If I receive a letter informing me a college student in my class has a disability, should I initiate a conversation with the student about their disability?
Some campuses send letters to faculty members at the beginning of a term regarding the academic accommodations a student with a disability may require while in their class. Typically, it is best to let a student initiate a discussion regarding accommodations. You should not ask for details about a disability not disclosed in a letter or shared with you by the student.
However, you can make students with disabilities feel more comfortable discussing their disabilities and related accommodations by including a statement on your class syllabus inviting students who have disabilities to discuss academic needs. An example of such a statement is "If you wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me as soon as possible."
For more information on communicating with students with disabilities, consult the following DO-IT articles and publications.
- Effective Communication: Faculty and Students with Disabilities - Strategies on effective classroom communication.
- Is it appropriate for me to ask a postsecondary student what type of disability he has? - A DO-IT Knowledge Base article.
- Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities - Guidelines for faculty that can be tailored to a specific institution by adding a campus resource list.
- Working Together: Teaching Assistants and Students with Disabilities - Guidelines for teaching assistants that can be tailored to a specific institution by adding a campus resource list.
Last update or review: April 29, 2009