Getting to Know the Office

Quick Facts about & Functions of the Office

Northwestern Arch

The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), part of the Dean of Students Office, serves over 700 undergraduate, graduate, professional school, and School of Continuing Studies students between the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Northwestern, similar to most colleges and universities, does not have special admission criteria for students with disabilities; therefore, students with disabilities have met the same rigorous admissions standards that all Northwestern students have. The majority of students registered with the office (over 90%) have invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, chronic health impairments, or psychological disabilities.

SSD has five primary functions:

  1. Gather and evaluate documentation, information, and requests to determine eligibility for accommodations and services.
  2. Provide, coordinate and facilitate reasonable accommodations and services.
  3. Recommend modifications to improve access to University facilities and transportation services.
  4. Provide information and training on disability-related topics to University faculty and staff.
  5. Serve as a resource on disability information for the University community and visitors.

Our Mission & Core Values

The Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) serves, supports, and empowers Northwestern students with disabilities by ensuring equal access to fully participate in academic programming and all other facets of University life. 

To fulfill this mission, the Office has four core values:

  1. Accessibility. SSD aims to make all aspects of a Northwestern education accessible. One often thinks first of physical accessibility of the campus, and SSD indeed plays an active role in the Campus-Wide Accessibility Committee and the Room and Board Accommodation Committee. However, accessibility is an ever-expanding term, especially as technology advances, and SSD therefore works in conjunction with Student Affairs IT and with University-wide committees such as the Web Steering Committee to encourage not just departments within Student Affairs to make their websites accessible to software such as screen-readers but to make all Northwestern websites and the software employed on them accessible to students with disabilities.
  2. Direct Service. Although disability laws governing higher education do not require SSD to provide individualized, special education services to our students, the Office makes every attempt by using services within the Office or the University to respond to the variety of unique requests for services that its students make. For instance, the Office began receiving training in and offering coaching to assist its many students with executive functioning weaknesses. Moreover, when students request intensive writing support, SSD has partnered with the University's Writing Place to provide students registered with writing-related disabilities additional appointments.
  3. Reasonable Accomodation. SSD has a legal and ethical responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations and services to all students registered with the office. These accommodations and services are intended to provide equal access to academic and co-curricular componenets of a Northwestern education. They are not intended to provide unfair advantages or to modify essential elements of courses, programs, and activities, which must remain intact; only the peripheral requirements are subject to reasonable accommodation.
  4. Commitment to Diversity. Just as SSD works to extend the construct of accessibility to being beyond mere physical accessibility, we hope that disability will be more widely thought of as a domain of diversity. Moreover, we work closely with and attend trainings created by offices such as the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the LGBT Resource Center, and the Women's Center in addition to working closely with the University's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services/504 Coordinator.

These four core values and the work that SSD does would be meaningless if the Office and University were not committed to maintaining the confidentiality of students with disabilities. Students registered with SSD or considering registering with SSD can rest assured that inquiries and conversations with SSD staff will remain confidential.