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Sharing your disability

What do you think?

Before you get started, think about how you would answer the following questions.

  1. What are reasons you may want to share your disability with someone?
  2. Will your professors know that you are a student with a disability?
  3. When you go to college, will you tell your professors that you are a student with a disability? Why or why not?

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It’s a personal matter

Disability information is considered personal, medical information. When you are in college, sharing your disability with anyone becomes a personal choice. Even if you register with the disability support services office, no one will contact your professors or residential personnel to share information about your disability unless you start the process yourself. It is important to think about the pros and cons of sharing your disability. Often sharing a disability may create greater understanding and build a stronger relationship between you and a friend, a roommate or an adviser. It also opens the door for you to get accommodations and find resources that may be helpful.

Why share information?

Before you share your disability with someone, it is important to think about your reasons for sharing and how much information to share. For example, if you have a seizure disorder, you want people around you to know what to do should you have a seizure in their presence. When sharing disability information, be prepared to briefly inform and educate people. Some people may have preconceived ideas or have no knowledge about disabilities. Privacy boundaries are important. It is best to start sharing a little information, test the reaction of the individual, then share more if necessary.

Ways to talk about your disability

You have several choices when it comes to talking about your disability to your professors. You can choose not to tell your professors, only tell certain professors or inform all of your professors about your accommodation needs. Remember, you will only be able to receive accommodations if you disclose to your professor and present your letter of accommodations. Unlike high school though, it’s your choice in college to tell people about your disability. You decide how much information to share.  This decision is personal for every student with a disability.

Tips for talking to your professors

If you choose to talk to your professors about your disability, follow these tips.

  1. Set up a meeting with your professor to talk about your accommodation letter. Doing it in this way helps to remind the professor that this information is confidential and not to be shared with others.
    • Visit the professor during office hours (hours are usually posted in the syllabus).
    • E-mail your professor to set up an appointment.
    • Ask your professor after class to arrange a meeting time.
  2. At the meeting, give your professor your accommodation letter. Your letter will not identify your specific disability.
    • You do not have to share specific disability information. You may just want to share that you are a student with a disability and what your accommodation needs are. Use assertive communication skills to discuss your needs with your professor.
  3. If you decide to share specific disability information, be sure to use brief, positive everyday language that focuses on your strengths and abilities and effective accommodations.
    • Be prepared when you talk with your professors; have an idea of what you want to talk about with them. With busy schedules, professors appreciate forethought and succinct explanations.
    • It is your choice as to how much information you wish to share concerning your disability.
  4. Discuss the information on the letter by approaching it as you are a student registered at the disability support services office and these are the accommodations that you are to receive. Be prepared to answer any questions.
    • If you do not feel comfortable answering the professor’s questions, you can refer him or her to the disability support services coordinator.