Personal Care Attendants for Students

Personal Care Attendants

Cooper Union is committed to providing accommodations to otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities by making reasonable modifications in services, programs, and/or activities, and complies with all state and federal laws regarding individuals with disabilities. Students who seek reasonable accommodations must register with the Office of Student Care and Support. Cooper Union will review all requests for reasonable accommodations on an individualized and case-by-case basis.

Cooper Union recognizes that certain students may be entitled to the services of a Personal Care Attendant (PCA). This policy addresses the use of PCAs for students that have PCAs as part of an approved accommodation through the Office of Student Care and Support. The College does not assume coordination of financial responsibility for, or legal liability for PCAs.


Personal Care Attendant (PCA) – is a person who has been hired to support a student with a disability to live a more independent life by performing personal care duties or services (chronic or temporary). A PCA works directly for and is employed by the student. The type of tasks performed by PCAs vary from person to person. Tasks performed by PCAs may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Providing help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and grooming
  • Housekeeping
  • Preparing meals and assistance with eating
  • Positioning or transferring to and from a wheelchair
  • Running errands
  • Monitoring medical conditions
  • Ensuring compliance with medication regimes
  • Transporting and/or escorting
  • Assisting with maintenance of the housing environment, including light cleaning, laundry, and keeping the environment safe
  • Turning pages and retrieving books
  • Opening doors
  • Alerting to distracting, repetitive movements
  • Alerting to dangerous environments/situations

Student with a disability – an otherwise qualified individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual, as specified according to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 as amended in 2008.

Responsibilities of Cooper Union

Cooper Union does not provide PCA services and is not responsible or liable for any consequences resulting from a student’s associations with a PCA. Through the Office of Student Affairs, Cooper Union can assist students requiring personal care attendant services by:

  • Generating ideas for advertising and recruitment for PCA services on campus and in the community
  • Including in an accommodation letter to faculty that a student will be accompanied by a PCA in the classroom and for all classroom-related activities
  • Answering any questions regarding a student’s need for a PCA on campus.

Responsibilities of Students using Personal Care Attendants

A PCA works directly for a student with a disability. Students who use PCAs are responsible for securing, training, supervising, and paying their PCAs. Students can make arrangements through agencies or private contacts. Cooper Union will not assume any responsibility for the PCA or for the PCA’s failure to fulfill its contract with the student. Any student who wishes to bring or use a PCA on campus must:

  • Be registered with the Office of Student Affairs / Office of Student Care and Support 
  • Qualify as an individual with a disability
  • Request, through Student Affairs, an accommodation of using a PCA in the classroom and/or housing
  • If a PCA is required in housing submit the appropriate documentation to the Office of Student Affairs by the required submission date to support the medical necessity of having a PCA in campus housing.
  • Register the PCA with the Office of Student Affairs by submitting a copy of the contractual agreement with the PCA or the PCA’s agency. This documentation could cover a specific person, or an agency providing services through more than one PCA. The contract must stipulate that the services required by the student will in fact be provided by the PCA.
  • Secure, hire, manage, and fire (if necessary) the PCA
  • Develop an alternative plan of action should the regularly assigned PCA not be available for work
  • Recruit and hire a PCA as soon as the student knows they will be enrolling and attending The Cooper Union
  • Accept responsibility for the behavior and actions of the PCA (including through the campus disciplinary system) while on campus
  • Ensure that PCA personnel changes are registered with the Office of Student Affairs

Responsibilities of the Personal Care Attendant

Personal Care Attendants are expected to follow all applicable Cooper Union policies, regulations, rules, and procedures. PCAs must:

  • Allow the student to take responsibility for his/her own academic responsibilities and behavior
  • Refrain from contact with or asking questions of faculty, staff, or others on behalf of the student unless communication is part of the accommodation being provided by the PCA
  • Refrain from intervening in conversations between the student and faculty, staff, or other students unless communication is part of the accommodation being provided by the PCA
  • Refrain from discussing any private information about the student with faculty, staff, or students
  • Refrain from involvement with the student’s academic work related to class assignments or tests, unless support with academic work is part of the accommodation being provided by the PCA and these parameters are clearly defined
  • Follow all Cooper Union policies and procedures, expectations of conduct, and community guidelines.
  • Carry their Cooper Union ID while on campus

If a PCA fails to abide by such policies, regulations, rules, and procedures and/or causes a fundamental alteration in services, programs, or activities, the Office of Student Affairs may make a determination that the PCA will not be allowed to accompany the student with a disability into the classroom and/or other sites. If a PCA who resides in college housing fails to abide by the policies, regulations, rules, and procedures related to college housing, Student Affairs may make a determination that the PCA will not be allowed to live with the student in campus housing. The PCA may be removed from campus immediately, regardless of the contractual arrangement the PCA has with the student. It is the student’s responsibility to secure the services of another PCA in the event a PCA becomes unable to perform services for a student, whatever the cause of that unavailability.

Procedures for Living on Campus with a Personal Care Attendant

Students who seek to live in Cooper Union Student Residence Hall and require the service of PCAs must follow the Office of Student Affairs and Office of Student Care and Support procedures to register for accommodations and submit requests, including appropriate documentation, by the required submission dates. Students must follow these guidelines to arrange PCA services:

  • Submit a request for accommodations through the Office of Student Affairs including documentation completed by a physician or other medical professional, to verify that a live-in PCA is necessary to accommodate a student’s request to live in Cooper Union student housing. The Office of Student Affairs will review this documentation, and, if needed, may seek further clarification from the student and their physician or other medical professional regarding the request for accommodation.
  • For each PCA to be residing (whether part-time or full time) with the student at the College, a criminal background check must be completed and submitted to the Office of Student Affairs. If the student is contracting with an individual PCA, then the student must ensure that the PCA submits a current criminal background check to the student to be sent to the Office of Student Affairs. If the student is working with a PCA contracting agency, the student must obtain a copy of the criminal background check(s) performed by or on behalf of the agency and provide it to the Office of Student Affairs. The student is responsible for notifying the Office of Student Affairs if the PCA is charged with any crime during the student’s time at Cooper Union (including summer and other school breaks). If the PCA has not submitted a criminal background check to the student or if there is any question or concern about the PCA’s criminal history, the PCA will not be permitted on campus until such time as it has been completed and submitted, and the student will need to make alternative arrangements.
  • The student will need to obtain a Cooper Union ID Card for each PCA. The ID card will be issued by Cooper Union once the PCA’s information is approved. Arrangements for card access and identification should be discussed in advance and any expense associated with these cards will remain the responsibility of the student or the agency.

PCAs are required to follow all Cooper Union and any applicable license agreement rules, regulations, policies, and procedures. Cooper Union may immediately remove any PCA who fails to abide by these policies in a manner that endangers health safety of any member of the campus community at its sole discretion. The college will not be responsible for any liability incurred by the PCA. 

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.