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Is SDAC for Me?

What Is a Disability
Who is eligible for accommodations?
What Types of Disabilities Are Served by the SDAC?
FAQs for Students

What Is a Disability?

Under state and federal regulations, an individual with a disability is defined as anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, working, or learning. Visit the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs for more information.

Who is eligible for accommodations?

Unlike in K-12 education settings, individuals at the college level must self-identify as having a disability if they think they may need accommodations.

Academic accommodations are provided when an individual has a disability which results in current and significant functional difficulty in accessing the university experience.

Academic accommodations for students with disabling conditions are based on individual review and should be supported by appropriate documentation. This may include self-report, history of accommodations, or documentation from a qualified professional.

Guidelines for Documentation of a Cognitive Disorder
Guidelines for Documentation of an Emotional or Psychiatric Disability
Guidelines for Documentation of a Physical, Sensory or Medically Based Disability

What Types of Disabilities Are Served by the SDAC?

The SDAC serves students with a wide variety of disability conditions. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all disabilities we cover; but instead is intended to provide information about more frequently encountered conditions. If you have a condition that is not listed below and/or you have any questions, we encourage you to come in and talk to us.

Cognitive Disorders
There are two main types of cognitive disorders (which may overlap): learning disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Learning disorders, also known as learning disabilities are lifelong conditions, which disrupt learning in individuals with intact intelligence. These disorders can disrupt certain styles or processes of learning, but they do not limit the capacity to learn. Learning disorders do not indicate lowered intelligence and a hallmark feature for diagnosis is a history of academic achievement falling below expectations for measured ability levels (intelligence). Learning disorders may be classified as primarily affecting reading, written expression, or math skills. They may also be classified as “Not Otherwise Specified – NOS.” The NOS category may include disruptions of information processing speed, organizational skills, time management, oral language skills, etc. The important point is that there is a discrepancy between overall general ability and skills and the specific area of disorder.

Information on documentation of a learning disorder is available in the Guidelines for Documentation of a Cognitive Disorder.

ADHD is a lifelong neurologically based condition in which there is a long history of inattention and/or disrupted activity levels that can cause impairment in multiple areas of an individual’s life including education. Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may or may not have a coexisting learning disorder and/or their symptoms of ADHD may or may not interfere with the acquisition and demonstration of knowledge in the classroom. Because of this variability, diagnosis of ADHD, alone, is not sufficient evidence of a need for academic accommodations.

Information on documentation of ADHD is available in the Guidelines for Documentation of a Cognitive Disorder.

Physical Disabilities
Physical disabilities are physical or sensory conditions which can limit access to the university experience. These include limitations of hearing, vision, movement or other physical/sensory difficulties. These conditions may be permanent or shorter-term in nature. Conditions affecting individuals for less than six months (for example a broken limb) are generally not covered under federal definitions of disability, but may still be appropriate for temporary accommodations arranged through the SDAC. Again, if in doubt, come see us.

Please visit the Guidelines for Documentation of a Physical, Sensory or Medically Based Disability for documentation suggestions. Students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing are invited to contact our Deaf/Hard of Hearing Services for information and assistance (434-243-5180).

Medical Disabilities
The types of disabilities covered in this category are generally chronic health conditions that may limit both cognitive and motoric function and are often associated with fatigue. At times, these conditions can have acute phases requiring bed rest or hospitalization which can limit class attendance.

Please visit the Guidelines for Documentation of a Physical, Sensory or Medically Based Disability for documentation suggestions.

Emotional or Psychiatric Disabilities
Emotional or psychiatric disabilities can cause difficulties with attention, concentration, fatigue, thinking, organization, motivation, social relationships, and/or a diminished capacity to cope with life’s demands. Evaluative or test anxiety may qualify for accommodations if your treating clinician has determined this reaches the intensity of a diagnosable mental health disorder that substantially disrupts your academic performance.

Documentation procedures for psychiatric disabilities are discussed in the Guidelines for Documentation of an Emotional or Psychiatric Disorder.

Autism Spectrum
Previously known as a number of separate conditions including Aspergers Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Autism; these are now grouped into the diagnostic category of Autism Spectrum. Individuals on the spectrum have a divergent neurological organization that may yield difficulties in processing all aspects of communication, dealing with ambiguity, and dealing with the complexity of interpersonal interactions. There is not a strong correlation to cognitive functions and these individuals may be quite successful in completing academic tasks while having more difficulty in navigating the social environment. Documentation needs will vary according to accommodation needsPlease contact SDAC for more information.

Brain Injury
There can be considerable variability in the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) based on multiple factors. Most commonly seen are relatively milder injuries (concussion/post concussive syndrome)that can cause generalized slowing of cognitive functions, increased fatigue, and headaches that last for weeks to several months. If you have a concussion you should first seek medical evaluation (you can visit Student Health General Medicine if you are on Grounds). The clinician you see can then refer you to us and we will be happy to work with you on evaluating your current cognitive functions and developing a plan.

Acquired brain injury can result from internal or external causes (stroke, infection, brain tumors, toxic exposure, hypoxia or substance abuse). Characteristically in acquired brain injury, the illness/event/exposure is over and the injury is a resultant effect. As with TBI, there can be a wide variety of effects.

In general you can follow the Guidelines for Documentation of a Cognitive Disorder.

Verification of Medical Condition or Disability
Verification of Psychiatric Condition or Disability
Student Request for Housing Accommodation
Student Survey


Clinical Consultations and Walk-in Service
Although not an academic support center, SDAC and its staff are available for consultation with any UVA student with academic accessibility concerns. We are happy to meet with you in order to listen to your concerns, and to offer support in the form of information, direct assistance, or referrals to University or community resources. We invite you to call 434- 243-5180 to schedule a consult appointment. You are welcome to come in on a walk-in basis. If no one is available at that time, our Front Desk staff will offer you the earliest available consult appointment.

Screening Evaluations
The SDAC assists in the identification of students with learning disorders, attentional disorders, and other factors affecting academic functioning.

The first step is an initial intake interview, during which students meet individually with an SDAC clinician to review relevant history and current difficulties. The goal of the intake interview is to make appropriate recommendations and referrals, including determining whether a screening evaluation is appropriate.

All Student Health eligible students are eligible for these appointments. To schedule an initial intake interview appointment, please call the SDAC front desk at 434-243-5180.

Documentation Review
Students arriving at the University with a previously diagnosed disability and/or a history of prior academic accommodations are invited to submit documentation for review. General information about what type of documentation we suggest are discussed in the What Types of Disability are Served by the SDAC section of this website. Following documentation review, students are contacted to discuss approved accommodations.

We would like to stress that we view the documentation review as only the first step in an interactive dialogue with the student. Students who disagree with the conclusion from their documentation review are invited to schedule a consult appointment with us to discuss their needs (434-243-5180).

Accommodation Memos
The SDAC uses a process of professor letters called Accommodation Memos to notify course instructors of approved academic accommodations for individual students. Professor letters are prepared each semester based on the student’s completion of the Request for Accommodations form.

  1. Request accommodations. Students can complete and submit their Request for Accommodations form as soon as they have registered for classes. We recommend that students submit this form within the first two weeks of the semester at the latest. The Request for Accommodations form allows students to customize their choices each semester by selecting which of their approved accommodations they would like to use for each course they are taking.
  2. Pick up professor letters from SDAC. Students are notified via email when their professor letters are ready. Please allot 5-10 business days for these letters to be prepared.
  3. Deliver professor letters. Students must hand-deliver the professor letters to their individual course instructors. This allows the opportunity for the instructor and the student to discuss how the accommodations will be implemented in that course.
  4. Return professor letters to SDAC with signatures. Faculty members are asked to sign that they have reviewed and understand the accommodations listed and then the student returns the professor letters to the SDAC. The SDAC remains available to mediate if any difficulties arise.

Reading Program
The Reading Program provides reading materials in alternate text formats for students with visual and print disabilities. Our program works with students to provide textbooks and other reading materials in a variety of accessible audio and electronic formats drawing from such resources as Learning Ally and Adaptive software, such as Kurzweil, and JAWS are also made available. The Reading Program is a collaborative program and students who are approved for this accommodation must communicate their needs to the SDAC staff at least two weeks before a book or reading is needed. This gives our staff sufficient time to convert readings into alternate format. For questions please contact us at 434-243-5180.

Foreign Language Accommodation
The University of Virginia does not waive the Foreign Language Requirement. Instead, UVA has established a Foreign Language Accommodation Policy which begins with the Foreign Language Memo. The student who qualifies for the Foreign Language Memo is expected to make a good faith effort in a foreign language course with accommodations as designed by the specific language department’s Language Coordinator. If after a sufficient trial period, the Language Coordinator determines that even with accommodations and good faith effort by the student that the course is unworkable, the Language Coordinator may recommend in writing to the student’s Association Dean that the Foreign Language Requirement be modified allowing the student to take specified courses approved by the Association Dean that are taught in English. Please see the University Foreign Language Accommodation Policy for details.

If you choose to take the substitution courses, your transcript will include the statement, "Foreign Language requirement modified." Remember that, as with any accommodation, if a Foreign Language Memo is approved, you retain the choice to activate or to not activate the accommodation.

Peer Notetaking Program
The Peer Notetaking program is a service for students who are not able to take sufficient notes in class due to physical, sensory and/or cognitive disabilities. The program is also available on a short-term basis for students who are experiencing severe temporary medical conditions and/or temporary injuries that would limit note taking ability (e.g., broken wrists). The peer note-takers are volunteers who are recruited each semester by the faculty or, as needed, the staff of the Peer Notetaking Program. The Notetaking Coordinator serves as an intermediary between the volunteer note-takers and the student receiving notes in order to protect the privacy of the student receiving notes.

If you experience any difficulties with receiving your notes, please notify the Notetaking Coordinator as soon as possible (434-243-5180).

Academic Exam Accommodations
When an instructor is unable to provide exam accommodations in the classroom, the SDAC staff administers and proctors academic tests and exams on site at the SDAC for students with approved accommodations.

To make sure this process runs smoothly, it is extremely important that students:

  • Communicate with their professors and with the SDAC exam coordinator a minimum of 7 days prior to each exam.
    • SDAC staff cannot administer exams to students who have not given adequate prior notice that they are coming to SDAC.
    • SDAC staff cannot administer exams to students who have not communicated with their professor(s) ahead of time to make arrangements to take their exam(s) at the SDAC.
  • Arrange exam accommodations with professors and SDAC. This ensures that students have reserved a space and any necessary equipment.

Due to limited space and resources, the SDAC is only able to provide this service to students who are approved for accommodations through the SDAC, and who have officially activated their exam accommodations for the semester. To make arrangements to take an exam at the SDAC, please contact us at (434-243-5180) or click on this link.

Assistive Technology
The Assistive Technology Program provides a wide and growing variety of computer support, computer training and other services:

  • Installs and troubleshoots laptops and tablets with adaptive software such as screenreading, voice-recognition and screen magnification software.
  • Trains on adaptive computer software and hardware.
    • Students must first meet with an SDAC staff member before being referred for the training.
    • The type and amount of training provided varies on a case-by-case basis.
  • Assists in web video captioning and remote Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART).
  • Conducts ongoing technology testing to make recommendations regarding learning software, specific disability products, e-reading solutions, and accessibility features of emerging technologies.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing Services
Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HH) are managed by SDAC's Deaf and HH Services Coordinator. Services available for students, faculty, staff, and visitors involve:

  • American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreting
  • Remote Computer Assisted Real Time Transcription (remote CART)
  • Computer-Assisted Real Time Transcription (CART)
  • Personal FM systems
  • Preferential seating, note taking, and other services as appropriate.

Please contact the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator to request services.

Consultation with Prospective and Incoming Students
The SDAC staff are available to meet with prospective students and their families regarding disability accommodations and support services available through SDAC and through other University agencies. The SDAC regularly acts as a liaison between students with disabilities and other University offices, including Housing, Parking & Transportation, and the Registrar. Every incoming student with a disability is invited to have a consult appointment at the SDAC. Even if you are not planning on using accommodations, it can be useful to review needs and available services and resources. SDAC staff members are also present at every session of the University Summer Orientation programs to answer questions and provide information.