E-Community Activity: Disclosing Your Disability in College

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Subject: Disclosing your disability in college

In college you need to disclose your disability and provide appropriate documentation to the disabled student services office. Staff in this office facilitate accommodations in specific classes. However, it is also important to be able to effectively communicate directly with your instructor about your accommodation needs. It is best to meet with the instructor before a class begins. This may be awkward or difficult for you, so it is good to practice.

Draft a script of what you might say to an instructor before class begins. Introduce yourself, describe your disability, share what you do to be successful, and request an accommodation (if you don't anticipate needing one, say something that indicates this and express that you wanted to introduce yourself in the event that an accommodation might be necessary later on in the course).

You can practice self-disclosure of your disability with an adult pretending to be the instructor. Begin by introducing yourself, telling the instructor what class you are in (an example would be "Hi, my name is Sarah Parker. I'm in your Chemistry 101 class. I have dyslexia, a learning disability. I am a very slow reader."). Then demonstrate how you will do your part, describing at least one strategy that you use for success. Be sure it is related to a challenge that you just mentioned. (In the example above, you said you are a slow reader, so a good response would be "I allow extra time in the evenings or on the weekends to complete reading assignments" or "I use a computer with speech output to help me read" or "I take fewer classes to make sure I have enough time to complete my work.") Finally, ask the instructor for an accommodation, and indicate who will do what. ("I will need extended time on tests. Here is a letter from the disabled student services office that explains my disability and accommodation needs and gives a phone number you can call if you have questions.") With this approach, the instructor has the information needed and understands that you will do your part in achieving success in the class.

What are the most important things that you would tell a college professor about yourself?