Non-Academic Accommodations / Support

Western New York has been known to experience winters with sustained cold temperatures as well as snow and ice -- even into April! It is highly possible that sidewalks and roads will become compromised quickly during a storm with high levels of snowfall, high winds, and/or drifting snow. As a result, Niagara University has developed a list of resources that students with permanent or temporary disabilities can use to request assistance if needed during a significant weather event/snowstorm.

Making Your Needs Known

Students with disabilities should contact Disability Services each year to discuss potential needs during the winter months. Resident students should also make their needs known to their Residence Life Staff including their Resident Director, Lead Community Advisor, or Community Advisor. With each student’s permission, Disability Services will notify Facility Services of each student’s needs and alert them as to what routes may need to be cleared to aid in prioritizing the clearing of sidewalks and roads throughout the winter.

Making Ongoing Requests for Assistance

During a storm, individuals with permanent or temporary disabilities can request assistance if conditions of sidewalks and roads become an impediment to accessing essential services and classes on campus such as:

  1. Food Service: Students should contact Community Advisors (CAs) to arrange for someone to get a take-out meal for them from the cafeteria. The CA will need a note from the student explaining why a take-out meal is needed by the student to present to the cafeteria staff. The student will also need to give his/her ID card to the CA in order for the student’s meal to be charged to his/her meal plan.
  2. Missing Classes / Class Notes: Students should contact their professors to explain why they are missing class. Students should ask their professors how to turn in assignments that are due, how to make up scheduled exams, what material will be covered or what additional assignments will be given out. Contact Disability Services for assistance in obtaining copies of class notes if needed.
  3. Snow Removal Requests: During a storm, both Facility Services and Campus Safety receive numerous requests for snow removal. In order to prioritize all requests and address them in a timely manner, students with permanent or temporary disabilities should use the following procedure to make snow removal requests for routes they need to use to access essential services and get to class:
    • Contact either Facility Services or Campus Safety as follows: Weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.: Facility Services at 716-286-8430 Monday – Friday Evenings (6:00 p.m. – 8:30 a.m.), Weekends, and Holidays: Campus Safety at 716-286-8111
    • Identify yourself as a student with a permanent or temporary disability.
    • Describe the route(s) that need(s) to be cleared and when you need to use them (please be as specific as possible). Current weather conditions may warrant exploring other alternatives in an effort to assist you in a timely manner.

Elevator breakdowns can be extremely inconvenient or pose a risk to individuals who use wheelchairs, have permanent or temporary mobility impairments, and/or have health problems that may be exacerbated when using stairs. Printed below is information that individuals with disabilities may find helpful when dealing with an elevator breakdown.

Safety First: Responding to Emergency Situations

Individuals who need immediate assistance or who need to be evacuated due to a medical reason should contact Campus Safety at 716-286-8111 for assistance. Campus Safety will determine if the local fire department is needed to evacuate a person with immediate medical needs. The local fire department has equipment that is designed for safe evacuation and they have the skills, judgment, and physique to effect a safe exit.

Communicating Elevator Breakdowns

When an elevator ceases to operate, immediately contact:

  • Facilities: 716-286-8430 During regular working hours, Monday - Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Campus Safety: 716-286-8111 During non-working hours, Monday – Friday: 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 a.m. AND Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays

Emergency Repairs

  • Facilities or Campus Safety will immediately contact the elevator repair company.
  • Niagara University has a 24/7 emergency repair service contract with this company.
  • The typical response time can be up to 2 hours for emergency repairs.
  • All non-emergency repairs will be handled in a timely manner.

Elevator Status

Facilities and/or Campus Safety will communicate the status of the elevator breakdown to the university as follows:

  1. When they determine it is necessary, Facilities and/ or Campus Safety will post signs on all floors of the building near the elevator door indicating:
    • That the elevator is out of service
    • Who to contact for immediate assistance (Campus Safety)
  2. Either Facilities (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.) or Campus Safety (if an elevator is still inoperable by 9:00 a.m.) will contact Public Relations (PR) to communicate the following:
    • Which elevator is out of service
    • Who to contact for immediate assistance (Campus Safety)
    • The estimated time of repair, if known.

Updated messages on the status of the elevator will be communicated as information becomes available.

Responding to Non-emergency Situations

The typical response time for the elevator repair company can be up to 2 hours. As a result, individuals who may need assistance in the interim should be aware of the following:

  • Non-Emergency Evacuation: Campus Safety will determine whether or not they can safely evacuate the individual or whether they need to contact the Fire Department to evacuate the individual.
  • Addressing Student Needs: Ask university employees for assistance while waiting for updates on the elevator such as access to faculty phone numbers and access to a phone in order to contact a faculty member regarding a missed class; access to a desk, table, and/or a computer (if available) to use to complete assignments, do reading, etc.

Note to Faculty and Students

Elevator breakdowns or other short-term barriers may constitute temporary access barriers for students with mobility disabilities. Students may miss critical course information, be unable to take scheduled exams or pop quizzes, or be unable to give required presentations. This is a no-fault situation in many respects, but the University still assumes the responsibility of equal access. In such circumstances, the student should contact the instructor as soon as possible. He or she should request some assistance in obtaining course notes or rescheduling an exam or presentation. The student should not be adversely affected in terms of attendance. Most elevator breakdowns last only a few hours.

Extended Elevator Repairs

In rare instances, breakdowns can be of an indeterminate duration. If a student’s attendance is affected for more than a few days, it may be necessary to temporarily relocate a class to ensure full participation of all students. Please contact Disability Services at 716-286-8072 / for more information.

The types of assistive technology currently available in Disability Services are listed below.  The technology is housed in the Office of Academic support on the first floor of Seton Hall.  Students are encouraged to contact the disability services staff for more information on how to access the technology.


A computer screen reader for individuals with little to no vision.  The user navigates the screen using keystrokes rather than the mouse.  JAWS reads virtually all text in most computer applications including icons, items in drop-down menus, etc.  This software is also available in the student computer lab in St. Vincent’s Hall and the library.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

A voice dictation software that enables the user to use voice input for creating written material.

Electronic Text/MP3

Students who are blind, partially sighted, or who have reading disabilities, may request their textbooks in an electronic or audio format from Disability Services. Staff members either obtain textbooks from publishers in a PDF/Word format, or if needed, scan text into the computer and convert it to a Word format. The “electronic” text is then made available to the student to use on their own computers, along with a free online downloadable screen reader to listen to the text as the computer “reads” it back to them.  The following free screen reader called "Natural Reader" is available to download at

The electronic text can also be converted into MP3/audio format, for a student to listen to on their own computer or media player.


Magnification software for individuals  with a vision impairment.  In addition to magnifying text and icons on a computer screen, Zoomtext also includes a speech synthesizer to read applications and documents through computer speakers.

Procedure for Requesting Disability-related Housing Accommodations:

A student with a disability requiring special housing accommodations due to his/her physical, psychological, or health-related impairments may request special accommodations through Niagara’s Disability Services Office.  Requests for accommodations (e.g., single room, accessible room/bathroom, residency exemptions, and service animals) must be supported by documentation from a qualified professional.  In every case the review of the student’s needs due to his/her disability are considered in addition to the goals of University Housing.

Disability-related housing requests must be made well in advance and on an annual basis.  The specific accommodation request and documentation of disability must be received by Disability Services no later than the deadlines established by the Office of Residence Life each year.  Typically, for continuing students, the deadline is in March or April for the following academic year, and for new students and transfers, early July for the fall term.  Requests received after these deadlines can only be considered on a space-available basis.
Requests that require renovations (e.g., room, bathroom renovations) will be implemented in a timely manner and in accordance with Facility Services’ work schedule.

Steps for requesting a housing accommodation:

1. Request

Students should begin by contacting Disability Services, Seton Hall, First Floor, Niagara University, New York 14109, 716-286-8541, 716-286-8063 (Fax), or to make a formal disability-related housing request.  The request should be in writing and include the following information:

  1. Contact information:  name, ID number, permanent address, phone (cell preferred if available), email, number of semesters at Niagara, academic year for which request is being made.
  2. A description of the physical, psychological, or health impairment for which the housing accommodation is being requested.  Specify whether the condition is temporary or permanent.  
  3. A specific housing accommodation request that is needed due to a disabling condition.  Note that all residence halls are smoke-free and that there is no carpeting in student rooms.  Some housing accommodation examples are listed below.
    • Single room
    • Accessible room/bathroom
    • Room modification / accessible furnishings (e.g., lower bar in closet)
    • Visual alarm
    • Lower floor
    • Building with an elevator
    • Residency exemption
  4. An explanation of how the specific housing accommodation request is necessary based on appropriately documented disability (see number 2 below).
  5. A description of the steps you have taken (or will take) to personally address your need(s).  For example, most often, students with allergies or asthma may be able to control their symptoms by controlling their environment including keeping their room clean, using a portable air purification system, eliminating throw rugs in their room (there is no carpeting in student rooms), using dust-mite proof casings on pillows and mattress, etc.  Students with ADD/ADHD who may need to study in a distraction-reduced location may be able to address their attention/concentration needs when reading or studying by going to another location such as the library.   
  6. Name and contact information of the medical professional who will be providing documentation of disability.  The professional providing the documentation of disability must specialize in the area of the condition or disability and cannot be a friend of the family or related to the student.
  7. A statement giving permission for Disability Services to share information related to the student’s housing request with other appropriate campus personnel such as Residence Life, Counseling Services, Health Services, and Facility Services, in order to process the student’s request in a timely manner.

2.  Documentation

Acceptable documentation includes letters, records, or reports from the student’s psychologist/ psychiatrist, doctor, physician assistant or comparable professional. Documentation must support the student’s request for disability-related housing accommodations.  Recommended accommodations can be included. However, the medical professional must make explicit connections between the student’s functional limitations and any recommended accommodations.

The Disability Services staff can provide the student with a copy of Niagara’s “Disability Verification Form” for his/her medical professional to complete. A prescription pad statement of disability is not acceptable documentation.

Definition of Disability:  For accommodation purposes, an individual with a disability under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include self-care, walking, standing, eating, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, sleeping, performing manual tasks, lifting, bending, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, and some bodily functions.  .

The presence of the disorder/condition by itself does not necessarily qualify an individual for accommodations under Section 504 or the ADA. It is the substantial limitation(s) of one or more major life activities due to the disorder or condition that will be the determining factor(s) in eligibility for specific housing accommodations. If the qualified professional makes recommendations for housing accommodations, he/she must make explicit connections between the accommodation and the student’s functional limitations. Ultimately, if the University determines that the student’s condition supports the student’s request for a disability-related housing accommodation, it reserves the right to determine how best to accommodate the students’ needs given the type of housing available at the time of the request.
Documentation can be either mailed or faxed to Disability Services at Seton Hall, First Floor, Niagara University, NY 14109, 716-286-8063 (Fax) as soon as possible.

3.  Decision

Decisions regarding housing accommodations are made by Disability Housing Request Committee, which may include, but is not limited to, the Coordinator of Disability Services, Director of Residence Life, Counseling Services, Health Services, and Facility Services.  

Accommodation requests are carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis given the documented impact of the student’s disability, the medical necessity of the accommodation, as well as the considerations listed below

Considering the severity of the condition: 

  1. If the request is not met, will the impact of the condition be life threatening or will there be any negative health impact that may be permanent?
  2. Is the request an integral component of a treatment plan for the condition in question?  
  3. What is the likely impact on academic performance, social development, and/or on the student's level of comfort?

Considering the timing of the request:

  1. Was the request made with the initial housing request? Was the request made before the deadline for housing requests for the semester in question?
  2.  Was the request made as soon as possible after identifying the need (based on date of diagnosis, receipt of housing assignment, change in status, etc.)?

Considering the feasibility of the request and the availability of space: 

  1. Is space available that meets the student’s needs?
  2. Is the student in special interest housing on-campus? If so, can the requested room assignment or accommodation be met within that area on campus? 
  3. Can space be adapted to provide the requested room assignment or accommodation without creating a safety hazard (electrical load, emergency egress, etc.)?   
  4. Are there other effective methods, housing assignments, or accommodations that would achieve similar benefits as what was requested?
  5.  How does meeting this request impact housing commitments to other students?  
  6. Is the cost of meeting the request prohibitive?

The goal of every decision is to support 1) the student needs as documented by a qualified professional (i.e., medical doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, psychiatrist, psychologist, specialists) and 2) the goals of university housing: 

Goals of University Housing:

Residence life is a significant part of the Niagara University experience.  Living on campus allows for interaction among students, providing both educational and social experiences that contribute to individual development, personal enrichment and self-expression, along with the opportunity to live among people with different cultural backgrounds.  Students who live on campus also tend to perform better academically, acclimate more rapidly to the collegiate environment, become involved in a greater number of learning experiences that complement classroom teachings, and are more satisfied in general with the college experience.

Residency Exemption Considerations: 


  1. For all residency exemption requests, the university will first identify accommodation alternatives it can provide the student on campus.  If an accommodation cannot be provided on campus, the residency exemption will then be considered. 
  2. A residency exemption requested by a current student will also include a review of the student’s prior experience managing his/her disability in the residence hall.  This process will include an interview with the student to ascertain what needs arose in the residence hall as a result of the disabling condition and the steps the student took to address these needs including assistance provided by the university.

4.  Evacuation Needs

The names and housing assignments of students who identify a need for evacuation assistance will be forwarded to the appropriate residence life staff, Campus Safety, and Facilities.  Students with evacuation needs must also become familiar with the university’s evacuation procedures located at: .

5.  Questions

If you have any questions or need additional information regarding disability-related housing requests, please contact: 
Office of Residence Life
O’Shea Hall, Niagara University NY 14109            
716-286-8566 / 716-286-8597 (fax) /

Disability Services
Kelly Engert, Coordinator
Seton Hall, Niagara University, NY 14109
716-286-8541 / 716-286-8063 (fax) /

Alternate format needs:  Please contact Kelly Engert using the contact information printed above. 

Under the 2010 revisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “service animal” is defined as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability.
Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks
  • alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds,
  • pulling a wheelchair
  • assisting an individual during a seizure
  • alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
  • retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone
  • providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities
  • helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
  • calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack

The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition. Dogs whose sole purpose is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. Service animals are working animals, not pets.

There is also a provision under the revised ADA which states that a miniature horse, while not considered a service animal, may be admitted on campus provided the animal has been trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability and its admission is otherwise reasonable.  The handler of the miniature horse must contact Disability Services to assess whether the miniature horse will be allowed on campus. The assessment factors for miniature horses are:

(1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (Housebroken is defined as when the animal has been trained to urinate and defecate outside or in a designated place.)

(2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control;

(3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight; and

(4) whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.

Please see the Service Animal Policy and Procedure for more detailed information.  Any questions may be directed to Kelly Engert, Coordinator of Disability Services, at or 716.286.8541.

An “Emotional Support Animal” is an animal used by a person with a disability to assist with symptom management, and is evaluated as any other accommodation.   An emotional support animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of person’s disability and does not need to be trained or certified.  Examples may include dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, etc.  Students with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal, under both the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504.   Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

A student must submit a request and supporting documentation to the Coordinator of Disability Services.  Kelly Engert, Coordinator of Disability Services, can be reached via email at, by mail at Office of Academic Support, PO Box 1915, Seton Hall, first floor, Niagara University, NY 14109, or fax at 716.286.8063.  Please see the Emotional Support Animal Policy and Procedures for more detailed information about what must be included in a request and documentation.