Working with Professors and Instructors on Accommodations

Disclosing a disability is a very personal matter. Some students are afraid that disclosure might change the way professors treat them. Some students prefer not to disclose a disability, or ask for accommodations, believing they can compensate for a disability without accommodation. As a rule, you should disclose to professors, early in the semester, that you would like to put a set of accommodations in place and we offer a few suggestions for students concerning disclosure below:
 
1. You are not required to disclose any aspect of your disability to anyone except staff in the Centre for Accessible Learning to put learning accommodations in place at StFX. Registering with our Centre signals to faculty that you meet the requirements for receiving learning accommodations while studying at StFX. You will need to book an appointment with your professor, however, to put accommodations in place and you can book an appointment in an email or arrange an appointment with a professor immediately after a class. It’s best not to tell your life story to a professor at that time - just set up an appointment.
 
2. Before meeting with a professor, please meet with the Coordinator of the Centre for Accessible Learning to obtain, what we call, a Letter of Accommodation, a letter listing the accommodations you would like to put in place. You will take that Letter with you to the meeting. You can also practice what you are going to say to a professor and how you are going to say it. Centre staff can assist you by suggesting how to best approach professors and how to be a good self-advocate.
 
3. Work with our staff to itemize your learning needs and develop a plan of action with your professor for the course.
 
Ask yourself:

  •  Will you need more time on exams?
  • Will you need to find a note-taker who is willing to share class notes?
  • Will you need to take your exam in a quiet room with a proctor?
  • Will the professor permit you to use a calculator or a dictionary during exams?

4. As a courtesy, ask professors for permission to record their lectures, if that is one of the accommodations you need.
 
5. When talking with your professor, you might describe your learning preferences to support your request for accommodations. Let your professor know about your abilities and provide concrete examples of how your learning style might affect you in class. Again, decide before you meet with a professor how much personal information you feel comfortable divulging. And, again, you are not required to disclose any details about a disability to anyone, unless you choose to do so.
 
6. In some cases, you may ask a professor contact the Centre's Coordinator at phone ext 3633 if additional elaboration about accommodations seems necessary. The Coordinator will not disclose any confidential information about you to anyone without your permission.
 
7. What if the professor is not sympathetic to your needs?
 
You may encounter a professor who is not receptive to your unique needs. An unreceptive professor may have limited experience with persons with disabilities or may not have worked with a student to put learning accommodations in place. If you are meeting resistance from a professor, please avoid direct confrontation with the professor and discuss the situation with the Coordinator of the Centre for Accessible Learning to get help with resolving the issue.
 
Adapted from: Loring Brinkenhoff. (November, 1986). L. Dialogue. Spectrum. Madison, Wt: University of Wisconsin, McBurnery Resource Centre, page 4.