In line with disability law, all colleges and universities are required to have an internal grievance procedure that provides for a prompt and equitable resolution of student complaints related to discrimination on the basis of a disability. The grievance process must be made public via websites or other campus communications.
While the specifics of the grievance process may vary from campus to campus, the general outline below is common to most procedures involving student complaints. Be sure to check your own school's policy and procedures.
- Ideally, students should address their complaint directly to the person or department with whom they have a concern, and try to find a resolution through open and informal communication.
- An example: An absent-minded instructor keeps standing in front of the sign language interpreter. A conversation between the student, instructor, and interpreter explaining sight-lines, etc. can usually resolve this directly.
- If no resolution is found informally, a formal complaint can be submitted to the office or person identified to handle grievances. Some campuses have an "Ombudsperson" on staff; the Dean of Students is often another option. A complaint form or letter is usually required and contains the name and contact information of the student making the complaint, and briefly describes the situation involving alleged discrimination, as well as attempts to resolve it informally. Note any time frames stated for submitting a complaint.
- The office or person receiving the complaint form is required to respond to the student in a timely manner. Many schools have a 30 to 45-day turn-around response time. During this time, the office will conduct an investigation of the complaint, and contact the people involved to get information about the situation.
- A written description of the findings of the investigation is sent to the student within the stated time frame. If the student and parties involved are satisfied with the findings and any resolutions offered, the case would be considered closed.
- If the student feels that the complaint has not been satisfactorily resolved the student can often submit an appeal for reconsideration, within a stated time frame.
Under disability law, a college is prohibited from retaliating against a student who brings up an informal or formal complaint of disability discrimination.
You can also check out the Clearinghouse information about addressing problems and campus activism.
Students have a right to seek other avenues for a resolution at any time. A student may decide to contact the Department of Justice, Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, or contact a private attorney to pursue a remedy of the complaint. For more information, see our website page about what to do when there's a problem with services.