What is a disability? What are accommodations?

Who is responsible for what in securing accommodations?

Students seeking accommodations for a disability must engage Student Access Services (SAS).  For more detailed information on student responsibilities please review the Marymount Policies & Access section.

SAS determines students as having a disability by a standard which is slightly different than one which presumes disability based upon a medical or psychological diagnosis alone.

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a person is considered to have a disability if he, she or they;

  • Has/have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as hearing, seeing, speaking, breathing, performing manual tasks, walking, caring for oneself, learning, or concentrating); and/or
  • Has/have a record of having such an impairment; and/or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

In particular, students with high risk medical conditions (i.e., asthma, diabetes, immunosuppressive drug therapy, heart disease, chronic corticosteroid treatment, HIV, morbid obesity, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease — on dialysis, serious heart disease, age > 65 years, or pregnancy) seeking accommodations are encouraged to contact Student Access Services (SAS) at access@marymount.edu.

The university provides reasonable and appropriate accommodations to students with disabilities.  In most cases, SAS will require documentation of the disability and information about the need for the specific requested accommodation.  Please reference the following links to learn about the SAS:


A “person with a disability” is defined as any person who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (see definition below) when compared to the average person.
  • Has record of a significant impairment.
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.

This definition of a disability is frequently different from a clinical diagnosis because a diagnosis does not necessarily describe how significantly a person might be impaired. A mild impairment may not necessarily qualify as a disabling condition in need of specific accommodations.


  • Students with disabilities may experience barriers that put them at an unfair disadvantage compared with classmates who do not have disabilities.
  • Accommodations provide different ways for knowledge to be accessed or demonstrated.
  • Accommodations level the playing field between students with a disabilities and students without disabilities.
  • It is important to note that accommodations may not fundamentally alter the nature of the course or modify the outcomes.

Accommodations refer to any service, equipment, or special arrangement that is put in place to decrease barriers to education that a student might experience as a result of the intersection of their disability and the limitations of the environment.

Objective of Accommodations

  • Accommodations are granted to create a “level playing field,” rather than to help a student reach his or her greatest potential.
  • It is important to understand that services vary from college to college.  Students transferring from one post-secondary institution to another may experience differences in the level of service offered.  Any student with questions should contact Student Access Services at access@marymount.edu or (703) 284-1538.