Communication Strategies for Students with Disabilities

After a student requests Accommodation Notification Letters, the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) will notify the student’s instructors about the accommodations. The student is also encouraged to initiate contact with faculty members to establish a rapport.

If you are taking an on-site course, stop in during office hours or before or after class and introduce yourself, ask questions during and after class if something is unclear and discuss any disability-related barriers or concerns you have.

For online courses, e-mail your instructor to introduce yourself and ask questions about the course content. Decide how you will communicate with the instructor when an accommodation needs to be used. You can also discuss the impact of your disability and some of the challenges you have faced in similar courses.

Communicating with your instructors throughout the term also gives you the chance to let them know if you’re confronting academic barriers related to your disability and whether accommodations are effective or should be adjusted. If at any time during the term your accommodations are not effective, contact OAS and the instructor. OAS can only follow up after becoming aware of a problem.

Questions Instructors May Ask

What is your disability?

State that you have verified disability documentation on file with OAS. You do not have to give a medical diagnosis and/or cause of your disability.

Example: "I have documentation of a disability on file with OAS and have used services for the past two terms."

What are the educational limitations of your disability for this class?

Explain how your disability affects how you can complete requirements for the class. Emphasize your abilities, strengths and special interests in the class.

Examples:

  • "I have a disability related to my fine motor coordination, and as a result, I can't write quickly enough to take effective notes."
  • "I take medication for my disability, and it slows my thinking skills and motor reaction time."
  • "I have a good long-term memory; once I learn something, I've got it." 
  • "I am in pre-law, and political science is my most important class this term."

What will you do to maximize your abilities, compensate for your disability and succeed in this class?

Explain what OAS has recommended you do to succeed in the class. Be sure to describe the extra effort you are willing to put forth.

Examples:

  • "I spend extra time studying using the SQ3R method." 
  • "I use the Kurzweil 3000 to help me read my text."
  • "I just finished college study skills last term."

What accommodation(s) would help you demonstrate your knowledge in this class?

Explain what OAS has approved. You have to be specific to explain your need.

Examples: 

  • "I will use extra time to take tests because it takes me longer to write due to weakness in my hands."
  • "I need to take major tests in an environment with reduced distraction because I have difficulty concentrating in a room full of people."

Questions You May Ask Your Instructor

  • What do you recommend I do to succeed in your class?
  • What is the best way to study for your class?
  • What is the best way to prepare for your tests?
  • Could I join a study group?
  • What supplementary materials, such as videos or study guides, are available?
  • What are alternative projects, assignments or other ways I can demonstrate understanding class content?
  • Could I check in with you every two weeks to check if my work is satisfactory and to find out if I have any outstanding assignments?

Questions OAS May Ask

Are these accommodations reasonable?

Based on the impact of your disability and the law, OAS will suggest accommodations that do not cause undue burden or a fundamental alteration of the course content and procedures.

For example, if you asked the instructor to give you tests individually, that would be unreasonable, causing an undue burden. If you asked to be excused from taking tests, that would be a fundamental alteration of a course that requires testing.

The instructor may have suggestions for additional accommodations. If these suggestions do not relate to your disability, inform OAS. A member of the OAS staff will discuss the concerns with the faculty member and help resolve the issue.