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Office of Student Disability Services

SDS: Tips for Talking with Professors

Student Disability Services (SDS) prepares Student Academic Accommodation Request (SAAR) forms each semester.  Students using academic accommodations will deliver the SAAR forms to instructors, as we emphasize student responsibility in initiating all accommodations.  Here are some tips on how to practice your self-advocacy skills to obtain your accommodations:


Make an appointment to meet with your professors.  For several reasons the time immediately following class is usually not a good time to talk.  This is usually the time when everybody with a question bombards the professor and the instructor’s attention is diffused.  Also, many instructors have other obligations directly after class so they are unable to give you the time necessary to adequately discuss your needs.  Most importantly, the environment directly after a class does not provide the privacy to ensure confidentiality.  When discussing your accommodations or any other issue with an instructor, you need the professor’s full attention.  After class is the time to set an appointment, not to have one.


Be polite.  If you are rude or demanding, both you and the professor may get defensive and the conversation becomes unproductive – it turns into a “battle of wills.”  You can still receive help or accommodations to which you are entitled without demanding them.  If your professor is unresponsive, instead of becoming defensive and adding to the problem, terminate the conversation and contact SDS and we will assist you.


Understand the effect of your disability.  Although you do not have to disclose your disability when talking to your professor, it is helpful for him or her to know how it affects you in the classroom.  Do you have trouble concentrating?  Is it hard to follow the professor while taking notes?  Can you see information presented in class?  If a professor has this information, he or she may have a better idea of how to appropriately accommodate your disability.


Be prepared.  When you arrive at your scheduled meeting time, have an idea of what want to discuss.  You look (and are) more organized when you have questions written down and notes highlighted.  If you are going over classroom accommodations, know what they are; if you are going over a graded test, have some idea of what went wrong and discuss ways for improvement; if you are having trouble understanding lecture material, present some options that will work for you.


Know your rights.  When meeting with the professor to discuss accommodations, if necessary, remind him or her that you are entitled to receive academic accommodations through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.  (Do you know your rights and responsibilities under these laws?)


Problems.  If you have a problem with a professor or have a problem receiving any accommodation, call SDS immediately.  Ultimately, we want you to be your own advocate, be we are here to help you in that process.


Know yourself and your disability.  The more you know about your disability and its impact, the better you can advocate for your needs.  If you don’t feel you know enough about your disability, ask SDS, gather information from the library, or call your doctor or diagnostician.  Use your resources.