. Post-secondary education institutions have a legal responsibility of ensuring that students with disabilities have access to curriculum and instruction. And yes, they are still responsible during the circumstances created by the coronavirus.

The first scenario that we will discuss is what should you do if your school transitions all of its on-campus classes to online instruction? If this is your situation now and you have concerns about the accessibility of the lecture and materials, talk to your instructors and the Disability Services office to review your current accommodations and to make any adjustments necessary. Identify what the problems are with the current online software used by the school, and make suggestions if you have any ideas on how to make it accessible to you.

The second scenario is what should you do if classes are still taking place on campus but you decide not to attend to prevent exposure to the virus. Talk to your school’s disability office first to set up a distance learning plan, and let your professors and teachers know so that they are aware and can coordinate with the Disability Services office on your new accommodation. The sooner you do it the better.

Third, if you get sick and cannot continue your course work, what can you do? You can take a leave of absence. If you decide this is the best decision for you, you should review the leave of absence policies in the student handbook first, then talk to the Disability Services office, and the registrar offices, to complete the process. Make a written request, even if the normal deadline has already passed. It is important to check these policies even if this is not your current situation. It’s always better to plan ahead.

And the last scenario. If schools are temporarily closing their campus and you’re forced to move out of your dorm, what can you do? Students in this situation are normally only given a few days to move out. You need to start by contacting the school’s Disability Services office and the Student Houses office immediately and tell them your situation. When you contact the Disability Services office and the Student Housing office, it’s important that you share why and how your disability is affecting you from finding alternative housing, and request that they make an exception for you. Asking for an exception is not a guarantee that you will get it, but some schools are willing to make exceptions for students in unique circumstances that would otherwise be homeless, and they may give you more time to find your alternative housing. These cases are decided on a case-by-case basis. If at all possible, secure alternative housing in case the school denies your request.

We just went over four scenarios and the steps that you should take to self advocate for yourself. If you’re not successful, do not hesitate to submit your intake on our website at or call our intake line at 1-800-252-9108. We’re here to help you through this process and make sure that your rights are protected.

Although this video focuses on the impact that COVID-19 is having, we handle non-virus related issues, such as requesting accommodations, service animals, loans and student housing. To stay up-to-date with this issue, join our Facebook page called “Doing College With a Disability in Texas”.