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A department within Student Affairs


Disclosing your Disability

>> Disclosing your specific disability is not necessary.  However, you must describe how it affects your learning.  This helps instructors understand why you need an accommodation.  Also, remember to use person-first language.
>> How can I help you?
>> I wanted to schedule a meeting with you just to touch base.  I have a learning disability and I just wanted to make sure we are on the same page about how it might affect me within your class.
>> Okay.
>> Well, the learning disability I have makes it particularly hard for me to take notes while listening to your lecture at the same time.  And I also have difficulties completing test to the best of my ability within a smaller allotted class timeframe.
>> Okay.
>> Simply saying to the professor "I have a disability" doesn't convey to the professor how that affects the student's performance in class.
>> It's important for the faculty member to learn their functional limitations so the faculty member can help the student access all the learning resources for the course.
>> I take the approach that to assume nothing and to pretend I know absolutely nothing, and when a student does tell me that they have a disability, I ask them what it is that they need.
>> The student needs to be more forthcoming with not necessarily what the disability is, but what it means.
>> For that professor, if they can't sometimes see the disability, then they don't really understand.  So that's why they need that explanation of how it impacts their learning.
>> What I wanted to talk to you about was the disability that I have.
>> Really?  I never noticed that you had a disability.
>> Well, you can't see the disability that I do have, but, like I said, I do have a disability that affects my performance in classes.
>> Okay.
>> Sometimes I have trouble paying attention because I feel a lot of anxiety in class.  When we are talking about exams and assignments I tend to get agitated a little, just because the stress they produce for me.
>> That's understandable.
>> So I try to talk to my professors at the start of each semester just to fill them in and let them know that I do have a disability and let them know that it does sometimes affect, you know, my performance in their classes.
>> Okay.  That's fine.  And actually I'm glad you came to talk to me because you are the first student that I've had do this.  So this is good for me and I'm glad that you felt comfortable enough to come do this.
>> It's important when you speak with your professors to use person-first language and terminology, because if you go in and state "Hi, I'm Becky, I am such and such," like, using a term that relates your disability as to that is who you are, it gives people the impression that you are your disability.
>> Not the kid in the wheelchair, but Alex who has a wheelchair as well.  I don't know, I mean, it's just kind of along the lines of being an individual.
>> A lot of people don't like to say that they have a learning disability, you can say it's a difference, it's a difficulty, et cetera, et cetera.  So, saying I have a learning disability and this is how it could affect me in dealing with a disability outside of just you.  You are not putting that label on yourself; you are not forever wearing the label of the learning disabled student in the class.
>> My experience over the years has been that, it's just that, it's how you come to identify yourself most.