Talking to Students

Please review the information on this page to inform your conversations with students about their disability accommodations.

Establishing a need for accommodations

At the start of each semester (or mid-semester for newly-approved students), you will receive accommodation letters via email for your students with disability-related accommodations. It is important that you and your student(s) have conversations about how their accommodations will work in your classroom. If the student does not initiate conversation (via email or in person) within the first few classes, please connect with them via email.

  • Please do not require students to have this conversation with you in person. Oftentimes, emails or virtual meetings accomplish the same goals and may be more comfortable for the student.
  • Important: students do not have to disclose their disability to their instructors. Please let students determine what they’d like to share with you. The goal of these conversations is to determine the logistics of implementing their accommodations.

Examples of appropriate questions

  • “Your letter indicated that you’re approved for alternatives to in-person or live presentations. Would you be comfortable submitting a recording of your presentation for the class to view? Or would you like to present to me in my office?”
  • “Thanks for telling me about the need for short breaks during class. Would you be comfortable sitting closer to the door? I can keep that in mind for seating arrangements or if I move the desks around.”
  • “ODA told me that you’re approved for reasonable flexibility in deadlines. I know that sometimes disability-related flare ups make it difficult to communicate these needs ahead of time. Can you tell me a little bit more about what this has looked like for you? What makes sense to you for communicating with me about these extensions?”
  • “I see you’re approved for extended time on exams. Since I teach directly before and after your class, I won’t be able to accommodate you arriving early or staying late. Are you aware of how to submit test requests through ODA?”

Communicating your essential requirements

In conversations with students with disabilities, it is imperative that you are clear about the essential requirements of your course. Clarity around what is required (and why) can help to facilitate communication around class access and success. 

What are essential requirements? Essential requirements refers to what the you, as the expert in your class, deems as the necessary material or skills for a student to adequately pass the course. Reasonable accommodations may not exceed essential requirements.

  • Example: “alternatives to live presentations” may not be a reasonable accommodation in a public speaking course, as it directly interferes with the skill being taught and refined.
  • Example: “flexibility in deadlines” may not be applicable for an assignment when the professor engages in peer review (e.g., the student would need to have their draft ready for the in-class activity).

Examples of how to approach these conversations

  • “I see that you have permission to record class lectures. One of the goals of this course is to encourage peer-to-peer, personal conversations. While you will not be graded on the material shared by your peers, it is essential to the ways that we learn to engage with the reading material and with one another. If your peers know they’re being recorded, they may not be willing to share. Would you be comfortable with me indicating when it’s appropriate to record throughout the class? You will be allowed to record anything that you would be assessed on.”
  • “It says in your letter that you have reasonable flexibility in attendance. Because we are learning a new language in this course, it is one of the essential requirements that you attend class to speak the new language with your peers and myself. As such, while I can grant you more flexibility than your peers before it impacts your grade, there is a limit to the number of classes you can miss before you would need to retake the course. Does that make sense?”
  • “I understand that you have reasonable flexibility in deadlines. I am happy to grant the flexibility you need on assignments or essays for this course. However, because I also have grading deadlines, I will need all work for the first half of the semester submitted by *date*, and all work for the second half of the semester submitted by *date* in order for me to have enough time to grade it.”