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How to Request Accommodations at School

Accommodations are adjustments that help support people with disabilities. There are many different types of accommodations, because everyone has unique needs.

The goal of accommodations is to make life more accessible for people. Accessibility means not excluding people from using or participating in something because of disability.

Examples of Accommodations at School
There are many different types of accommodations that people with disabilities can request in order to make school more accessible.

Common accommodations people might request at school include:

  • Flexibility with attendance requirements
  • Having extra time, a separate room, a reader, or a scribe (writer) during tests
  • Receiving accessible housing when in college
  • An ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter
  • Closed captioning on videos
  • Unrestricted access to a bathroom
  • Text-to-speech or speech-to-text software
  • Receiving class notes from a notetaker or teacher/professor

Keep in mind that knowing what accommodations are available to you can help you better identify what works best for you and your needs. But, even if the specific accommodation that you need doesn’t seem to exist yet, that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for it. You are entitled to reasonable accommodations at school, work, and in other areas of life.

How Do I Get Accommodations at School?
The process of getting accommodations in any setting can seem really overwhelming. And, that’s a totally normal way to feel, considering that accommodations aren’t usually talked about. Also, the process of receiving accommodations can be different depending on the specific setting that you need accommodations for.

Fortunately, you are legally entitled to accommodations at school. Some of the laws that protect your right to accommodations at school include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Requesting Accommodations in Middle & High School
In middle school and high school, accommodations are typically made through a 504 plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP). A 504 plan is for meeting accessibility needs by providing accommodations that help you comfortably participate in and navigate school. An IEP is specifically for meeting the needs of students with cognitive disabilities.

To start the process of making accommodations, you can talk to your school counselor or school nurse and ask for their help, if that is a safe option for you. You can also ask your parent(s) or guardian(s) to contact your school about accommodations for you. Ultimately, your school will need to set up a meeting with you to discuss and evaluate what your needs are, determine how you best learn, and decide what accommodations  will work well for you. Your parent(s) or guardian(s), teacher(s), and administrator(s) might be present during this meeting. It’s important to practice your self-advocacy skills during meetings like these, so that you can be sure you receive the accommodations you need.

Requesting Accommodations in College
In college, accommodations are usually made through your school’s Disability Services office. This office could also be referred to as Disability Support Services, Disability & Accessibility Services, or Accessibility Services. To begin the process of receiving accommodations, you should contact your school’s Disability Services office and register yourself with them, if required. When registering, you will probably be asked by the office to disclose documentation and information you’re comfortable with about your disability(ies) and needs. It’s best to reach out and begin the process as early as possible, preferably before classes start.

After doing this, the Disability Services office will schedule a meeting with you where you will discuss your accommodation needs. Once accommodations are agreed upon, the Disability Services office will inform your professors and other teaching staff about your accommodations. They may also alert your school’s housing services, depending on what your accommodations are. It’s important to keep in mind that you might need to reapply for your accommodations at the beginning of every school year, depending on your school.

Resources
Some resources for continuing to learn about accommodations at school, how to request them, and your rights include:

Author: Gillian Joseph (they/them) is a queer 2-Spirit Ihaŋktoŋwaŋ and Mdewakaŋtoŋ Dakota storyteller who grew up as a guest on Waxhaw and Catawba lands. Alongside writing, they work in the mental health field with a focus on Indigenous health sovereignty.

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