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About the
Disability Handbook 

The Disability Handbook presents various disabilities, the challenges that arise from them and helpful accommodations. The latter are applicable to a wide range of scenarios beyond higher education settings. I hope that this will facilitate prospective students’ academic experiences in higher education and provide valuable insights to anyone who wishes to inform themselves on the topic. Support from knowledgeable interlocutors is incredibly helpful and encouraging. Not only does this make students feel safe while providing basic needs for their access to education, but it also allows them to feel comfortable and welcome in an environment that can prove challenging, both academically and socially. There are as many disabilities as there are individuals in the disability community, and a single research can, unfortunately, not cover the beautiful  diversity of the disability spectrum, nonetheless, it can offer the reader a glimpse of its world and culture.

Lisa Dondainas

Author - Lisa Dondainas

Deaf in both ears since I was 12 years old, I decided to turn my disability into a source of inspiration in my academic work and artistic experimentations. The idea of the Disability Handbook arose from my own experiences as a student with a disability. Regardless of my level of education, I always had to explain my condition to others and fight for my right to accessible education. I hope the resource I created here will make the path of other disabled students in higher education more manageable.

In addition to the Disability Handbook, I have been working on artistic forms of expression to illustrate the specificities of living with a disability. Thus, in 2019, I started a series of digital comics focusing on everyday challenges related to deafness, available on Instagram here: @The_larsen_effect. Later, in 2020, I created a collection of paintings representing my understanding of disability and my perception of the world relative to my deafness.

Besides my artistic interests, I am also a disability studies scholar. Very young, I felt that narrowing my understanding of disability to my own experiences was too limiting. In secondary education, I took every chance to learn about disability from various perspectives. Almost as soon as I started my bachelor’s degree, I applied the academic skills I was learning to keep broadening my knowledge. While my scientific education enabled me to deepen my understanding of the biological and cognitive aspects of various disabilities, I could also expand my knowledge of disability studies from a social, anthropological, and artistic point of view. I developed a particular interest in the representation of disability in cinematographic works. See one of my articles on the topic: Norms on the Abnormal (p.74).

After I published the first edition of the Disability Handbook in 2021, I launched another project: the Amsterdam University College Disability Support Network (AUC DSN). The AUC DSN had two objectives: 1. Provide a safe space for students with disabilities to connect and ultimately be given the proof that they were not alone and could reach out if needed. 2. Inform the general university population about the main issues stemming from studying with a disability through workshops and informational content.

As the author of the Disability Handbook, founder of the AUC DSN, and a disability studies scholar, I had the opportunity to work with university boards from the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), and Amsterdam University College (AUC), aiming to raise awareness on the importance of accessibility in higher education. Additionally, I was invited to speak at multiple events, among them:

  • From Crip Camp to Science Park: Finding the power of community by the UvA’s Disability Working Group as part of the program Faces of Science Park 2022

  • Enabling Global Mobility for Disabled Students for the third edition of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Festival 2022, resulting from the collaboration of the University of Amsterdam and the University of Birmingham.

  • NOECircles, by the Network of Empathy Community

University lecturers have also reached out for me to be a guest speaker in their class, namely:

  • Big Questions in the Senses, at AUC

  • Literature of Social Exclusion, at AUC


The Disability Handbook is the result of a year-long qualitative research completed over the academic year 2020-2021. It was an independent research. 

At the beginning of the winter semester, a questionnaire was shared with Amsterdam University College's students through committees, newsletters, and social media. The only criteria to fill in the questionnaire was to be a student with one or multiple disabilities or chronic conditions.

The questionnaire had three points of focus: 

1. General meaning of disability

How do the respondents define the term "disability"? Do they consider themselves as disabled? 

2. Specifics

To which condition/disability do the respondents relate? How do they define it? 

3. Academic challenges and accommodations

In which situations are the respondents challenged to access their courses' content or complete their examinations? What are the accommodations that work for them when that happens?

The questionnaire ran for two months (October - November 2020), during which research about the general concept of disability was completed.

From December to April, blocks of time (1 or 2 weeks) were allocated to investigate each disability mentioned in the responses, write a general description of it, and synthesize the students' suggestions for specific accommodations.

In May, each section of the Disability Handbook was shared with peer reviewers while the first layout of the website was created. 

From June to September, further revisions based on the peer reviewers' feedback were implemented, and the website was completed.

On October 25, 2021, the first version of the Disability Handbook was published online and shared with the student community and the AUC administration.


1. Through its title, the Disability Handbook, I do not intend to label anyone as disabled or with the term disability. The use of those terms is and should be a personal choice, and relating to any of the mentioned conditions here does not mean one should use them.

2. During my research, I realised that two persons relating to the same disability can have divergent opinions: besides issues generally agreed on in the general population of individuals with disabilities, there are questions the answers to which relate to personal opinions. In this handbook, I have aimed to integrate as much feedback as possible to correctly represent the views of those involved, though I cannot, unfortunately, guarantee a general agreement between all readers.

3. That some accommodations are suggested here and specified for a specific disability does not form insurance that they will systematically work for those who relate to the associated condition. The best way to accommodate a person with a disability is to communicate with them with understanding, compassion, and respect.


4. I am very aware that the disability spectrum contains so much more than what I could explore in the Disability Handbook. If one’s disability or health condition is not (yet) mentioned here, it does in no case diminish their legitimacy and rights to accommodations and to relate to the disability community. I am more than happy to be in contact with those who feel not or not well enough represented here and work on those issues together. This first edition will be elaborated on, and I hope to make it complete eventually.


Thanks to ...

All AUC students and alumni who took the time to share their experiences with me. Their contributions were all incredibly insightful.

To Thijs Vromen for some of his suggestions for accommodation, some of them were very specific and put as they were in the table of the section on ADD&ADHD, combined with the rest of my results. 

To Mélanie Butterati for their detailed insights on meltdowns and shutdowns. To avoid making their answers unclear or discursive, as well as disregard deserved credits, their answers were integrated in the section on Autism verbatim. 

All peer reviewers, Rein Bernard, Upeka Eriksen, Joost Krijnen, Meindert Peters, Dasha Protsenko, and Tim Holthuijsen.

The AUC Student Life Officer, Aino Kekkonen, the members of the AUC Diversity Commission, the AUC DLG and the AUC Diversity Working Group for helping me reach out to the relevant members of our communities.

My parents, for providing me with the fundings required to keep this site up and running, and for their never-ending support through the good and the bad times.


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