When advising students with disabilities it is helpful to consider the impact a student’s disability and need for accommodations may have on their academic progression. Disabilities may present challenges in obvious or in obscure ways. Below are some strategies for guiding students with disabilities during the advising process.
Refer to a person’s disability only if it is relevant to the conversation.
Ask a person with a disability if that person needs help before providing assistance.
Talk directly to the person with a disability, not through their companion or interpreter.
Understand that not everyone uses eye contact.
Use student first language. For example, “a student who uses a wheelchair” is more appropriate than “wheelchair student”.
Carry on a long conversation with an individual who has a mobility impairment from a seated position.
Provide information in alternate means (e.g., written, spoken, diagrams).
Do not interact with a person’s guide or service dog without permission.
Do not touch mobility devices or assistive technology without the owner’s consent.
Listen for specific issues that pose difficulty for students, especially issues that are uncommon for most students. While none of the following statements are definitive indicators of a disability, they could be a sign that something beyond normal academic issues are impacting the student.
If you are uncertain whether a student has a disability, mention Disability Services along with other campus support resources like the Writing Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Learning Assistance Programs, the Outreach Center, and Campus Ministry. Do not ask the student if they have a disability.
If a student does list Disabilities Services as one of their resources, be sure to ask the following questions:
If a student discloses their disability but is not accessing services or needs to address further accommodation issues, refer the student to the Disability Services office. Some students with disabilities do not seek out services when they begin college for a variety of reasons. It is helpful to remind students that accommodations in college are different than accommodations in high school. Reasonable accommodation in college is a mechanism for students to show what they are actually learning in the classroom; this can be important to their continued success in college.
The most common academic accommodations include:
Understanding Academic Accommodations