Updated: Jan 9
By Lauren Yost, Staff Writer
Although professors are required to uphold legal accommodations granted to eligible students in college with a verifiable disability, the reality is that some staff and professors are going to be more understanding and accommodating than others. Occasionally it can be a challenge to get what you need and deserve from a faculty member.
In college, you’ll likely have experiences that are good, bad, and everything in between. Hopefully, most will be positive experiences, but you should be prepared for professors who don't provide (or understand) the purpose of accommodations. It can be helpful to educate yourself on the changes in law between high school and college. Read more about the legal changes here and here.
If you have been granted academic accommodations by your campus' Accessibility Office and you are not yet receiving them in one or more of your classes, here are steps to follow:
Be sure that you have already shared your Accommodation Letter with all of your course professors. Your Accommodation Letter is a document that states the accommodations you have been approved to receive during the semester. You can share this Letter by handing it to your professors in-person or emailing it to them. Your professors can't provide you with accommodations that they haven't been told about.
Talk to the professor directly. If you have already shared your Accommodation Letter and are not receiving accommodations, schedule a time to talk with your professor in-person. You can talk to them after class, before class or during their office hours. There could have been a misunderstanding by your professor or need for clarification regarding your accommodations.
If you try steps 1 and 2 but the professor is still not following the accommodation plan, talk to your campus' Office of Accessibility. Explain your situation and the steps you have taken to try and resolve the problem. An Accessibility Office staff member will contact the professor and usually can sort out the issue.
Withdrawing From a Class is an Option
In all honesty, there may come a point where you don’t feel that one of your professors is a good fit for you or your learning style. It happens, and it is okay to drop the class entirely or switch to the same class if it's offered with a different professor. Students drop classes all the time. It is not unusual, it is not failing, and it’s actually very common.
If you decide to withdraw from a class, you will need to pay attention to add/drop deadlines during the semester. Withdrawing from a class can be as easy as changing an option online or sending an email to the registrar. Other times, you will need to meet or email a professor or staff member directly. Don’t let these few steps stop you from doing what is best for you.
My personal advice: If you aren't receiving your accommodations, in a course, talk to your professor first and give the class a chance. Many professors are very reasonable and can help you access your accommodations. Start a conversation with professors by going to their office hours to talk one-on-one. After explaining your accommodations, maybe the issue can be resolved. But sometimes, the professor may have difficulty understanding your needs or the process is taking longer than it should and causing you to feel stressed or anxious about the class and professor. If this happens, know that you are within your student rights to let the Accessibility Office know about your situation. They are there to help!
College staff will support you
Whatever your reason - there are people on campus to help advocate for you and to guide you in decision-making. Whether or not you decide to have a conversation with the professor and stick it out in the class or withdraw, know that you are legally entitled to accommodations in college. Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself!
Are you interested in activities that can help your student build self-advocacy skills or suggestions for how to start a conversation with a professor?
Jennifer Sullivan's new workbook for educators, parents and students is full of over 80 worksheets with activities to help busy teachers and parents build their students' self-advocacy and college readiness skills.
If you have any questions at all regarding your student's current accommodations and/or what steps to take if your student's accommodations aren't being followed, please contact us. We offer free 30 minute conversations with Jennifer Sullivan, M.S. (founder of Fast Forward College Coaching) if you have a specific question or are looking for guidance about your student's specific situation in college.
If your student's profile is more complex, we provide parent consultations for us to talk, share your student's journey, and create a plan together for college success. Remember, we're in this together!