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Signed into law in the summer of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has both bolstered the rights and protections of individuals with disabilities in the US in key areas and in other ways fallen far short of its aspirational goals.  Unequal impacts of the ADA based on disability type are well-documented, with cases involving mental disabilities failing at substantially higher rates than those involving physical disabilities (e.g. Campbell, 1994; Stefan, 2001, 2002).  In a large-scale national survey we conducted in the lead-up to this project, we found high levels of perceived discrimination and accommodation denials on college campuses and widespread beliefs that formal grievances would not lead to positive change. 

Specific priorities of the MHA – Bazelon – Pitt convening are to generate guidance and highlight gaps in each of the following areas:

  • Non-course related accommodations (e.g. financial aid, registration & withdrawals, campus organizations & events)

  • Racial and socioeconomic disparities resulting from strict documentation requirements on most college campuses and comparative approaches to mitigation 

  • Interventions to bolster capacity among both faculty and disability office staff

  • Comparative effectiveness of different common accommodations

  • Underdevelopment of accommodations for particular disability domains (hearing voices, altered states, severe anxiety, ‘disorganized thinking’) 


  1. The Know Your Rights Guide is for students with mental disabilities or students experiencing distress in a higher education setting. This guide provides information about finding support at school, requesting accommodations, addressing involuntary leaves of absence and disciplinary measures, and many other topics.​

  2. This FAQs information sheet covers the laws which protect the rights of higher education (including graduate) students with disabilities. These laws address reasonable accommodations, disciplinary conduct, medical leaves of absence, and other topics.

  3. This webinar discusses students’ rights and schools’ responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Fair Housing Act; how the Department of Justice and courts have ruled on these rights and responsibilities; and best practices schools can use to support students with mental disabilities.

  4. A joint Department of Justice/Department of Education fact sheet about the rights of students with disabilities, including examples of the kinds of discriminatory incidents these agencies can investigate.

Academic Articles​

  1. Salzer, M. S., Wick, L. C., & Rogers, J. A. (2008). Familiarity with and use of accommodations and supports among postsecondary students with mental illnesses. Psychiatric services, 59(4), 370-375.

  2. Hartrey, L., Denieffe, S., & Wells, J. S. (2017). A systematic review of barriers and supports to the participation of students with mental health difficulties in higher education. Mental Health & Prevention, 6, 26-43.

  3. Davis, K. (2021). Supporting College Students: Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education. Mental Health America.

  4. Greenberg, S. (2022). Accommodating Mental Health. Inside Higher Ed.

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