If you have weighed the pros and cons of disclosing your disability in order to obtain approved accommodations through your college’s disability office, please refer to the general steps in the process below. There may be differences in the steps at your college, but these should reflect the general or common practices. Sample scripts are provided that may help you to advocate for yourself throughout the process. If you have not yet decided if you want to disclose your disability, which is required to formally receive approved accommodations through your college, please read Part I in this series, “Deciding Whether to Disclose Your Disability in College.”
Steps to Request Approved Accommodations and Sample Scripts to Use:
- Connect with Disability Services: You, the college student, would outreach to the Disability Services office – although a caregiver may accompany you, the request must come from the student. The Disability Services office will not seek you out in the same way that special education team members may have in your K-12 education. You can learn more about how to connect with this office by first reviewing information on your college’s website. You can navigate directly to the Disability Services office through your college’s website, or you can do a web search using your college/university name and “Disability Services.” Some offices are called “Accessibility Resources” or “Access Services,” so searching these terms or just “accessibility” may be helpful. If you are unsure how to connect with the office at your college, call the college’s main phone number or email the college’s main email address.
- Need help connecting with Disability Services? Here is an example of how you can say/write/communicate: “How can I contact Disability Services?”
- Asking Disability Services for support: “I would like to request accommodations.”
- Initiate Request for Accommodations: You may be required to complete a paper or online form/application or paperwork that documents your disability (Read more in #5 below) to initiate the process. If you need help to complete this, call/email/visit the Disability Services office and make this request.
- For example: “I need someone to help me complete this form/application.” OR “What can I use for documentation of my disability?”
- Identify Your Disability(ies): You will likely be required to identify the disability(ies) for which you require reasonable accommodations.
- For example: “I am Autistic.” OR “I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”
- Provide Documentation of Disability:
- You will typically be required to provide documentation of these disabilities. The documentation often includes at least one medical/psychological/psychiatric/neuropsychological report and/or an individualized education plan.
- It is important to note that the individualized education plan is a K-12 document and will not carry over to college, although some accommodations may still be appropriate. The individualized education plan may help you and the disability services personnel to identify the accommodations that may be relevant for you in college.
- For example, “What can I use for documentation of my disability?”
- If you don’t have any of the suggested documents, discuss this with the disability services personnel. They may be able to refer you to an office at your college that conducts assessments or may be able to share recommendations for providers in your area who can support this process.
- Please note: There are many barriers to obtaining an evaluation if you have not had one previously, which include cost, wait lists, and/or access to providers in your area who perform these.
- For this reason, consider starting with your physician or another licensed provider you may already be working with (e.g., psychologist, psychiatrist). For some diagnoses, the licensed provider you are currently working with may be able to provide documentation of your disability, conduct the comprehensive evaluation, and/or a referral to another provider/agency who may be able to provide a comprehensive evaluation.
- For example, “What if I don’t have any documentation, what can I do to obtain some?”
- Identify Possible Accommodations You Need:
- You will typically collaborate with the disability services personnel to identify the reasonable accommodations that you want/that may support you.
- For example: “Extended time is very helpful for me.”
- If you need help identifying these, consider if there are others who you can discuss this with who may be able to support you. If you don’t know what will help (or what the accommodation may be), giving details regarding the need, barrier, or situation that you want support may help the Disability Services personnel to identify accommodation options that may support you.
- For example: “It is very hard for me to test in a large classroom due to the lighting and noises.”
- Notify Your Course Instructor of Your Approved Accommodation: After accommodations are identified, in most cases, you would need to alert the faculty/instructor at the outset of the course regarding your approved accommodations. Consider having a conversation with your course’s faculty/instructor about how the accommodation will be provided. You may be required to share the accommodation notice that Disability Services provided you that details the accommodations that were identified. Be aware – the accommodation notice from the Disability Services office will not include what your documented disability(ies) is/are and, instead, will only include the information regarding the approved accommodations.
- For example: “Dr. Smith, here is a list of my approved accommodations. Can we meet to discuss how these will be provided in PSYCH 200?”
- Advocating for Your Approved Accommodation: Sometimes, the faculty/instructor may fail to provide your accommodation or fail to provide the accommodation in the manner you expected it to be. In this instance, discuss with your faculty/instructor and if additional support is needed, outreach to the Disability Services office for further support.
- For example: “Dr. Smith, I saw that you scored my assignment as late, but we discussed my extra week to complete assignments at the start of the term. Can you adjust my grade?”
- Advocate for Your Wants or Needs within This Process: At any point in this process, self-advocate for assistance or for part of the process to be completed in a different manner.
- For example: “Can we meet through video call instead of me coming into the office?”
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Melissa Zgliczynski, the Director at the SUNY Empire State College Office of Accessibility Resources & Services, for her input and support.
Dr. Lauren Lestremau Allen is a Licensed Psychologist (NY, MD), Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral, and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. Dr. Allen is committed to high quality service and support delivery with Autistic individuals and individuals with developmental disabilities and is passionate about training professionals. Dr. Allen is an Assistant Professor at SUNY Empire State College in the Applied Behavior Analysis Master of Science program and the Assistant Director of the SUNY Empire Center for Autism Advocacy: Research, Education, and Supports (CAARES), both of which prioritize compassionate, value-driven care, and client self-advocacy and autonomy.