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Disability Law

Students with disabilities are protected from discrimination under Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (amended 2008).  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

A qualified person with a disability is a person who meets the essential eligibility requirements of the academic program or service, with or without a reasonable accommodation.  Disability is defined by the ADA as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities, a record of such an impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment."

The term substantially limits means the individual is restricted with regard to the condition, manner, or duration with which they perform a major life activity compared to most people in the general population.

With regard to postsecondary education, a qualified person with a disability is one who, with or without accommodation, meets the standards for admission to or participation in an educational program, activity, or service.

Students with disabilities have a right to:

  • Reasonable accommodations, appropriate academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services as necessary.
  • Privacy with regard to disability-related information, except as disclosures required or permitted by law.
  • Equal access to programs, activities, courses and services.

Students with disabilities have the responsibility to:

  • Meet all academic requirements of the College.
  • Disclose their disability to Student Disability Services as early as possible to ensure timely accommodation arrangements.
  • Provide the required documentation of disability.
  • Arrange meetings with their professors to discuss accommodation letters provided by Student Disability Services.
  • Follow the procedures for requesting accommodations every semester.

The College has a right to:

  • Establish and maintain requirements and standards for admission to the College, and for participation in its courses, programs, services and activities.
  • Request current, relevant documentation that verifies a disability and the need for reasonable accommodations.
  • Determine reasonable accommodations.
  • Deny a request for an accommodation
    • if the student fails to provide current relevant information verifying a disability and need for the requested accommodation,
    • if the request is for a retroactive accommodation, or
    • if the request requires a fundamental alteration of a course, program or service.

The College has the responsibility to:

  • Ensure that admissions policies and procedures are implemented in a non-discriminatory manner with regard to individuals with disabilities.
  • Ensure that programs, services and activities when viewed in their entirety are accessible.
  • Provide appropriate reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services in a timely manner.
  • Maintain appropriate confidentiality of disability-related information.

Disability Law Resources


Swarthmore College respects the privacy of its students.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs all student record information.