Frequently Asked Questions

General Student Info

I have a chronic medical condition and have just registered with Disability Services.  Do you have any suggestions on self-identifying to my teachers?

Many students have found that an initial e-mail notification can provide a useful "door-opener" to a subsequent in-person disability discussion with each individual instructor.  Here is a sample outline:

Date: Fri 12 February 2010   11:24:50  -0400 (EDT)
From: **ODS student's name**
To: **names of all instructors for the term**
Cc: (Carolyn Corbran, Director of Disability Services)
Subject: Hello

Hello, my name   is __________________________ and I am in your class this term.  I am writing to inform you that I am registered with the Office of Disability Services and would like to come speak with you about my current situation and any accommodations that might be needed this semester.    I would like to arrange a time to meet with you briefly (we can schedule an appointment, or I can come by during office hours) to discuss my disability-related needs.  Please let me know of your availability to meet — and I have copied ODS Director Carolyn Corbran in case you have any questions.  Thank you very much.

email address
cell #

Any suggestions on how to be more specific on "Seizures 101" with my teachers?

Yes -- here is a personal tipsheet written by a student with a seizure disorder. This type of tipsheet could also be adapted for students with other kinds of flare-ups, too. Think about your own specific disability-related needs.

Telephone Number
Email Address

I have epilespy, with a history of partial-complex seizures. I take xx of Tegretol XR a day.

Emergency Contacts

Carolyn Corbran, Nicole Bartolotta or Angelene Prendergast
Office of Disability Services
008 Milbank Hall (@ Barnard)

Contact #3
Telephone Number

Contact #2
Telephone Number

Contact #4
Telephone Number

You will know I am having a seizure when:

  • I make a sort of guttural voice
  • my eyes roll back into my head
  • my head and arms begin to convulse; my legs/the rest of my body may also convulse (I probably won't flail wildly- the convulsions should be relatively mild.)

What should you do when I have a seizure:

  • I will fall, so it is best if I am lying down on the floor where I can't fall any lower. If possible, lie me down on the floor.
  • Clear away chairs or anything that I could hit with my flailing arms/body.
  • You do not need to insert anything in my mouth. Not even a wooden spoon. I promise I will not swallow my tongue.
  • The seizure should only last for 1-3 minutes, possibly less. You do not need to call an ambulance or CAVA unless the seizure lasts for 4-5 minutes or more.

After the seizure:

  • Call the disability office. Hopefully, someone from there will come and get me. Or, call my emergency contacts (above), and ask if they can come pick me up.
  • During the seizure, I will lose consciousness. When the seizure is over and I regain consciousness, I will be very confused.
  • I will not remember the seizure, where I am, who I am, who you are, etc. It will help if you tell me that I have just had a seizure, and where I am. (I will also not know my phone number, where I live, etc.) Just tell me what's going on simply. It would be especially nice if you tell me that "everything's going to be OK."
  • I may be unable to talk or move at first. If this is the case, I should be able to talk and move within 10-20 minutes.
  • Most likely, after a few minutes, I will be able to stand up and walk with help. If someone is willing, a student can take me outside of the classroom to wait for whoever can come to get me. It is best if someone stays with me. (I will not be completely with it/conscious. I have been known to wander around, climb stairs, walk into other buildings or the street, etc. after seizures.)
  • If no one is available to pick me up, then you can call CAVA or security or an ambulance (not all three). Otherwise, please do not call CAVA or an ambulance.

Do you have any thoughts on how I can cope with frequent flare-ups of my chronic illness?

We'd recommend a new book in the ODS Resource Collection written by M. Catherine Ray: I'm With You Now: A Guide Through Incurable Illness for Patients, Families and Friends. (Bantam Books, 1997).

We have found Chapter 5 to be particularly helpful -- it's called "Bad Days" (pp. 31-34)

  • Any person on this voyage -- either a patient or loved one -- can expect to have bad days. Emotions may shut down, anger may explode, simple tasks seem pointless or impossible, tears won't come, tears won't stop, lethargy or distraction sets in. Sometimes these days are full of angry passion. Other times, the world seems empty, flat -- there is barely enough energy to breathe.
  • Our emotions and reactions -- or lack of them -- sometimes surprise us even more than they surprise others. When this happens, our most helpful friends look us straight in the eye to state firmly, "You are not going crazy. You are not sinking."
  • Bad days arrive throughout the process. They do not go away as we grow more accustomed to this journey; they just change with the passing scenery.

      A few years ago, after my dad had been sick for several years, an unbelievable thing happened. I actually got two tickets to the Super Bowl. Good tickets, too -- nearly on the 50-yard line. My best friend and I got all settled into our seats and the opening hoopla began. All of a sudden, I felt this rush come over me and I started to bawl. I was thinking about Dad, and all the Super Bowls we'd watched on TV, dreaming how great it would be to see it live one day. And now I was actually there, in person, and he was the one who should have been next to me. But I couldn't even tell him about this -- he has Alzheimer's and he doesn't know me anymore. So here I am, this grown man, sitting on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl bawling my eyes out. And I'm not one of those quiche-eater guys who cries at the drop of a hat. I could feel people around me looking and wondering -- "What's with this guy?!?" I was mortified. But I just couldn't make myself stop sobbing. And it took me totally by surprise.

  • Other people sometimes don't know what to do with us when we are having our bad days. They say silly things like, "You have to pull yourself together." But why? To make them more comfortable? Remember, we are not about to drown, even if the people who love us imply that we are.
  • "Bad" days are actually good days, as the mind and body work to protect and prepare us. We shut down, we emote, we wallow in melancholy and think about the past, present, and future. Eventually, we find perspective and peace. We are healing -- taking this time for ourselves is helpful to us.
  • We must avoid feeling apologetic about our bad days. Instead, we ought to celebrate them. They are doing us a world of good. Rather than calling them bad days we ought to call them healing days.
  • Helpful friends understand that only we can make the rules about our healing days. No one else is able to tell us how to feel and act. And while well-intentioned friends may have creative ideas for how to "snap out of this" it is up to us to decide how to best spend our time -- even if that means sitting alone in a dark room, or listening to sad music until we're sobbing, or other behaviors that those around us view as strange or morose.

      "We've always had this family ritual," the wife of a cancer patient confided. 'We play music every morning while we get ready for work and school. One morning, my husband put on Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville. Well, that lasted about five minutes! 'Cry like a rainstorm' was exactly what I started to do. I changed the music, but it was too late. Everything just crumpled around me.

      "I told my husband I knew I wouldn't be in good shape that day -- it felt like too much of a struggle to try to put myself together. I didn't really want to feel better. I just felt like feeling bad. So, I stayed in bed all day. I took about three naps and cried the rest of the time in between.

      "Luckily, my husband knew to leave me alone. Oh, he checked on me every once in a while, but he didn't complicate things by fussing over me. And he never made me feel guilty for giving myself a pity party, even though he's the one who's sick! He just trusted me to take care of myself. In a day or two I was lots better. Even pretty refreshed."

  • There are few things more depressing than being with someone who insists on cheering you up. It adds unnecessary pressure. Explain this to anyone who tells you to "buck up." Kindly ask them to leave you alone until you have moved through the storm. And avoid these people when the next healing day arrives.
  • Healing days are just one tool -- mostly unconscious -- we use to keep emotional balance. When we feel a bad day coming on, we can either try to squelch it or indulge it. When possible, try to pick the place and limit the damage. It helps to remember we can control our healing days, rather than allowing them to control us.
  • We need to give ourselves permission to be self-indulgent when these days arrive. It is equally important to pay close attention. Make a conscious note of your specific feelings and physical reactions. Think about what you're doing to cope -- try to discover what seems to help and what doesn't. We need to move our self-indulgence beyond mere pampering; we gain wisdom when we can use these times to collect information about which methods to use when the next healing day arrives.
  • Try to view these peaks and valleys of passion as one of the gifts of the experience. There are not many moments in life when we can expect to feel things so profoundly, even if that feeling is profound emptiness. If possible, try to take the perspective of being fascinated by these emotions and reactions, even the scary, sad, and futile ones. Pay attention. Because remember...
  • We won't always feel this way.

What should I know about the Physical Education requirement?

Q. Can a student with a disability take another class as a make-up?

A. No. This is a general Physical Education policy for all students as class lists are set at the beginning of the term with no late or one-time admits permitted.

Q. As a student with a chronic illness, may I "bank" a make-up in the event of a possible/future flare-up of my condition?

A. In consultation with their instructors and on a case-by-case basis, students with disabilities may "bank" a class by participating in any of the make-up opportunities listed on the Physical Education website (e.g. volunteer at one of the two blood drives each semester.)

Q. Do you have any suggestions for particular classes that are disability-friendly?

A. Students with disabilities have found that certain courses are beneficial to their particular needs.

For example, the Wellness class addresses issues pertaining to mind/body/spirit and includes only three classes with mild-moderate levels of physical activity.

You should meet with the Chair of the Physical Education Department or the Director of Disability Services to discuss your specific situation.

Q. If I have a chronic illness and am experiencing a flare-up during class, what should I do?

A. This question falls under the overall attendance/lateness policy. If a student needs to sit out for a brief period (i.e. 5 min), she should speak to the professor and will likely be provided a time-out. However, if the period extends to 10-15 minutes or longer, the student will be referred to the Student Health Service for an immediate check-in. Once again, please be pro-active and discuss your needs in advance with your instructor if you anticipate a large number of flare-ups.

Do you have any suggestions for LD high school students?

Eleven suggestions regarding postsecondary options for high school students with learning disabilities:

  1. Understand the regulations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for disabled students in general, and for LD students in particular.
  2. Be able to explain your learning disability to others: your strengths and weaknesses, as well as successful strategies that you have used to compensate for your LD.
  3. Think about your non disability-related interests/considerations (e.g., career goals, choice of major, size and location of school) as well as your disability-related concerns when making decisions about schools.
  4. In selecting an appropriate "match" between student/school, determine "how much is enough" regarding your own need for support services:
    minimal support:            student adapts
    moderate support:         campus helps student adjust
    intensive support:          program is adapted to student
  5. Make an informed decision about the issue of self-identification, consulting with high school guidance counselors, college admissions and disability services staff, and LD students.
  6. Schedule on-campus admissions interviews, making additional appointments (well in advance) to speak with disability services staff members and current LD students.
  7. Obtain all regular publications about a desired school, as well as any materials specifically targeted to students with disabilities.
  8. Be clear on college policy regarding academic accommodations and LD: specific academic/course requirements and possible modifications; test accommodations; classroom concerns; etc.
  9. Obtain information about mainstream academic support services available to all students vs. specialized services available to LD students, noting funding sources.
  10. When using specialized college guides and other print resources, follow up with phone calls, in-person interviews, etc.
  11. Review a college's webpage for disability-related information: is it easy to find and accessible?

Useful resource: Unlocking Potential: College and other choices for learning disabled people - a step-by-step guide. Barbara Scheiber and Jeanne Talpers. Adler and Adler Publishers, 1987.

I am applying to graduate school and want some tips on how to determine if there will be disability-related support for me.  Any ideas?

Disability and Graduate School Questions to Ask:

  • Would you describe your program/school as "disability-friendly?"
  • Have you worked with students with my disability in the past, and what are the common accommodations provided?
  • What are your requirements for disability documentation?
  • What is the procedure for requesting disability-related accommodations?
  • Can you provide me with the name and e-mail address of a current student with a similar disability?

Although I do not have a diagnosed disability, I may be unable to hear the fire alarm in the residence halls for one or more of the following reasons: heavy sleeping, use of ear plugs, use of sleep medication.  What should I do?

If you have any questions regarding Life Safety, please contact ODS directly to speak with a staff member.

I am a Pre-College Student and need access to a microwave and a refrigerator due to food allergies. Any recommendations?

You are welcome to bring shelf-stable foods to store in your room (and ResLife recommends that you store all food in air-tight containers).

The Sulzberger lounges have access to microwaves for student use, but there are no refrigerators.  Students may arrange for small in-room refrigerator rental by contacting Collegiate Storage and Rental at 718-267-6484.  Feel free to call Colegiate and request that the fridge can be delivered directly to your room.


I am currently/have been a student with a disability registered with ODS and would like to ask either a member of the ODS staff for a letter of recommendation. Does ODS have a policy or procedure for such a request?

Yes — if you have worked directly for ODS in some capacity (e.g.  notetaker, office assistant, tutor, etc.) — we may be able to write a *letter of recommendation* as we have direct and specific info re: your performance in the workplace. Please feel free to call ODS If you have any questions about this policy.


II. Campus & Facilities

What is the best wheelchair-accessible route to get from the main Barnard gates at 117th street and Broadway to the Liz's Place Cafe?

There are two routes you can take: The upper campus access route (weather permitting) and the tunnel route.

1. Tunnel route (preferred access route):

Enter the main Barnard gate and turn left at Barnard Hall, taking the south entrance which is ramped. Take either elevator to the basement/ground floor level and follow the tunnel route through Barnard Hall, Lehman, and into Diana LL1.  Take any of the two elevators to the lobby (1).

2. Upper campus access route:

Enter main Barnard gate and turn right. Follow brick sidewalk and then go onto the mid-campus path at the edge of the Lehman Lawn. Follow the mid-campus path to the Lehman sidewalk. The Diana Center is on the right.

I will be visiting your campus and may have some mobility access concerns. What might you suggest?


  1. Rental of mobility aids:
    ODS has a walker and a manual wheelchair for loan @ no cost. A motorized scooter (very helpful for issues of mobility/energy/endurance) can be rented by the day ($100.), week ($150.) or month ($200.). We use Baker Surgical Supply, 722 Amsterdam Avenue at 95th Street (tel # 212/865-2284). The scooter can be delivered/picked-up directly to/from Barnard--and should be ordered at least one week in advance because it's a popular item at Baker!
  2. Access map of Barnard/Columbia
    Available in ODS--always useful so that a *no-step* access route can be planned in advance. As a part of our Access Barnard Commencement guide, we also have a listing of all of the wheelchair accessible restrooms on campus.

How can I obtain a commuter locker?

A commuter locker can be obtained by going to the Bursar (15 Milbank) and paying a fee of $3 and they will give you a receipt. This receipt should then be given to Facilities Services (105 Barnard Hall) who will then assign you a locker.

Lockers need to be renewed yearly and you will receive a letter in your locker when the time to renew arrives. However, the $3 fee is a one time fee.

Must I be registered with ODS to apply for disability-related housing?

Yes. If you have not previously registered with ODS, you should do so when you apply for disability-related housing. All students requesting specialized housing consideration must fill out and follow the procedures outlined in the  Disability Housing Accommodation Request Form:  ODS often finds that when students come in to discuss their disability-related housing concerns that there may be other types of needs (especially for students with chronic illnesses) in which ODS registration might be helpful in the future.

Is there a user-friendly ADA checklist for existing facilities that you would recommend?

The 504/ADA Access Committee launched the Access Advocates program in April 2009 and during the summer of 2009 committee members completed the ADA checklist for each Barnard building and residence hall. 

Developed in August 1995, the checklist is available from Barrier Free Environments, Inc. and the Institute for Human-Centered Design at


III. Academic/Classroom

What tips do you have for professors and others who are working with ASL (sign language) interpreters?

See this handout.

Handout provided by Janice B. Rimler, Janice B. Rimler, M.Ed. RID:CT, ASLTA:Professional Interpreter Representative, HANDS IN MOTION Professional Sign Language Interpreters.

I need a peer tutor this semester. Do you have any suggestions?

The Dean of Studies Office began assisting all students on campus with locating peer-to-peer tutoring beginning during the 2014-2015 academic year!  First, if you are looking for a tutor please request a tutor through the Dean of Studies at!  If the Dean of Studies is unable to help you find a tutor, please contact ODS so we can better advise you on alternative methods for seeking a tutor at

I am a notetaker for Barnard ODS.  What is the difference between a Barnard and Columbia notetaker?

There are a few differences between being a Barnard versus being a Columbia notetaker, the biggest one being that the Barnard Notetaking program pays $100 and students submit their notes online via our AIM system, while CU notetakers email their notes to CU ODS.     

IV. Training, Awareness and Evaluation

Have you developed any feedback/evaluation forms to be used with students with disabilities?

Yes, we have developed two instruments:  one for first-year LD students (11 questions) and another for all graduating seniors with disabilities (9 questions).   The LD feedback form is titled:  "LD First-Year Summary Interview," and is conducted via one-to-one interview format with all LD first-Year students at the end of their first-year at Barnard.  All graduating seniors with disabilities are invited to participate in the Senior Exit Interview Protocol, also completed via a one-to-one personal interview.

LD first-Year Summer Interview

  1. On a scale of 1-10 how was your first year at Barnard? (1=poor, 10=great)
  2. What were the highlights?
  3. What were the lowlights?
  4. How have you used ODS?
    Any additional things ODS could provide?
  5. What other offices have you worked with on campus?
  6. How have you used your advisor?
  7. What brings you happiness at BC?
    -job, internship
  8. What is next year’s program like?
  9. Do you anticipate needing an advance syllabus?
  10. Let’s review when you had your last evaluation and discuss whether you’ll be needing a new one in the next year or two.

Senior Exit Interview Protocol

Date of ODS Registration 

  1. What services have you received at ODS? (check all that apply):
    career/employment info
    classroom/academic accommodations
    academic coaching
    resource collection
    test accommodations
  2. Are there any additional areas of service delivery which you would like to recommend?
  3. Are there any concerns/complaints re: services that you would like to share?
  4. Overall, please rate your satisfaction with ODS services:
    very satisfied satisfied somewhat satisfied not satisfied
  5. What are your plans post-Barnard? (grad school, travel, work/career path vs. non-career path) Would you like to join the BAID network?
  6. How has your disability influenced your future plans re: school/work?
  7. How do you plan to deal with your disability in graduate school and/or the workplace? Do you plan to self-identify? Do you anticipate using disability-related accommodations at school or work?
  8. For our brochure called "What We’ve Learned: Thoughts on Disability from Graduating Seniors to Entering Students at Barnard"—would you like to offer any ideas?
  9. Please use reverse side for any additional comments.


V. Beyond Barnard

How can I make a telephone call to a person who is deaf?

You should dial 711 which will connect you to a Teletypewriter (TTY) Relay Service, which all states have as a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some people who are deaf have a TTY which allows the user to type his/her telephone conversations to the other TTY user. However, if you do not have a TTY, a relay service will enable you to speak through an operator who will read you the responses from a TTY user and type and send your message to the TTY user. Just dial 711 and follow the prompts. There may be a short waiting time and some beeps.  Stay on the line and an operator will pick up.
It is toll free to call 711 but you will be billed your standard rate for the call itself. 
For more information on telephone services for people with disabilities please visit: