How to Advocate for Yourself

Make an appointment with your professor during office hours to discuss your disability and possible accommodations you may need in the course. You may choose to use the telephone to set up the appointment, or you may prefer to arrange an appointment with the professor immediately after the first class. (Don't tell your life story to the professor at that time — just set up an appointment). Before your appointment with the professor, you may want to practice what you are going to say with a counselor from Disabilities Services, or a student who has been through the process. These people can assist you by suggesting how to best approach professors and how to be a self-advocate.

Before describing your disability to a professor, you may have to provide some education about what a disability is and is not. Some college professors do not expect to have students with disabilities in their classes. You may want to use the Disabilities Services web pages on information regarding students with your disability as an icebreaker. Show the pages to your professor, and point out areas that may directly affect you. If professors are not familiar with Disabilities Services and policy for students with disabilities here at FSU, give them some background information. That should further establish your credibility.

Describe your learning style in simple language. Let your professor know about your abilities as well as your weaknesses. Provide concrete examples of how your disability may affect you in that particular class. Explain that you have gone through extensive diagnostic testing. Your professor may ask you to provide documentation of the disability. Decide, in advance, how much personal information you feel comfortable divulging. You are not required to show copies of your diagnostic evaluation to anyone, unless you choose to. Counselors from our office can assist you in verifying your disability.

You may prefer to have the professor contact Deb Cox our department head at (231) 591-3057 if additional elaboration appears necessary. She will not disclose any confidential information about you to anyone without your permission.

Anticipate any special needs you may have and develop a plan of action with your professor for the course.

What if the professor is not sympathetic to your needs? At some point in your career, you may encounter a professor who is not receptive to your unique needs. Such professors have often had limited direct contact with persons with disabilities. If you are meeting resistance from a professor, discuss the situation with Deb Cox as contact person for students with disabilities. She can help you resolve the issue. You should avoid any direct confrontation with the professor.