Going to College

Transcript: Sharing your disability


When you approach a faculty member with your accommodation letter, you do not want to go to them in the middle of class and stop them while they are talking. Sometimes you don’t even want to go to them at the beginning of class, because they don’t have time to really sit down and take in everything that you’ve given them. You don’t want to hand them a letter and just keep walking. So a lot of times I will either go during their office hours so that way I am able to sit down with them; explain to them whatever I need to explain to them about my disability, disclosing it, and also explaining the accommodation letters, because a lot of professors have never gotten accommodation letters before. They don’t know what to do and how they should handle it. And it’s just best if you can sit down and take the time to explain it to them. And sometimes I may go after class. If I see that they are walking I may just go walk and talk with them. It usually makes you feel a little bit more comfortable. Especially my freshman year and trying to go into a professor’s office. So I was just a little more comfortable walking and talking with them.


When I need to communicate with someone to have my accommodations or explain what is going on, one of the things I learned is I always make it a real-world example. I don’t use vague examples such as, “Well, on math tests I can’t perform.” It’s always, “When I sit down to work on my accounting test I need time and a half. Because otherwise, as experience has shown, I will not finish within my time allotted.” And giving teachers and students concrete examples really helps, and then too, I have found, to find a little humor in it; to make it a serious conversation you have to have, but a lot of people are uncomfortable with having the conversation because they don’t quite know how to react, or to respond to you, so such as telling your professor; “It’s not that I am slacking. I am actually trying.” And explain to them — and I always use the joke “I can mis-spell the same word ten times in the same paragraph and never realize it.” And to lighten the mood that way, it really makes them feel as if it ok that they don’t quite understand what is going on, but you are welcome and you are inviting for them to ask questions. And having them — having their input in the accommodations is always positive.

When I schedule tests I always ask my teachers ahead of time, “When is the best time for you to schedule my test? Is it before the actual test is given, on the same day, after the actual test is given? Because I want to make sure they not only have time to get the test done and drop it off at the disability center, but that they feel like they’re involved. And when they feel that they are involved they feel like they are a little more tied in to your success.

I have actually only had a few occurrences of people reacting negatively when I told them about my disability. I actually had a teacher only a few semesters ago who acted as if she was doing me a favor by allowing me to use my accommodations. And sometimes when that happens the easiest way to deal with it, and the only real way to deal with it, is just to shrug your shoulders and say “Well, there is nothing I can say to change their attitude. I am just not going to let it affect me.” Other times it is just a matter of educating them.

I will tell my peers that I have a disability and a lot of times they don’t believe me. They will look at me and say “But you are the strongest member in our group. You are just pulling our leg.” And it just takes educating individuals and making sure they understand what is going on and a lot of times that will change peoples’ negative reactions.

Another thing when someone says no is to use, again, concrete examples and “I” terms. It is to say “I need this”, not, “You have to do this for me”. Because when you start saying “You have to … ” or, “You must … ” people feel pressured. And a lot of times professors are used to being the head person in the class and they don’t like feeling pressured into something. And again, it is letting them feel like they are working with you, even though the law requires that they provide me with accommodations, it is — a lot of people don’t understand that, they don’t realize it. I tend to prevent saying “You have to because the law says so” unless there is just no other way around it.