Professors are key to engaging with all students, including those with disabilities. Here is a guide on how to better teach and better communicate to those with disabilities.

Disability: An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as ‘a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.’

Title III of the ADA specifically addresses educational institutions, as well as Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), which prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs or activities receiving federal assistance.

What Should/Can you ask?:

Feel free to say:

  • “I notice you’ve been struggling (with exams, speaking participating in class, taking notes, etc.)”
  • “Have you struggled with this in the past?”
  • “What aspects of the course might be challenging for you?”

What should you not say:

  • “Do you have a disability?”
  • “I can’t help you”
  • “You don’t look like you have a disability”
    • Most students at Oxy have invisible disabilities, don’t make assumptions.

  • Having a disability does not automatically qualify a student for accommodations.
  • Having a disability does not mean students can engage in inappropriate and disruptive behavior, conduct violations will be addressed.
  • Accommodations are not meant to fundamentally alter the curriculum and learning objectives.
  • Accommodations are not meant to be retroactive. A student should make their professor aware in advance, as much as possible.
  • Disability information is protected by FERPA. Only those with an ‘educational need to know’ will have access to a student’s information, in certain circumstances, that may be the faculty member.

  • Academic Success Coach (
    • ‘I’d like to connect you with the Academic Success Coach, they can work with you on study strategies, time management, and organizing your schedule, would you be open to that support?’.
  • Disability Services (
    • If a student says they have a disability, you suspect they may have an underlying disability, or they mentioned they’ve had accommodations in high school, you can refer them to DS office hours or make an email introduction to discuss support.
  • Dean of Students Office (
    • If a student is experiencing an acute crisis, or family/personal emergency, you should refer them to the DOS office to discuss support (i.e., short-term academic flexibility).
Contact Disability Services
Academic Commons

Oxy's Interactive Map

Summer 2024 Office Hours:

9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

Virtual and in-person meetings available by appointment only