Accommodations and Support

STUDENT HANDBOOK: Academics and Field Work Term

Bennington College provides reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified students with documented disabilities when such accommodations are requested and necessary to ensure equal access to College programs and facilities. This is in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 and similar state laws. A “disability” is a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working, or other activities as defined by law.

Bennington College does not offer programs or courses specifically designed for students with disabilities. However, in addition to reasonable accommodations, the College offers all students a variety of support services such as peer writing and math tutors, faculty advising, academic advising, and health and psychological services. These services, along with Bennington’s small classes, easily accessible faculty, and an individualized approach to education, create an environment where students thrive and learn to take increasing responsibility for their own education, their own work, and their own lives.

Requesting Accommodations

All students with disabilities seeking academic accommodations are encouraged to work with Academic Services to request reasonable accommodations and discuss the various supports available. All students with disabilities seeking housing and/or meal plan accommodations are encouraged to work with the Dean of Students. However, the disclosure of a disability and a request for accommodations is an individual choice and one that the College can encourage but not require. Therefore, students wishing to apply for accommodations for documented disabilities must take the initiative in completing the Disability Accommodation Request Form, which is made available to all students upon acceptance to the College and available at any time online or in the Office of Academic Services, the Office of Student Life, or the Office of the Provost and Dean. Students are expected to work cooperatively with Academic Services and Student Life to determine appropriate accommodations. Academic Services and Student Life work with students, faculty, and staff to determine, provide, and arrange for reasonable accommodations, which are reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis.

Requests can be made at any time; however, in order for accommodations to be approved prior to the start of the term, completed forms and documentation must be submitted by June 1 for fall term and January 15 for spring term (these dates vary for Master of Fine Arts and Post Baccalaureate programs). Requests made after the deadlines or during the term will be reviewed and determined as quickly as possible. The deadline for returning student housing accommodation requests is March 15. Housing assignments are made for the full academic year; therefore, housing requests from incoming new and transfer students that are made after the June 1 deadline may be more difficult to fulfill. Housing and dining accommodations are reviewed on a yearly basis. 

Accommodations are not retroactive; accommodation requests granted after the beginning of a term will not apply to previous coursework for that term or previous terms. Academic Services and/or Student Life will work with students to ensure access to approved accommodations following appropriate review and will assess the efficacy of the accommodations provided.

Once accommodations have been approved, students will receive confirmation in writing. Students are responsible for communicating with faculty and staff about approved accommodations and working with them to make necessary arrangements for accommodations. Students are also responsible for communicating with faculty and Academic Services and/or Student Life about the effectiveness and delivery of the approved accommodations.

Providing Documentation

Accommodation requests must be as specific as possible and must be accompanied by a completed Disability Accommodation Request form, as well as any equivalent report(s) (e.g. a copy of a psychoeducational evaluation) documenting the need for the requested accommodation. Completed forms and supporting documentation should be forwarded or provided to:

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESA)

The College recognizes the importance of service animals, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), and the broader category of “assistance animals,” which includes emotional support animals (ESAs), under the Fair Housing Act. Service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) are not pets; they provide physical and/or emotional support to individuals with disabilities.

The College allows individuals with disabilities the use of a service animal on campus to facilitate their access to, and participation in, the College’s programs and activities. The College is also committed to allowing emotional support animals (ESA’s) necessary to provide individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy College housing.

The College has established strict policies regarding the presence of pets and animals on campus. The College will, however, consider an exception to the no pet/animal policy as a reasonable accommodation for an individual who needs an ESA due to a disability. A request for an ESA may be denied as unreasonable if the presence of the animal: 1) imposes an undue financial and/or administrative burden; 2) fundamentally alters College housing policies; and/or 3) poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would cause substantial property damage to the property of others, including College property.

Individuals wishing to request such an accommodation should follow the process outlined above. See the Pet/Animal and Emotional Support Animal (ESA) policies for more information.

Grievance Policy for Students with Disabilities

Students who think they have been denied equal access to the College’s academic programs, resources, or other services because of a disability may file a detailed written grievance with the Dean of Studies as soon as possible, but no more than 60 days after, the alleged discrimination occurred. In order to establish the basis for such a grievance, students must have filed a Disability Accommodation Request Form and supporting documentation with Academic Services and/or Student Life, and discussed their request with a member of Academic Services and/or Student Life. The College encourages students to first speak with a member of Academic Services and/or Student Life in order to resolve their complaints informally. If informal steps do not satisfactorily address the complaints or there is a complaint about a member of Academic Services or Student Life, students may file the written grievance described above to the Dean of Studies, who serves as the College’s Section 504 Coordinator. The Dean of Studies will investigate the complaint and issue a finding, normally within 30 days. The Dean of Studies’ contact information is:

Appeals Process

Students who are not satisfied with the Dean of Studies’ decision may file an appeal by contacting the Provost and Dean of the College or designee. Appeals must be submitted within 7 business days of receipt of the Dean of Studies’ decision. The Provost or designee may affirm or modify previous decisions made and/or may send the matter back for reconsideration by the Dean of Studies. The Provost or designee will communicate a final decision to the student in writing.