5 Tips for Supporting Students

These suggestions outline important information every faculty member should know regarding students with disabilities.

A statement in your syllabus which reminds students to electronically submit accommodations will inform all of your students that you value inclusion in the classroom. It further affords students the opportunity to make their accommodation needs known to you early in the semester.

We suggest including the following or a similar statement in all of your course syllabi:

If you have a documented disability and have anticipated barriers related to the format or requirements of this course, or presume having a disability (e.g. mental health, attention, learning, vision, hearing, physical or systemic), and are in need of accommodations for this semester, we encourage you to contact the Department of Accessibility Services (DAS) to learn more about the registration process and steps for requesting accommodations.

If you are a student that is currently registered with DAS and have not received a copy of your accommodation notification letter within the first week of class, please notify DAS immediately. Students who have accommodations in place are encouraged to coordinate sometime with your professor, during the first week of the semester, to communicate your specific needs for the course as it relates to your approved accommodations. All discussions with DAS and faculty concerning the nature of your disability remain confidential.

Additional information regarding DAS

Accommodations are submitted electronically -- this means that you will receive an email notification when a student in your course requests accommodations. Ideally, students are encouraged to contact you (email, office hours, private posting, etc.) to create an educational partnership in which both of you take part in assuring successful access to education.

Once you receive an accommodation notification letter, DAS recommends:

If a student has not contacted you within the first week after receiving the letter, feel free to contact the student privately (in-person meeting during office hours; email communication; or, private message on course management system). With agreement on the essentials of the accommodations, the burden of providing them is removed from both you and the student. Here's an example statement:

Hello Student,

I have received a copy of your accommodation notification letter. I would like to address any potential issues you have regarding the format or the requirements of this course. Since accommodations should be requested in advance, I would like to establish a useful protocol if/when you need to use an accommodation during the term. My preference is to __________________________________.

Please let me know your thoughts so we can work out a flexible agreement and go from there.

Once you receive feedback, you can develop a mutually agreeable plan with the student regarding the facilitation of those accommodations.

Disability information must remain confidential. The entire class should never be informed there is a student with a disability enrolled, except at the request of the individual student. Any information a student with a disability provides you is to be used solely and specifically for arranging reasonable accommodations for the course of study.

If you need to add a video or audio lecture for your class, please contact our office to discuss the use of transcripts or captioning options. If you add a Word or PDF file, please refer to the section on universal design for tips on making your documents accessible.

Faculty members sometimes contact DAS regarding students they feel might need to avail themselves of services offered by our office.

If you see a student who is struggling and wish to refer that student to DAS, remember that our students are adults. They may respond best to private communications or conversations in which you use an inquiring and supportive approach and share information about the existence and location of the DAS office.

Only the student can decide to disclose his or her disability, or to pursue information about services available in the DAS office. If a student is requesting accommodations but has not presented you with a letter from our office, you may ask the student to contact DAS.

It is also important for faculty not to:

  • Ask the student to disclose the nature of his/her disability. Most disabilities are invisible, and while the student has been instructed to self-advocate and clearly state his/her needs, he/she does not have to discuss the disability.
  • Deny a student's accommodation request listed on the accommodation notification letter. Accommodations cannot interfere with academic standards. If there is concern that an accommodation jeopardizes the academic integrity of a course, contact DAS immediately, either by phone or email. We request that you provide the accommodation until the concern has been resolved. An accommodation cannot be denied without due process. Therefore, all cases will be reviewed individually.
  • Tell the student that he/she requested the accommodations too late in the semester. While students with disabilities are encouraged to meet with faculty during the first week of class, there are many legitimate reasons why this may not be possible. Accommodations must be provided at any point in a term; however, they do not need to be provided retroactively.
  • Provide a requested accommodation that is not indicated on the student's accommodation letter. Students who request additional accommodations should be referred to DAS to ensure it is supported by the documentation.