Learning Disabilities

The Academic Resource Center (ARC) provides a variety of services for students, including those who have learning disabilities (LD). If you think you may have a learning disability, or if you already know you have one and would like to know more about our services, please email accessibility services.

Is there a separate admissions process for students with disabilities?

No. Sweet Briar College has a rigorous admissions process and regardless of the disability, a student must meet the same admissions criteria. A student is not asked about a disability; however, a student might wish to disclose that they have a disability to explain certain situations. For example, a student with a diagnosed learning disability that affects language processing may have not completed the foreign language requirements for admissions. If all other requirements are met, disclosure of the learning disability may be used to review the application through an exceptions process.

If I send information on my disability to the admissions office, am I automatically registered with accessibility services?

No. Disability information is highly confidential and is not shared between offices without specific written requests from the student. A student must meet with staff in accessibility services before accommodations can be made. Third-party documentation may be requested to support the disability diagnosis and/or accommodations.

Are students with disabilities allowed into every academic program and activity?

Sweet Briar College provides access for students with disabilities to any program or activity provided to any student. A student with a disability must be otherwise qualified such as meeting the minimum grade point average, meeting technical standards, etc.

If I register with accessibility services, will it show up on my permanent record?

No. What is considered a student’s permanent educational record is maintained by the registrar’s office and is separate from records maintained by accessibility services. Records are held in strict confidence, and information is released only on an “educational need-to-know” basis.

What is considered a disability?

As defined by the Americans with Disability Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a disability is a mental, physical or emotional impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

  • Physical, mental or emotional impairment means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine; “mental impairment” means any psychological disorder, such as emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
  • “Substantially limits” means unable to perform a major life activity or significantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which a major life activity can be performed, in comparison to the average person or to most people; the availability of some mitigating measure (such as a hearing aid for someone with a hearing loss that brings hearing acuity within normal limits) is not to be considered when determining if the disability substantially limits the individual.
  • “Major life activity” means functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.
Will a high school Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan provide sufficient documentation of a disability?

Maybe. Any supporting documentation will be considered with the student in the determination of accommodations. However, there is no guarantee that an IEP or 504 Plan will suffice to determine accommodations. It will depend on the disability and the accommodations requested.

Do accommodations give students with a learning disability or ADHD an unfair advantage?

No. Accommodations are based on the nature of the disability and the academic environment. The purpose is to provide the student with an environment to obtain information and demonstrate mastery of the information being tested by minimizing or eliminating the impact of the disability. Accommodations are to level the playing field, not provide unfair advantage.

What is a learning disability (LD)?

A learning disability is a genetic or organic condition that creates a neurological deficit that impairs the central nervous system. A learning disability acts as a barrier to receiving, processing and/or expressing information.

Isn't LD just another label for low intelligence?

Not at all. In order to be classified as learning-disabled, a person must have at least average intelligence. The LD student may process information slower than non-LD students, but with accommodations, she can perform at their level or better. This is not a question of a limited ability to achieve, but of a different means by which achievement can occur.

How do you get a learning disability?

You are either born with it or have some type of injury or illness that affects certain areas of the brain.

Can learning disabilities be remediated?

Until recently, the answer was unequivocally “No.” Some research and practice suggests that, for some disabilities, a process called auditory integration training can change hearing and learning patterns.

What is involved in LD testing?

The test includes an intelligence test and tests of verbal and quantitative skills. If a person has a markedly higher intelligence than her demonstrated skills and has difficulty in organizing or expressing information, she may have a learning disability.

What services are available for students with learning disabilities?

The director of academic advising and accessibility services coordinator is available to work with students, and the ARC can provide specific mentors to work with students who face particular learning challenges.

Do my professors have to know I have a learning disability?

That information is confidential and cannot be released to anyone without your permission. However, it is generally in your best interest to give permission for your professors to have information about your LD, as they are then required by law to provide certain accommodations.