The Catholic University of America


What We Offer


Smart Start

Smart Start is a 2-day pre-orientation program for incoming students and their families registered with DSS. Smart Start is designed to aid students in making a smooth transition to CUA. Smart Start shows students how to work with DSS, introduces skills necessary for success at CUA, helps with the transition to CUA, and allows students to meet peers, upperclassmen, and DSS staff. We discuss important academic and personal skills that will help students succeed in college. Additionally, students who attend Smart Start are able to move into the dorms 2 days early. 
Smart Start Highlights:
  • Move in early
  • Meet peers and upperclassmen registered with DSS
  • Intro to how to work with DSS
  • Meet DSS staff
  • Find support offices on campus
  • Learn how to use assistive technology (ex. SmartPen; Sonocent)
  • Discuss the transition to CUA
  • Intro to tips and skills to succeed at CUA
If you are interested in learning more about Smart Start and for registration information, please visit our Smart Start 



Accommodations are determined on an individual basis based on documentation and need. All students must request a new letter of accommodation each semester. Please do so here. For a complete list of accommodation description, please click here. Some typical accommodations include:

Classroom Accommodations

  • Access to teacher handouts and slides
  • Relocation of classrooms to ensure success
  • Additional time on in-class writing assignments
  • Assistive Technology (laptop)
  • Notetaking technology (SmartPen, Sonocent, student notetaker) 
  • Leave classroom when symptoms occur
  • Information on board read aloud for students with visual impairments
  • Preferential Seating
  • Permission to record lectures
  • Professor verbalizes material on board/screen as he or she teaches it.
  • When calling on student to answer a question, the professor says his/her name.


Test Accommodations

  • Additional time for quizzes and tests
  • Alternative testing environment
  • Computer for exam essays
  • Alternate exam dates during heavy scheduling /space between
  • Spell-check or points not taken off for spelling 
  • Calculator
  • No scantron (due to visual impairment).
  • Exams taken in a private room with reader & use of low vision equipment


Assistive Technology

  • On-screen reading software with speech output
  • Reading, writing, outlining, and organization software
  • Lecture recording options



  • Screen reading software with speech output (e.g., Jaws)
  • Text reading software (e.g., Kurzweil)
  • Reading, writing, outlining, and organization software (e.g., Read and Write Gold)
  • Screen magnification software (e.g., Dolphin SuperNova)


Materials in Alternative Format

Students who need print materials in an alternative format because of a disability that impacts their ability to read printed material can request that their materials be converted to Braille, enlarged print, or an electronic format. Electronic formatted documents can be read using text-to-speech software. Our goal is to provide high quality materials as quickly as possible. Students who plan to have their materials converted are strongly encouraged to submit an Alternate Format request form to DSS at least four weeks prior to the start of the semester. Material conversion can take up to four weeks.
We encourage prospective students interested in using materials in alternative format to become familiar with assistive technology and alternative format options prior to their arrival on campus. 

2-4-8 Check-ins

DSS created the 2-4-8 model to proactively help incoming students transition to college life. The purpose of this model is to provide a student in transition with the support and skills that will lead to college success and beyond. In this model, all first year students registered with DSS will meet individually with a Learning Specialist during weeks 2,4, and 8 of their first semester. The Learning Specialist will:
  • meet one-on-one with students registered with DSS to work on social skills including time management, organization, study skills, test-taking, note-taking, and stress management.
  • work through our 2-4-8 model, meeting with incoming and "at risk" students at weeks 2,4, and 8 to assess their academic functioning and ensure they have the tools necessary for success. 
  • assess areas in which the student is having difficulty and develop ways the student can make improvements using his/her strengths and abilities.
  • build relationships with students and provide support through one-on-one meetings with the goal of helping students feel comfortable seeking help from the Learning Specialist and services from the CUA community.
  • refer students to tother support offices (Writing Center, tutoring center/Center for Academic Success, Counseling Center, Undergraduate Advising, Campus Ministry, etc.) through the DSS office. 
These meetings serve as check-ins to answer questions about accommodation utilization, ensure students are on track for success, and determine if other supports are needed. 
This intrusive advising model allows students to build a working relationship with DSS staff and prevents students from “falling through the cracks." 

Learning Specialists

Learning specialists are part-time graduate students who have training and experience in working with students with disabilities. Learning specialists meet individually with students on a weekly or as-needed basis. They work with students to improve their learning and general academic skills to achieve better success both in and out of the classroom. Meetings focus on such skills as:
  • Time management
  • Organization skills
  • Reading comprehension 
  • Study skills
  • Test-taking skills
  • Writing skills 
  • Self-Advocacy
  • Scheduling
  • Professor Communication
Learning specialists are supplements to tutors, math tutors, and writing center consultants, not replacements. A learning specialist will work with a student on how to study for an upcoming test not help them study for the test. Their main goal is to meet students where they are and strengthen academic weaknesses. 


DSS provides accommodations for students and guests at CUA Commencement. These accommodations include priority seating for a guest with a disability and one companion, assistive listening devices, and sign language interpreters. Please note that DSS does not provide wheelchairs to graduates or guests. Accommodations are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please contact DSS as soon as possible to discuss accommodations that you or a guest might require.