Tips for Talking with Your Professors
AccessAbility Services prepares accommodation letters each semester for you to deliver to your instructors. By delivering the letters yourself, you are better able to preserve privacy and confidentiality. At the time of delivery, you will have an opportunity for a meeting where you and your professor can work out the logistics of the academic accommodations.
Make an appointment to meet with your professors
For several reasons, the time immediately before or after class may not be a good time to talk. This is usually the time when everybody with a question bombards the professor and the instructor's attention is diffused. In addition, many instructors have other obligations directly after class so they are unable to give you the time necessary to adequately discuss your needs. Most importantly, the environment directly before or after class may not provide the privacy needed to insure confidentiality. When discussing your accommodations or any other issue with an instructor, you need the professor's full attention. After class may be the time to set an appointment, rather than to have one.
When you arrive at your scheduled meeting time, have an idea of what you want to discuss. You'll look more organized if you have questions written down and notes highlighted. When you are going over classroom accommodations, know what they are; if you are going over a graded test, have some idea of what went wrong and discuss ways for improvement; if you are having trouble understanding lecture material, ask specific questions. Present some options that will work for you.
It is important to be polite when meeting with your professors. Show up on time as your professors' time is valuable. When communicating in person and through emails with your professors, use appropriate language and greetings. Avoid being rude or demanding; both you and your professor may become defensive and the conversation may be unproductive. You can still receive help or the accommodations to which you are entitled without demanding them. In the event that your professor is unresponsive, politely end the conversation, and contact AccessAbility Services so that we may assist you.
Discuss the logistics of your accommodations
If you need extra test time and your professor gives a quiz at the start of class, should you show up early or take the quiz after class? Does your professor need to be reminded of your test accommodations before each test and if so, should you send an email reminder or check in after class? If you have extended time to turn in assignments, how much extra time will your professor allow-- a few days or a few weeks? Based on course format and schedule, each professor may work out different logistics with you. Be sure to write down and keep track of these logistics. Communicate with your professors frequently to ensure that your accommodations work smoothly.
Explain the effect of your disability
Although you do not have to disclose your disability when talking to your professor, it is helpful for him or her to know how it affects you in the classroom. Do you have trouble concentrating? Is it hard to follow the professor while taking notes? Can you see information presented in class? Do you have trouble with auditory processing? What are your areas of strength? Can you suggest or request helpful tips? Your professors will have a better idea of how to accommodate your disability if they have this information.
Know yourself and your disability
The more you know about your disability and its impact, the better you can advocate for your needs. Read your disability documentation. Research information on line, or call your doctor or diagnostician if you want more information.
Know your rights and responsibilities
When meeting with your professor to discuss accommodations, if necessary, gently remind him or her that you are entitled to receive academic accommodations through Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (Do you know your rights and responsibilities under these laws? Check out pages 8-9.)
Let your instructor know that you met with AccessAbility Services to determine what accommodations are appropriate for your disability. Remember that you have responsibilities too! You must provide your accommodation letters and request accommodations in a timely manner. You must abide by the professors' course guidelines, meet course and department standards, follow college policies and procedures and abide by the Student Code of Conduct.
If you have a problem with a professor or have a problem receiving any accommodations, please call AccessAbility Services immediately. Ultimately we want you to strive to be your own advocate but we are here to help you in that process.