Role of the Student Disability Access Office (SDAO)

The Student Disability Access Office (SDAO) has been charged by Duke University with the responsibility of exploring possible coverage and reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities for purposes of Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

Disability status and reasonable accommodation decisions are made by the SDAO for students across the university including undergraduates, graduates, professional, continuing education, visiting and inter-institutional as well as students attending the Watts College of Nursing.

As Duke University continues its efforts to welcome individuals with disabilities, the number of qualified students with disabilities has continued to increase. In order for the University to ensure timely exploration of necessary accommodations, academic units have identified individuals to serve as Disability Service Liaisons (DSL) who work in collaboration with the Student Disability Access Office.

Syllabus Statement

Place this statement in your syllabi:

"Duke University is committed to providing equal access to students with documented disabilities. Students with disabilities may contact the Student Disability Access Office (SDAO) to ensure your access to this course and to the program. There you can engage in a confidential conversation about the process for requesting reasonable accommodations both in the classroom and in clinical settings. Students are encouraged to register with the SDAO as soon as they begin the program. Please note that accommodations are not provided retroactively. More information can be found online at or by contacting SDAO at 919-668-1267,"

How Faculty are Informed of Students' Approved Accommodations

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students (Trinity College and the Pratt School of Engineering) must request a formal Professor Accommodation Letter each semester from the SDAO that lists the student’s approved accommodation(s). The student requests the professor letter by logging into their accommodate portal and completing a semester renewal of accommodations. The student must make this request every semester. Once they have completed this step, their faculty of record will be sent the accommodation letter. Faculty will receive an email indicating there is a letter in their accommodate portal. Faculty then log into accommodate to view all of the accommodation letters.   *Please see Student Rights and Responsibilities and University Rights and Responsibilities for further information.

Graduate and Professional Students

After Graduate and Professional students (Graduate School, Fuqua School of Business, Law School, School of Nursing, School of Medicine, Nicholas School of Environment, and Watts School of Nursing) complete the SDAO formal registration process, the DSL and the student receive a Formal Liaison Letter that lists the student’s approved accommodation(s). Students are instructed by the SDAO program coordinator that they must meet with the designated DSL to discuss how approved accommodations will be implemented. The DSL coordinates the implementation of accommodations according to their program’s policies and procedures. *Please see Student Rights and Responsibilities and University Rights and Responsibilities for further information.

The Testing Center

Here at Duke, instructors choose how they will provide testing accommodations to our students. They may choose to provide accommodations themselves within their department or they may choose to provide accommodations through the Testing Center.

Testing Center

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Faculty Responsibilities

  • Include a well-written statement on syllabus that includes contact information for the SDAO
  • Always provide and implement approved accommodations
  • Do not provide supplemental or “on the fly” accommodations
  • Maintain role as an educator-not a medical provider
  • Assure that students with disabilities are evaluated in line with peers
  • Do not refer to accommodations as “special accommodations”
  • Collaborate with DSL/ Undergraduate Academic Dean, DGS, Registrar & Department Head to make arrangements for students with disabilities that receive testing accommodations
  • Ensure testing/classroom accommodations are in place at the time of the assessment (extended test time, minimal distraction testing, rest breaks, scribe, tests/materials in alternative formats, eg.,enlarged font, etc.)
  • Provide students with testing accommodations notification of pertinent information regarding alternate testing location, start time of assessment at least 72 hours in advance of the assessment
  • Be mindful to format documents and videos into accessible formats
  • Communicate with TA's or coordinators to ensure accommodations are properly implemented
  • Educate and instruct TA's and coordinators on appropriate confidentiality
  • Be mindful not to “diagnose” students
  • Respond appropriately to disclosure and do not accept medical documentation. Confer with the DSL as necessary
  • Students not registered with the SDAO who request a classroom accommodation should be referred to the SDAO
  • Respect students' privacy
  • Discuss accommodations with the student in a private setting
  • Do not reveal to the class the student's name or accommodation(s)
  • When sending emails to a group of students with disabilities, blind copy (BCC) all students