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Rights and Responsibilities

November 22, 2023

Students with disabilities are entitled to the same rights, privileges, and opportunities as all other students at Caltech. Individuals with disabilities are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. However, students entering the post-secondary setting should be aware that they are now responsible for identification, advocacy, planning, decision making, transitioning, and accommodation implementation.

Therefore, it is important for students to understand both their rights and responsibilities relating to their disability in the academic and residential setting. To that end, we have put together a list of "Rights" that students may expect to be afforded, as well as the "Responsibilities" they have to engage with the Institute.

Students are eligible for consideration for requested accommodations if they register with CASS and establish that they have a disability. CASS will assess requests for accommodations on an individualized basis and engage in an interactive process with the student to determine whether the functional limitations of the disability require such accommodations. For each student, accommodations will specifically address those functional limitations of their disability which adversely affect access to Caltech programs, services and activities.

Accommodations may include auxiliary aids and services, as well as modifications to academic requirements as necessary to ensure equal educational opportunity. Examples of adjustments are: reducing a course load; substituting one course for another; classroom notetaking support, recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing, and equipping school computers with screen-reading, voice recognition, or other adaptive software or hardware. Caltech is not required to provide personal devices and services such as attendants, individually prescribed devices, such as eyeglasses, readers for personal use or study, or other services of a personal nature, such as tutoring. Accommodations that would lower or substantially modify essential program requirements; fundamentally alter the nature of the Caltech service, program, or activity; or give rise to an undue financial or administrative burden will not be granted. Students will receive written notification in the event an accommodation request is denied. Students may appeal the denial under the disability grievance procedure.

Students who need disability accommodations have the responsibility to initiate a request for accommodations with CASS prior to the time such an accommodation is needed. Retroactive accommodations will not be granted, which means that students will not be able to re-do assignments or re-take exams with accommodations that they originally took before they asked for and received accommodations. It is the responsibility of the student to:

  • Follow applicable procedures and timelines for requesting accommodations, including registering with CASS and submitting required documentation as a prerequisite to receiving accommodations.
  • Notify CASS before/at the beginning of each term about anticipated course schedules and accommodations requested.
  • Notify CASS immediately when an accommodation is not effective.
  • Notify CASS immediately when discontinuing an accommodation (e.g., sign language interpreting services) or dropping a course for which alternate format materials are required.
  • Provide timely notification to faculty of approved accommodations to your instructors each term via the Accommodate portal.
  • Provide for your own personal disability-related needs or services, such as personal care attendants, transportation, housekeeping, wheelchair repair, etc . . .
  • Meet the same standards — academic, technical, performance and behavior — expected of all Caltech students.
  • Abide by the terms of the Service/Emotional Support Animal agreement, if one is approved.

Caltech is committed to supporting a diverse community that includes students with disabilities, as well as meeting its obligations to such students under the law. In order to assist students to be able to participate in the various programs, services, and activities of the institution, CASS requires the support, cooperation, and active partnership of faculty, other teaching staff, and administrators.

Faculty and teaching staff may require verification of a student's eligibility for requested accommodations in the form of an Accommodation Letter prepared by professional staff at the CASS, and delivered by CASS staff or the student, in person or through email. 

If a student does not provide an Accommodation Letter from the CASS, faculty are not obligated to provide accommodations. Students are expected to initiate accommodation requests in a timely manner. 

CASS is the only office at Caltech designated to make the decision to approve or deny a disability or medical accommodation requests from a student. Faculty and staff should not ask students for details about their disability, such as diagnosis or treatment, or seek to arrange disability accommodations directly with the student.