Fostering a Disability-Friendly Campus:
What You Can Do
Even with good civil rights laws in place, and increased awareness of disabled celebrities and prominent people, "disability" still holds a stigma in society. Students who experience psychiatric disabilities, especially, are often afraid to disclose that out of fear of stereotypes and exclusion.
The power differential between professors and students can make some students reluctant to come forward to talk about their disabilities or arrange for accommodations.
Faculty play a key role, perhaps the most important role, in making the classroom a safe place for a student to disclose a disability, incorporate accommodations and participate fully in all aspects of a class.
Some ways that professors and instructors can create or maintain classes that enhance full participation of students:
Statements on syllabi that encourage disabled students to make their needs known have become common. It's best to discuss accommodations in private at an office hour; students are encouraged to do that by Disability Services. If requested accommodations are unfamiliar, DS can assist by explaining how they might work in your class.
Sample syllabus statement:
"If you require disability-related accommodations in order to fully participate in this course, please see the instructor during office hours, early in the term."
Reasonable accommodations are meant to address barriers in the academic environment. Assume that students want to fully participate in your class. Given the unfortunate stigma around "disability," very few students actually scam the system and ask for things they don't need.