In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Harvard GSD Accommodations Coordinator works with you, your instructor(s), and staff on an individualized, case-by-case basis to provide appropriate services to ensure you have a rich and rewarding academic experience. If you are a student with a disability, we engage you in an interactive process to provide you an equal opportunity to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from our academic programs.

What is a disability? 

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and 1998 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts a person from performing one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, or caring for oneself. An impairment or diagnosis does not necessarily constitute a disability; it must substantially limit these activities. 

Temporary Disabilities and Services 

You are not considered disabled if you have a temporary illness or injury; however, you may need services or accommodations similar to those provided to students with permanent disabilities. If you are a student with a documented temporary illness or injury, contact the Accommodations Coordinator as soon as possible to discuss your case. 


Academic accommodations are adjustments and modifications that provide equal academic opportunity for students with disabilities. Academic accommodations are designed to provide equal access to courses and programs, they do not guarantee an outcome or a level of achievement. 

The purpose of accommodations and modifications is to reduce or eliminate any disadvantages that may exist for students with disabilities. Accommodations are not student preferences; they are determined through an established review process based on documentation received regarding the student’s disability. The law does not require institutions to waive specific courses or academic requirements considered essential to a particular course or program. Rather, they are mandated to modify existing requirements on a case-by-case basis in order to ensure that individuals are not discriminated against on the basis of their disability. 

Examples of Accommodations 

Examples of accommodations provided by Harvard GSD in the past include: 

  • Extended time for class exams and assignments 
  • Exams administered in a distraction-reduced environment 
  • Note-taking assistance 
  • Communication access real-time translation (CART) and American Sign Language Interpreters (ASL). 
  • Use of adaptive technology 
  • Transportation services 
  • Accessible parking 
  • Studio accommodations 

Available Technology Resources 

The Harvard University Assistive Technology Center in the Science Center, Room B05 (1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138) is equipped with software and hardware to assist students with disabilities. Based on the disability, students may obtain access to voice recognition, screen-readers, and text-to-speech software. 

How to Register for Disability-Related Accommodations 

To be considered for accommodations, please provide documentation for review no later than two weeks before your course begins. 

Forms and documentation should be submitted to: 

Kelly Wisnaskas
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Office of Student Affairs
48 Quincy Street, Gund Hall, Suite 422
Cambridge, MA 02138
[email protected]
Fax: 617-495-8949 

You will be contacted to schedule an appointment once your materials are received. In order to allow sufficient time to review documentation, please submit materials in a timely manner. 

All documentation and materials will be reviewed by the Accommodations Coordinator. After your request has been reviewed and a determination has been made, you will be contacted via email with further guidance. Additional information and/or instructions about exams and note-taking services will be emailed if you have been approved for these accommodations. Please note that information about a student’s disability is only released to a third party with consent from the student unless required to be disclosed by law. 

Necessary Documentation 

All requests for accommodations must be supported by recent clinical documentation. For requests based on a learning disability or ADHD, a current neuropsychological or psycho-education evaluation may be requested. Individual education plans may be submitted as a supporting document to a full evaluation. Email [email protected] for specific documentation requirements. 

Deadline for Requesting Accommodations 

You should submit documentation no later than two weeks before your course begins (four weeks for requests for materials in alternate format, CART, and ASL services). Requests are reviewed in the order they are received. It can take up to two weeks to review and approve a request and to coordinate the accommodations. You are encouraged to submit your request form and documentation as early as possible to avoid delays in services. 

Late requests for accommodations will be reviewed. However, accommodations and services will not be arranged in time for the start of your course if you submit your request later than two weeks (or four weeks for CART/ASL services) before your course begins. 

Your Rights and Responsibilities 

As a student with a disability, you have the right to equal access to courses, programs, services, activities, and facilities available through the Harvard GSD; reasonable and appropriate accommodations, determined on a case-by-case basis; appropriate confidentiality of all information pertaining to your disability as required by law; and information reasonably available in accessible formats. 

Every student with a disability has the responsibility to meet the Harvard GSD’s qualifications and essential technical, academic, and institutional standards; identify yourself in a timely manner as an individual with a disability when seeking an accommodation; provide documentation from an appropriate professional source that verifies the nature of the disability, functional limitations, and the need for specific accommodations; and follow specific procedures for obtaining reasonable and appropriate accommodations. 

Disability-Related Housing Requests 

Because the Harvard GSD does not have its own housing, students who wish to live in Harvard Housing must contact the Harvard Housing Office’s Disability Housing Coordinator as well as register for housing accommodations through the Harvard GSD Accommodations Coordinator located within the Office of Student Affairs. Housing accommodation requests are reviewed and approved by the Harvard GSD Accommodations Coordinator before housing accommodation requests are coordinated. 

Accommodations While on Studio Trips 

If you are a student with a disability requesting accommodations abroad, please contact the Accommodations Coordinator, at [email protected] or 617-496-8306, to discuss accommodations. 

Event Accessibility 

For information about accessibility accommodations for any Harvard GSD public event, please see the Accessibility Services at Public Programs page.

For student organized events, guests and students should communicate directly with the host of the event as soon as possible. Generally, at least two weeks prior to the event is needed to ensure that there is time to secure a provider.  

Disability Accommodations for Commencement 

Accommodations are available upon request for people with disabilities on both Class Day and Commencement Day.  For up to date information about accessibility at Class Day and Commencement, please see the GSD Commencement Information page.


All medical documentation and requests for accommodations will remain confidential. Confidential information is shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know. The Accommodations Coordinator may share some information with instructors and staff as necessary to coordinate student accommodations. 

Disability Grievance Process 

If you disagree with the approved accommodation, promptly provide a written statement of your concern, with supporting medical documentation, to the Dean of Students. All grievances must be filed within 30 days of the alleged act of discrimination. 

If the Office of Student Affairs cannot resolve the grievance independently and promptly, they will convene a committee to review the matter. The committee will be comprised of the Registrar, the Dean of Students, and, as a nonvoting member, the Accommodations Coordinator. 

The committee may contact the instructor, program managers, or other appropriate personnel to discuss the requested accommodations, as needed. The committee may also request additional medical documentation or an independent medical evaluation on the request for accommodation. 

In cases where timeliness of an accommodation is important, every reasonable effort is made to complete each stage of the process within 10 working days, unless the circumstances require a more rapid response. In some situations, we may provide the requested accommodation on a provisional basis, without obligation to continue the accommodation if it is found to be unreasonable or inappropriate. 

If you are dissatisfied with a decision of the committee, you may appeal in writing to the Director of University Disability Services, by e-mail at [email protected]. Call (617) 495-1859 or (617) 495-4801 (TDD) if you have any questions. 

Read about the University grievance process for more information. In most circumstances, the University disability coordinator will not overturn the decision of the committee unless presented with new information or other grounds that warrant a different outcome. 


If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment to discuss accommodations, please e-mail [email protected]. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm EST. 

[email protected]
Phone: 617-496-8306 
Fax: 617-495-8949 

M-F, 9am-5pm