Discussing Accommodations With Your Professor
Even if you set up your accommodations through your Disability Services Office at your college, you should talk to your professor or instructor about your accommodations and your disability.
reviewed by Nicole Ofiesh
Cognitive Behavioral Scientist
How to Start a Conversation About Your Accommodations
One option is to approach your instructor at the end of your first class and ask if you can have a minute of their time to talk about your needs. At this point, you should have already registered with the Disability Services Office, and your instructors should have received an email about you and your accommodations.
Your conversation with your instructor is about putting a face to a name and so that they know you are here to collaborate and partner with them regarding your learning needs.
Be clear about what your accommodations are, be open to hearing what they have to say and be flexible. Have options ready for them to make their job easier. The easier you make it for them and the more interest you show in doing your best work in their class, the more likely your instructor is going to feel good about meeting your accommodation requests.
If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your instructor after a class, you could send an email detailing the same information and asking if you can stop by during office hours to ask any questions, but we do recommend at some point getting face-to-face time.
Practice What You Want to Say
- Practice this conversation with a person you feel comfortable with who can also give you feedback. Perhaps you can work with a learning specialist at your high school, a school counselor or trusted teacher.
- Start with something positive. Introduce yourself and share something about the first class that you enjoyed or that you are excited about in school. Make sure to be genuine, authentic, and warm as you to introduce the conversation about your disability and accommodations.
- Make sure you practice the tough or uncomfortable questions instructors may ask you such as:
“Why do you need this accommodation?”
“I have a documented disability, and in order for me to demonstrate my knowledge and mastery of the subject, I need these accommodations. If you have any questions or concerns about the accommodations, I would be happy to discuss them with you at a later time with someone from the Disability Services Office.”
“Can we just see how you do without the accommodation for now? It is really inconvenient for me to stay late after an exam for you to have additional time.”
“I am happy to be flexible. Instead of taking the exam under your supervision, I could take the exam at the Disability Services Office so that you don’t have to stay late. But if I am going to take the exam in another location, I would like to be able to communicate with you regarding any clarification questions. Could the Disability Services Office contact you if I have any questions?
Say you have been using accommodations for a while and your instructor says to you:
“You seem to be doing really well on the exams. Maybe you don’t need your accommodations anymore.”
The reason I am doing well on the exams is because I am able to demonstrate the mastery of the content. If my accommodations were removed, I would no longer be able to do so. If you have any questions or concerns about the accommodations, I would be happy to discuss them with you at a later time with someone from the Disability Services Office.
Be Open to an Ongoing Discussion
When in doubt, or if you get flustered, you can always say, “I appreciate your concern and I want to be the best student I can be and also make sure that I am demonstrating what I have learned and what I am capable of to the best of my ability. If you have any questions or concerns about the accommodations, I would be happy to discuss them with you at a later time with someone from the Disability Services Office.”
This will give you more time to prepare and also have someone else from the Disability Services Office on your side.
If you need to request a meeting to discuss your accommodations, you can copy the text of the sample email below and customize it for your situation.
To: [Instructor’s email address]
Cc: [Make sure to cc your contact at the Disability Services Office.]
Subject line: Accommodation request
Dear [Insert the instructor’s name],
My name is [insert your name], I am a student in your [insert class]. I am writing to you to let you know that I have registered with the Disability Services Office and receive accommodations in my classes. [Here you can mention what your disability is if you feel comfortable and how it impacts you]. You should have received or will shortly receive confirmation of my disability and approved accommodations from the Disability Services Office. These accommodations include:
[List your accommodations that are applicable to this class]
I would love to find some time to meet with you to discuss your course work, how I can do my best to learn as much as I can from you and your class, and how we can work together to make these accommodations as seamless as possible. Would it be possible for me to stop by during your office hours or would you prefer to set up a separate appointment?
I am very excited about taking this class [say something about why this class is important or interesting to you].
Looking forward to talking with you soon.
This article is part of CHC’s College and Career Transitions Collection.