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How to talk to professors about accommodations

Having accommodations available at your fingertips has the potential to help students with disabilities succeed in their academic and personal lives, but this can only be done with collaborative effort. One of the most important steps in using your accommodations is communicating with your professor(s) or T.A(s) about the help you might need going into the course. For me, the thought of a conversation with a professor drives me to panic and overthink, psyching myself out before I even get a word out of my mouth. I worry about what they will think of me, what they will say, the odd chance that they might refuse my accommodations, and demand that I be removed from their class. In reality, the likelihood of disaster is extremely low, but that won’t stop an anxious brain. So how can you be more prepared to communicate with your professor and help them understand your needs? Below are just a few tips that I have used in the past to make the interaction easier. While sharing your accommodations with your professor might be required in order to access them easily, just remember that you are under no obligation to share specific information about your disability. At the same time, advocating for yourself in this way can help your professors understand you better as a learner, make suggestions, and build stronger relationships with you. Schedule a Time to Talk In-Person
  • Email your professor to schedule an appointment, visit during office hours, or approach them after class to arrange a meeting time to discuss your accommodations.
  • I find that in-person meetings will help facilitate an interactive discussion, no matter how easy hiding behind a screen may be.
  • Have this conversation at the beginning of the semester. Be proactive and don’t wait until you are struggling, or your academic performance is impacted.
Prepare for the Meeting
  • Read your Letter of Accommodations.
  • Review the course syllabus thoroughly and note any questions or concerns you have so you can address them during the meeting.
  • Focus on describing how each accommodation is helpful to you and ideas you have for how to best implement them.
  • If you are the type of person that gets flustered easily, (like yours truly), write an outline of what you want to share and bring it with you to the meeting.
During the Meeting
  • Remember, it is up to you how much you want to share about your specific disability. You may choose to simply share that you are a student with a disability, describe your accommodation needs, and work with your professor to develop an implementation plan for the semester.
  • If you decide to share specific disability information, you may want to consider the following:
    • How your disability may impact you both in and outside of the classroom.
    • Your strengths and challenge areas as a student and learner.
    • Any particular concerns you may have about the course.
    • Things that have been particularly helpful to you in past academic settings.
    • Try asking your professor how they would like you to communicate if you are facing a challenge in the course, fall behind on an assignment, or your attendance may be impacted, for example.
  • Develop a plan with your professor to implement your accommodations.
  • Be ready to answer questions the professor may have regarding your accommodations.
Specifics for Testing and Exam Accommodations
  • If you have extended time or another accommodation that pertains to quizzes/exams, talk with your professor well in advance of the first quiz or exam.
  • If you are planning to take a quiz or exam with Test and Exam Services, you will need to communicate with your professor in advance of each exam, so they know to send it ahead of time. Talk with them about how this will work.
After the Meeting
  • Keep the lines of communication open with your professor if any issues arise for you in the course.
  • Follow-up with Accessibility Services if you have any concerns about the implementation of your accommodations.
The most important thing to remember is that you have resources available if/when you need them, and it’s up to you to decide what fits well with your disability. I hope these tips help you out this term. Stay warm, U of T!

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