Disability Support

Students with Disabilities

The Office of Disability Support Services assists RISD students who have either cognitive (learning) or physical disabilities.

If you believe that you have a physical or cognitive disability that requires an accommodation, you should submit a description of your need for accommodation and documentation concerning your disability to:

Brittany Boyne
Coordinator of Disability Support Services
504 Coordinator/ADA Compliance Officer
311 Carr Haus
210 Benefit Street, Providence RI 02906

Many accommodations take time to arrange. It is in your best interest to make your formal requests as early as possible, preferably prior to the beginning of the semester. Failure to do so might limit our ability to meet your needs. (Please see the Accommodation Timeline.)

Making an Accommodation Request

  1. Contact the ADA/504 Coordinator (Coordinator of Disability Support Services)
  2. Provide Documentation and complete the Application for Services
  3. Participate in Initial Appointment and determine reasonable accommodations
  4. Deliver the disability accommodations letters to course instructors
  5. Meet annually to reassess accommodations and receive an updated letter

1. Contact the ADA/504 Coordinator (Coordinator of Disability Support Services)

Please contact Brittany Boyne or Julie Talbutt at (401) 709-8460 to schedule your initial appointment with the Brittany Boyne, RISD’s ADA/504 Coordinator, to begin the process for requesting accommodations.

2. Provide Documentation and complete the Application for Services

Questions about specific types of documentation required should be directed to the Coordinator of Disability Support Services. Documentation should be submitted to the DSS office PRIOR to your meeting with the Coordinator of Disability Support Services.

3. Participate in Initial Appointment

During your initial appointment you will discuss: 1) your documentation; 2) eligibility for accommodations; 3) any potential accommodations and the related processes; and 4) next steps. We will determine if additional documentation is necessary. During the initial appointment, you will have the opportunity to ask any questions regarding any part of this process. If no further action is required prior to receiving accommodations (i.e. additional documentation or assessments, etc.), you will receive your accommodations letter in this meeting.

4. Deliver the disability accommodations letters to course instructors

The student delivers the letters to course instructors or faculty. Instructors or faculty retain their copy. Students are expected to deliver this letter along with a discussion regarding which of the approved accommodations they intend to use in that particular class, and what they will need on the part of the instructor to make those accommodations work smoothly.

5. Meet annually to reassess accommodations and receive an updated letter

An accommodations letter is dated for one academic year. Students must meet with the Coordinator of Disability Support Services every Fall, at minimum, to reassess their accommodations and receive an updated accommodations letter for the new academic year. However, students are encouraged to meet with Disability Support Services each semester to look at how needs may change based on a changing academic schedule.


Students must follow Rhode Island School of Design Accommodation Timeline. Integral to the definition of reasonable accommodation is the timeliness of the request for accommodation. For example, sign language interpreters for a semester long course normally take four weeks to arrange. Thus, a student should initiate the process for obtaining a reasonable accommodation no later than the beginning of the course or courses in which she or he is seeking accommodation to enable the college to make any necessary adjustments and to obtain the required services. It is recommended that a student seeking reasonable accommodation not wait until classes have begun to initiate the process; rather, she or he should seek assistance through Disability Services before a course or a semester begins.

When Are Accommodation Requests Denied?

Circumstances in which accommodations normally will be denied include but are not limited to the following:

1. Student Does Not Provide Required Documentation
If a student does not submit to Disability Services documentation of his/her disability, and required documentation regarding a requested accommodation, the School will not provide any disability accommodation to the student.
Please note that students may take advantage of other support services at any time, such as the Writing Center, that are available to all students at the School on an as-needed basis.

In addition, Disability Support Services staff will provide support on an interim basis to students awaiting the required documentation, such as 1:1 meetings focused on assessing students’ most pressing academic needs, time management, and organizational skills.

2. Fundamental Alteration
If an accommodation fundamentally alters the academic standards of RISD, departments, or courses, DSS will deny the accommodation.

3. Unreasonable/Undue Burden
If a requested accommodation is unreasonable; RISD will deny the accommodation and work to find an alternative, reasonable accommodation if the student has submitted sufficient documentation. If providing a requested auxiliary aid or service would present an undue burden, RISD does not need to provide it, but will work with you to try to provide another auxiliary aid or service that does not present such a burden.

4. Personal Service
If a request for an accommodation falls under the definition of a personal service, RISD denies the request because it is unreasonable. Personal services are those that a person with a disability must use regardless of attendance at the University. These personal services may include independent living/personal care attendants, transportation other than shuttle services, diagnostic testing, and rehabilitation, among others. In addition, RISD will not provide individually prescribed devices.

5. Direct Threat to Health or Safety of Others
If a requested accommodation would cause a significant risk to the health or safety of others, RISD will deny the accommodation.

Requesting Accommodations and Student Choice

When choosing among reasonable accommodations, RISD cannot guarantee that students will be provided their preferred accommodation choices, but if a student’s preferred choice is not granted, then RISD will provide equally effective alternatives, subject to the limitations described above.

If you feel that your approved accommodations are inadequate and you have already expressed this to the Disability Support Services Office without result, you can then file a Grievance by following the instructions outlined in the Grievance Policy.


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