Student Disability Services Frequently Asked Questions


See below for some commonly asked questions regarding student disability services at Saint Mary's College of California. If you have a question and do not see the answer below please call our office at 925-631-4358 so that we can assist you.


At Saint Mary's College, what kinds of  students does SDS work with? 

The SDS office works with students with a wide range of disabilities, including physical, psychological, learning based, and/or health-related conditions. We work with students with ADHD/ADD, students on the autism spectrum, students with vision limitations, deaf or hard of hearing students and students with mobility issues.  We work with students who are experiencing mental health challenges, and those diagnosed bi-polar or with clinical depression.  We work with students who are going through a chronic illness.   We also work with students who may need temporary accommodations for short-term issues like broken bones or concussions.  Our office is here to serve any student who could benefit from services due to a diagnosed disability (either visible or invisible) or significant medical issue.

How many students receive accommodations when they go to college? 

Nationally, about 11% of college students disclose a disability and seek services. However, it is estimated that many more students do not disclose their disability or request accommodations.

Can students who seek accommodation support expect that their disability information will be kept confidential?

Yes. Records within the Student Disability Services office are private and kept separate from all other student records.  See the Confidentiality section from the Menu for more details.

If a student uses classroom accommodations will his/her classmates be aware of the accommodation?

Other students are not made aware of accommodations by SMC and in most instances, accommodations are not noticeable by classmates.

How do I apply for accommodations at SMC? Do I send the request to the department for which accommodations are needed,  such as housing, the business office, the English department, etc?

Accommodation requests should be submitted directly to the office of Student Disability Services in order to receive services.  The SDS office will coordinate with other departments only as needed in order to properly implement the accommodation.  Only those departments with a legitimate educational interest to know will ever be notified of a student's disability.  If there is not a legitimate educational need to know, information will not be shared with other departments on campus.   To apply for accommodations at SMC, contact the Student Disability Services office at 925-631-4358 or fill out this New Student Application to get started.

Does it cost anything to apply for or use accommodations?

There is no cost to the student to apply for accommodations or to use accommodations approved through SDS.  Any costs associated with the approved accommodation will be handled by the SDS office.

Does my medical documentation or testing have to be within a certain time frame?

The SDS office is looking for documentation that is "current" which may or may not necessarily be "recent" (meaning within a specific time frame).  Submitting current documentation means the documentation supplied is an accurate reflection of the student's disability and limitations at the time the student is requesting accommodations.  

If my doctor/provider recommends that I need a certain accommodation, is this guaranteed as an accommodation at SMC?

Your diagnosing professional's recommendation will be taken into consideration when the SDS office is working with you to determine appropriate and reasonable accommodations.  After an intake interview between the student and SDS Coordinator, the end result regarding what was determined to be an appropriate accommodation may be the same, but it may also be different than what a diagnosing professional first recommended.  We work with students individually to learn about the student and how their disability affects them personally, and then help develop an accommodation plan to address those barriers.

Will my accommodations transfer over from my previous institution? 

Accommodations set up with another institution do not automatically transfer over.  Transfer students should set up an appointment with an SMC Student Disability Services Coordinator for an intake interview to talk about accommodations available at SMC.  Transfer students are welcome to share what accommodations they have used in the past at other institutions and that information will be a part of the intake process, with the SMC Coordinator working directly with the student to confirm what accommodations would be best at SMC, which may  be the same, or different, than those used previously.



Once I have set up accommodations, what is the process to make sure I can use those accommodations each term from now until I graduate? 

Students must request classroom accommodations each term. Accommodations are reviewed and extended on a case-by-case and class-by-class basis. Additionally, this quick process ensures that disabled students retain control of which instructors are to be notified of accommodation requests.  Students should go to the SDS online site, Sign In, and then follow the steps to renew accommodations each semester.




How does my faculty member or another department know I have accommodations?

Once you have completed the process to receive accommodations with SDS and accommodations have been approved, the SDS office will notify appropriate personnel on campus about the accommodations.  Please note that we will not disclose the actual disability, only the information that a student has been approved for accommodations.  Students are highly encouraged to keep open communication with their faculty members but are not required to disclose the actual disability. If a student feels comfortable doing so, they are welcome to share information about their disability with others as they would like to, the SDS office will leave that up to the discretion of the student.

  • For accommodations that relate to the classroom, a Faculty Notification Letter will be sent to the faculty member advising of what the accommodation is that needs to be implemented.  Students should always schedule a time at the beginning of the term to discuss with the faculty member privately what the accommodation is and make sure to clear up any questions so that both faculty and student are on the same page with the accommodation.
  • Accommodations that relate to departments outside of the classroom will be communicated as needed to ensure the agreed upon accommodation is put into place.


If I am approved to take a test in the SDS office, how do I do that?

Students approved for testing accommodations are encouraged to sign up a week in advance through the online portal. Students can follow these instrructions on How to Schedule a Test in SDS. Students may also call the SDS office at 925-631-4358 or drop by the office in FAH 190 for assistance in scheduling a test.  Time is needed to coordinate obtaining the test and testing instructions from the faculty member and to ensure proper space in the testing room.  Students will take the test in the SDS building (FAH190) on the same day and at the same time as the test/exam/quiz is being administered to the class.  Any exceptions to this must be approved by the faculty member.


Will my accommodations be applicable when I study abroad?

Students who are participating in a Study Abroad program or are traveling abroad during Jan term with SMC should set up an appointment with Student Disability Services at least 30 days before the departure date.   Access and accommodations for individuals with disabilities vary widely country to country.  A collaborative approach between student, faculty facilitator, Jan term/study abroad coordinator and the SDS office will be used to review itineraries, talk about potential limitations and barriers while traveling and identify resources for the student with a disability while traveling abroad.  


Will studying for a prolonged period of time compensate for a student’s disability thereby allowing him/her to score well on an exam?

Although it is important to commit to an appropriate amount of study time, the duration of the study time is not enough to ensure academic success. Assistive technology, tutoring, alternate media format, and many other modifications can improve study time efficiency. Additionally, appropriate accommodations will improve a student’s ability to communicate what they know.

Do accommodations give a student with a disability an advantage to help balance things out so that the student can pass the class?

Accommodations are customized to fit the individual needs of a disabled person in order to address specific educational barriers. Accommodations are in place to allow a student with disabilities access to educational programs, it does not guarantee success but does help ensure access.