Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions

Please review our frequently asked questions for accomodations and alternative testing services.

FAQ for Accomodations

To assist students with disabilities as they transition to CMU and navigate the process of meeting their physical, emotional and academic needs, we have provided the following information to frequently asked questions. In addition to the FAQ below, we strongly encourage you to know your responsibilities and those of postsecondary schools such as CMU under Section 504 and Title II. 

Yes. Section 504 and Title II protect all elementary, secondary and postsecondary students from discrimination. However, several of the requirements that apply through high school are different from the requirements that apply beyond high school. For instance, Section 504 requires a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each child with a disability in the district's jurisdiction. Whatever the disability, a school district must identify the individual's educational needs and provide any regular or special education and related aids and services necessary to meet those needs, as well as it is meeting the needs of students without disabilities.

Unlike your high school, your postsecondary school is not required to provide FAPE. Rather, your postsecondary school is required to provide appropriate academic adjustments as necessary to ensure that it does not discriminate on the basis of disability.

No. However, if you want the school to provide an academic adjustment, or to ensure that you are assigned to accessible facilities, you must identify yourself as having a disability. Disclosure of a disability is always voluntary and may be done at any time.
The appropriate academic adjustments are determined based on your disability and individual needs. Academic adjustments include reasonable modifications to non-fundamental academic requirements, and auxiliary aids and services. Adjustments may include arranging for recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing, or voice recognition or other adaptive software or hardware. In providing an academic adjustment, your postsecondary school is not required to lower or waive essential requirements. For example, although your program may be required to provide extended testing time, it is not required to change the substantive content of the test. In addition, your postsecondary school does not have to make modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program or activity that would result in undue financial or administrative burdens. Finally, your postsecondary school does not have to provide personal attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study or other devices or services of a personal nature, such as tutoring and typing.

No. If you meet the essential requirements for admission, a postsecondary school may not deny your admission simply because you have a disability.

Generally, yes. Your school will likely require documentation that shows you have a disability that requires an academic adjustment.

Schools may set reasonable standards for documentation. Some schools require more documentation than others. They may require you to provide documentation prepared by an appropriate professional, such as a medical doctor, psychologist or other qualified diagnostician. The required documentation may include one or more of the following: the credentials of the professional, a diagnosis of your current disability, the date of the diagnosis, how the diagnosis was reached and how your disability affects major life activities or academic performance. The documentation should be current (within the last five years) and provide enough information for you and your school to decide on an appropriate academic adjustment.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan may help identify services that have been effective for you. However, this is generally insufficient documentation. Postsecondary education presents different demands than high school education and what you need to meet these new demands may be different. Also, in some cases, the nature of a disability may change.

If your documentation does not meet the postsecondary school's requirements, a school official must tell you in a timely manner what additional documentation you need to provide. You may need a new evaluation in order to provide the required documentation.

Neither your high school nor your postsecondary school is required to conduct or pay for a new evaluation to document your disability and need for an academic adjustment. This may mean that you have to pay or otherwise find funding for the evaluation. If you are eligible for services through your state vocational rehabilitation agency, you may qualify for an evaluation at no cost to you. You may locate your state vocational rehabilitation agency through the Department of Education's Rehabiltation Services Administration.

If the initial documentation is incomplete or inadequate to determine the extent of the disability, Disability Resources may require additional documentation. Any cost associated with obtaining additional documentation is also borne by the student. If the Office of Disability Resources desires a second professional opinion, our office bears the cost.

The school will review your request, and the essential requirements for the relevant program, to determine an appropriate academic adjustment. If you have requested a specific academic adjustment, the school may offer that academic adjustment or a comparable alternative. While your school will work with you to identify an appropriate academic adjustment, you should not expect your postsecondary school to invite your parents to participate in the process or to develop an IEP for you.
Let the school know as soon as you become aware that the results are not what you expected. It may be too late to correct the problem if you wait until the course or activity is completed. You and your school should work together to resolve the problem.
No, there are no additional fees for services. Furthermore, no postsecondary school may charge students with disabilities more than other students to participate in its programs or activities.

Practically every postsecondary school must have an employee—frequently called the Section 504 Coordinator, ADA Coordinator, or Disability Services Coordinator—who coordinates the school's compliance with Section 504 and Title II laws. You should contact this person for information about how to address your concerns.

The school also must have grievance procedures that allow you to raise your concerns fully and fairly, and must provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints. School publications, such as student handbooks, usually describe the steps you must take to start the grievance process.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your school's grievance procedures, or you wish to pursue an alternative action, you may file a complaint against the school with the Office of Civil Rights or in a court of law.

FAQ for Alternative Testing

Please review the frequently asked questions regarding our alternative testing program.

The Disability Resources Testing Center offers a distraction-reduced testing environment for students with disabilities who have approved accommodations related to testing.  Students wishing to take exams in the Testing Center must have approved accommodations set up by Disability Resources staff in advance of the exam date.

The Disability Resources Testing Center is located at 5136 Margaret Morrison Street.  

Spring and Fall semesters:  Monday through Friday, 8:30AM to 7:20PM

Summer 1 and Summer 2:  Monday through Friday, 8:30AM to 5:00PM

Note that we are not open on weekends with the exception of Fall finals, which include Sunday exams.

While you may bring a bag or backpack into the testing center, you must stow it under your chair at all times during the exam.  Placing the bag beside you is not permitted, as this blocks the aisle.  At the beginning of the exam session, remove from your bag anything you may need.  This may include writing instrument, bluebook, or any materials or equipment that the instructor permits or materials granted as an accommodation.  If you have a cell phone, it must be turned off in the proctor’s presence and either remain in your bag at all times or, if you don’t have a bag with you, be placed face-down on the edge of your desk so the proctor may monitor it.

Yes.  While there are often several students taking exams at one time and we cannot guarantee that there will be no distractions, we work hard to make sure the Testing Center has as few distractions as possible.  Students must whisper when communicating with the proctor.  We provide earplugs upon request, and we have noise-canceling headphones that may be used by students who have permission to use noise-canceling headphones as an accommodation.  Some seats in our testing center have visual buffers so as to minimize visual distractions.

If you have a question or a comment while taking an exam at the Testing Center, there are a few ways to contact the instructor if the instructor permits questions/clarifications during an exam. If your instructor has provided a phone number, you will be permitted to call the instructor. The  proctor will watch you type the phone number into your phone and you will be asked to step out of the main testing area to talk. If the instructor did not provide a phone number but does permit questions to be asked via email, you will be able to type the question into an email that will be sent through the proctor’s email account. The proctor will let you know when and if the instructor responds.

If your question is not answered while you are taking the exam at the Testing Center, the proctor will note on the exam envelope that our office attempted to contact the instructor. In these situations, it is best that the student answer the exam item to the best of their ability. This will allow the student to continue to work through the exam.

You may schedule an exam if you are approved for testing-related accommodations by Disability Resources staff.  Before you can schedule an exam, you must first use our AIM online system to notify your faculty that you are requesting accommodations related to alternative testing.  Do this by logging into our online portal, selecting the classes you would like accommodations for, and then indicating which accommodations you would like for each class.  When you hit the Submit button, an email will automatically be sent from Disability Resources to your instructor, notifying them about the accommodations you are requesting for their specific class.

Next, you will need to have a dialog with your instructor about your testing accommodations.  Some instructors prefer to proctor their own exams and are able to provide appropriate accommodations for testing.  If your instructor would prefer that Disability Resources proctor your exams, please request that they fill out the Alternative Testing Instructions Form.  Once that form has been completed, you can log back into our online portal, click on My Accommodations on the left side of the page, and then navigate to Alternative Testing on the right side of the page.  Under Alternative Testing, click on Schedule an Exam, and enter all required information.  We encourage you to schedule all exams early in the semester or as soon as you know your exam dates.  This will ensure that your requests are submitted timely.  Note that the online system will allow you to request to take an exam before your instructor has filled out the Alternative Testing Instructions Form, but our office will not be able to confirm your exam time until this Instructions Form is completed.

No.  If your instructor will be proctoring an exam and providing the accommodations you need, you should not request to take the exam with Disability Resources.

A crucial step in the process of setting up your accommodations is officially notifying your instructors about those accommodations.  You will not receive any accommodations for a class, including testing accommodations, until you notify your instructor via our system.  Simply telling your instructor verbally about your accommodations does not constitute notifying instructors.  The notification needs to be in writing and originate from Disability Resources.

It is helpful, especially for final exams, if you schedule your exams as far ahead of time as possible.  At a minimum, please schedule all exams at least five business days prior to the exam date.  If an exam request is submitted fewer than five business days ahead, we cannot guarantee that we will have sufficient time to schedule your exam.

It is expected that students with testing accommodations will take their exams as close to the scheduled exam time as their course schedule allows.  However, we do not ask students to miss or be late to a class due to taking an accommodated exam in another class.  You may start exams as early as 8:30AM.  So depending on the time of your exam, you may be able to begin taking it prior to the start of class.  If this is not possible, either because the exam is for an 8:30 class or you also have another class directly before the exam, please coordinate with your instructor to agree on a time when you can take it at Disability Resources.

We strongly recommend that you put reminders in your calendar and schedule exams well in advance so that this does not happen.  However, if you submit a late request and we are unable to schedule it at the time you requested, you have three options:

  1. You may take the exam unaccommodated with the rest of the class at the scheduled time.
  2. You may contact your instructor and see if they are able to make arrangements to proctor it for you and provide your accommodations.
  3. You may contact the instructor and request permission to reschedule the exam and take it with Disability Resources at a later date.  Note that we must see written permission from your instructor in order to reschedule an exam in our Testing Center.

We strongly encourage you to give yourself plenty of time so that you arrive on time for all exams.  However, we allow a ten-minute grace period.  If you are less than ten minutes late, we are generally able to administer your exam and grant you your full allotted time.  If you are between ten and thirty minutes late, you may take the exam, but we cannot give you your full allotment of time.  If you are more than thirty minutes late, we will need to receive permission from your instructor in order to administer the exam, and the number of minutes you are late may be deducted from your exam time.  This is to maintain the academic integrity of the exam.

The Alternative Testing Instructions Form provides information about your exam that Disability Resources requires in order to proctor it.  Unless prior arrangements have been made, it will not be possible for Disability Resources to administer the exam without the completed Alternative Testing Instructions Form.  We recommend that you contact your instructor as soon as you receive this email and ask them to complete the form.  Our office can help facilitate this conversation with the instructor.  Scheduling all exams at least five business days ahead of time helps ensure that your instructor will have time to complete the Alternative Testing Instructions Form prior to the exam date.

You should communicate with your instructor to find out if you are permitted to take the exam on a different date.  If the instructor allows this, forward their email granting you this permission to the Disability Resources general mailbox, access@andrew.cmu.edu, and use the AIM system to schedule the exam.  Please provide Disability Resources with as much notice as possible, and we will try our best to schedule your exam at the date and time you requested.

In order to have sufficient time to evaluate any requests to modify testing accommodations, we strongly recommend that you submit this request, along with supporting documentation if appropriate, at least five business days ahead of your next exam.

Disability Resources provides proctors in the Testing Center for all exams, and as of Fall 2018, all students are required to sign an honor pledge with every exam they take with Disability Resources.  Proctors are trained to observe students carefully to ensure academic integrity during exams.  If a proctor or other Testing Center staff observe behavior that could constitute cheating or other academic integrity violations, the student will be asked to step out of the testing area to discuss the event with staff.  Depending on the type and severity of the observed behavior, the student may or may not be permitted to finish the exam.  A detailed summary of the event, including the student’s explanation of their behavior, will be provided to the instructor.    If warranted, the alleged violation will be referred to the Office of Community Standards and Integrity’s Academic Review Board for adjudication.