Tips for Talking to Instructors

The decision to disclose a disability is a personal choice. Be sure to disclose to instructors early in the semester. Even if you disclose and explain that you prefer NOT to use accommodations unless the need arises, you are at least making the instructor aware of possible accommodation requests.

  • Make an appointment with your instructor to meet during office hours.

    DO NOT tell your life story to the instructor at that time; just set up an appointment. Before your appointment, you may want to discuss and/or practice what you are going to say with a DSS staff member.

  • Make sure you know how to explain the exact nature of your disability and what types of accommodations, if any, you need.

    If you feel uncomfortable with this, discuss these issues with the DSS office staff. Be prepared to answer specific questions and possible skepticism. Emphasize your strengths!

  • Request an accommodation letter from the DSS office to give to your instructors.

    You can also request a letter to your instructors explaining your possible accommodation requests and verifying that you are working with the DSS office. This really helps to establish your credibility and makes instructors feel more comfortable with the idea of accommodations.

  • You may have to educate your professor as to what your disability IS and IS NOT.

    If instructors are not familiar with support services offered through the DSS office, give them some background information and suggest that they contact the DSS office. This also helps to establish credibility. The DSS office has printed information to share with your instructors.

  • Describe your learning style in simple language.

    Provide concrete examples of how your disability may affect you in that particular class.

  • For students with learning disabilities, explain that you have gone through extensive diagnostic testing to diagnose and determine your specific learning disability.

    Your instructors may ask you to provide them with documentation of the disability. Decide in advance how much personal information you feel comfortable divulging. You are not required to show copies of your diagnostic evaluation to anyone, unless you choose to do so. You may prefer to have the instructor contact the DSS office, for further clarification. However, the DSS staff will not disclose any confidential information about you to anyone without your consent.

  • Anticipate any accommodations or special needs you have in advance and develop a plan of action with your instructor.

    Will you need extended time on exams? Will you need a note-taker who is willing to share class notes? Will you need to take your exam in a quiet room with a proctor? Will the instructor allow you to use a calculator or dictionary during exams?

  • If you intend to tape record lectures, always ask permission.

    If an instructor expresses concern or seems uncomfortable with this, notify the DSS office. If you are eligible for this accommodation, instructors cannot deny your request to tape record. Sometimes instructors feel more comfortable if you sign a tape recording agreement form. These forms are available at the DSS office.

  • What if an instructor is skeptical and/or not receptive to your accommodation requests?

    Discuss the situation with a DSS staff member.


Information modified courtesy, Northern Illinois University, DRS office.