Accommodations are adjustments, resources and/or equipment that afford equivalent access to information and communication technologies for people with disabilities. Accommodations are made on an individual basis and are based on the functional limitations posed by the disabling condition(s).

Individuals who need accommodations should contact our colleagues in the Disability Resources Center. To learn more about accommodations, see Rice Policy 402.


Disabilities exist on a spectrum and can be difficult to define. Though they can be wide-ranging, it may be useful to describe disabilities using several categories. Understand that any individual can have any one, or combination of, the following disabilities:

  • Visual - includes color blind, low-vision, and blind.
  • Auditory - includes hard of hearing and deaf.
  • Motor - includes missing or damaged limbs/digits, paralysis, and cerebral palsy.
  • Cognitive - includes dyslexia, ADHD, autism, TBI, and general learning disabilities.
  • Psychological - includes PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
  • Seizure - includes epilepsy.
  • Age-related - includes loss of functions and sensory acuity, dexterity, and stamina.

People experience disability in different ways depending on a wide variety of personal, cultural, and social factors.

Medical Vs. Social Model

Medical Model of Disability

The medical model asserts that disability is a shortcoming within the individual that requires correction or accommodation. In order to participate in school, employment, and other social institutions, an individual must seek assistance. Rice Learning Environments DOES NOT promote this model.

Social Model of Disability

The social model asserts that disability is the result of social systems and environments that fail to take into account the full range of human capability. It is the systems, not the individual, that must be reimagined and adapted to be accessible and usable to people across a spectrum of ability levels.

Accommodation Vs. Accessibility

 3 people stand on wooden boxes to see over the barrier of a wooden fence.


Accommodation provides specific individuals with the specific resources they need to work around specific barriers. Accommodation is directly related to disability.

For example, a student with hearing loss might require accurate captions during synchronous video meetings in online classes. Another student with moderate ADHD might require additional time on an exam. Accommodation is essentially a way of working around existing barriers. Sometimes, accommodation is the only or best option.

See also:
Rice Policy 402, Access & Accommodations
Rice Disability Resource Center

3 people of different heights watch a soccer game through a chain link fence.


Accessibility is about identifying and removing barriers to minimize the need for accommodations in the first place. When we design with greater access in mind, everybody wins, including people with disabilities.

For example, we can provide accurate, synchronized closed captions for all recorded videos. Captions are required by the hard of hearing and deaf, but they have a myriad of affordances for everyone. We can also provide greater choice by practicing Universal Design. Include alternative formats like a text transcript with a closed captioned video, or an MP3 version of a long text article.

See also:
Rice Policy 851, Digital Information Accessibility
Accessible Design Guides