How to Communicate with Your Professors If You Need Disability Accommodations

Accommodations in undergrad and graduate school are typically processed in a specific office on your campus which will ask you for your medical paperwork and work with you to determine the accommodation based on the class. For instance, you may be allotted more time or allowed to take the exam in an alternate space. Most class syllabi will indicate when the professor needs to receive the suggested accommodation from the office and it typically is a bit before the first exam so that planning can be put into place.

Here are a few things to make sure of:
1.Communicating: If there are any issues such as paperwork delays make sure to communicate this to your professor so that they are aware of the situation. I would say, at least mostly, professors are willing to help if you keep them in the loop. Don’t ever feel pressured into going into medical detail on your disability.
2.Timeliness: As with most offices, paperwork processing can be relatively slow so you want to make sure that you have all the paperwork ready as soon as possible so that it can get processed as quickly as possible.
3.Ask for Assistance: If there is something that is unclear about the accommodations you’ve received be sure to ask for clarification. This also applies to getting allotted a different accommodation than what you have received in the past.
4.Know your Rights: Students are not obligated to discuss the nature of their disability with their professor nor are they required to provide additional proof or evidence. The Disabilities Office at your school will handle the process and help in determining the accommodation.
5.Follow up: Make sure to stay on top of the whole process especially if you have a less straightforward class structure i.e. more than just exams. It’s important to know exactly what to expect and who to talk to if something goes awry or is not as you’ve been allowed to do.

Draft Email Template:
Below is an email template on an example of effective communication with your Professor and keeping them in the loop.

Dear Professor XXXXXXXX,
My name is XXXX and I am a student in your XXXXXXXXXXX course.I am
writing because you have received an e-mail from XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
confirming my registration with Student Disability Services and outlining
my approved accommodations for your course. I am hoping to speak to
you to discuss how I will access my exam accommodations. Per my accommodations, I require 150% time for my exams, as well as a private room. Could you please advise me on when and where I should report for my exams? If you would prefer, I would be happy to meet with you in
person to discuss this. Generally, once we have finalized the plan, I send
a reminder to my faculty of my needs XXXX weeks in advance of my exams to
confirm the arrangements. If you have a course coordinator or proctor whom you prefer I contact, or whom you would like copied on these e-mails, please let me know. I look
forward to working together to facilitate these accommodations.
Thank you in advance for your assistance.
Best regards,
XXXXXXXXXX

If something goes awry here is an email template to send to the Student Disability Office and your Professor:

Dear Professor XXXXXXX,
I am writing to inform you of something that happened during my exam
today, and request that you assist me in resolving it. As you know, I am approved for a XXXXXXX as an accommodation for my disability. During my exam, there was an active construction project outside the window. I tried to inquire about relocating to a quieter space,
but was unable to reach you. There was XXXXXXX throughout my
exam, which was particularly distracting due to my disability. I fear that my performance was significantly impacted by XXXXX. I would like to discuss this impact and determine what can be done to address this unfortunate situation. I believe that given the poor conditions
of my exam room, I should be permitted to retake the exam under better
conditions. In the future, I think it would be helpful if I were permitted to bring
XXXXXX into the testing room or XXXXXXX. I plan to ask Student
Disability Services about the availability and reasonableness of this as a
formal accommodation. It would also be helpful to ensure that the phone
number I am provided to ask questions and address concerns during future exams is closely monitored so such concerns can be addressed in the
moment.I have copied the Disability Services Director and the Disability Services liaison XXXXXXX on this e-mail in the hopes that they may be able to assist us with addressing the situation. I’m looking forward to resolving this issue and putting preventative
measures in place for future exams.
Best,
XXXXXXXX

All in all, it’s important to make sure that you are comfortable with the process and if you have any uncertainties it is crucial that your reach out sooner rather than later.

Published by Magda Wojtara

Magda Wojtara is Junior at the LSA Honors College at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor on a pre-med track with a major in Neuroscience. In her free time, she write articles, volunteers at a chronic pain outpatient facility with UM Medicine, does research, competes in HOSA, and, of course, enjoys photography and singing. In her spare time she manages her own travel and lifestyle blog: @journeythedestiantion on instagram and journeythedestination.weebly.com

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