[nabs-l] professors and disability services

T. Joseph Carter carter.tjoseph at gmail.com
Fri Dec 5 21:27:13 UTC 2008

Val Pal!

The DSO requirement is difficult, but the professors are within their 
rights to insist that you prove your disability before providing an 
accommodation.  The standard policy is that the university's DSO verifies 
disability claims and makes a determination of what the university must 
provide as an accommodation.

Professors may provide you with anything they want, but the DSO specifies 
in that initial letter the kinds of things that, at a minimum, the 
university must do.  Sometimes additional things come up, but the DSO tries 
to minimize their effort with the boiler plate letter.

The mistake I think a lot of people make is to assume that DSOs exist to 
provide accommodations to students.  That's not precisely true--they exist 
to provide support to professors in ensuring that the university's 
obligations under the law are met.

As a blind person who believes in the principles upon which the Federation 
is built, your goal would be to be have the same expectations apply to you 
as are applied to anyone else.  Neither higher nor lower are acceptable.  
The DSO has the goal of ensuring that the expectations are not higher.  
They don't have to worry about lower--but any truly supportive won't let 
you slide by with a lower standard.

The thing is, if you and the DSO are working for similar goals, you can 
work together to ensure that the professor has the support they need to 
hold you to the same standard they hold other students.  You figure out 
together what that standard is, and who needs to do what to make it happen.  
This changes the dynamic from the same sort of client/provider model you 
get with voc rehab services to one of partnership in supporting the 

Some professors have some pretty significant failings, and you seem to have 
possibly already begun to discover that.  Viewing DSOs this way doesn't 
really change that, but it does limit the effect those failings may have on 
you as a student because of blindness.  Of course, a lot of DSOs need some 
education as well, but approaching them in this way might just be the start 
of that education--it'll throw them, I'm sure.

I wish you success with the rest of the term--you know I don't believe in 
luck, and I know you don't need it even if I did.  *smile*


On Fri, Dec 05, 2008 at 08:37:50AM -0600, Valerie Gibson wrote:
>thank you for your advice, and I agree with what you said about
>freshmen year being a learning experience.  My english issue was
>resolved, and I'm not going to fail the class after all. YAY ME!
>anyway, my psych professor, from what i understand, likes to go by the
>book when it come to disabilities services, and I've heard some
>professors are anal about having students go through DSS.
>However, i did not want to go through DSS at all, and if i had to, i
>wanted it to be a bare minimum, which is what i told him in the first
>email that i wrote him.
>But since the past is the past, and i don't know if i can do anything
>about it now: (this question goes for anyone), is there a way to get
>around DSS when your professor says that you have to go through them
>in order to get acomidations?
>thank you, and, for the record, i checked my spelling. i was in a
>hurry when last i wrote that email, so sorry to all the spelling fans.
>On 12/4/08, Hope Paulos <hope.paulos at maine.edu> wrote:
>> Serena.  I also agree with you.  On a number of occations I've
>> had to ask for extensions and in all cases have received them.
>> One time it had to do with the health of my guide  dog and I
>> needed to concentrate on her at the time.  Another time it was
>> because my computer stopped working.  Other times it's because I
>> didn't have particular material needed (from disability services
>> office) and the professor actually got it for me.  She read it
>> aloud for me because it was Spanish and none of the disability
>> services staff spoke it.  Professors can be very devoted to their
>> students if they want to be.  This is what makes a good teacher
>> or professor.  You need to really care about your students and
>> what you teach.  Another thing professors need to understand is
>> that life intrudes.  Yes, we're in school to learn, but life
>> intrudes.  Things happen that prevents us from producing things
>> at certain times, like  Sickness, family emmergencies, etc.  A
>> professort understands this is a good professor.  A professor
>> that doesn't is obviously jgoing through the motionsof teaching
>> and  cares more about the actual performance and production of
>> the student  than how much the student learns.  Just my opinion.
>> Hope and Beignet
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>From: "Serena" <serenacucco at verizon.net
>>>To: "National Association of Blind Students mailing list"
>> <nabs-l at nfbnet.org
>>>Date sent: Thu, 4 Dec 2008 20:05:11 -0500
>>>Subject: Re: [nabs-l] professors and disability services
>>>I don't exactly agree with Jamie about the prof.'s not giving
>> extra time.
>>>First, it can be hard to find readers to proofread papers for
>> formatting.
>>>Second, whether you're blind or sighted, you can ask for an
>> extention in
>>>college, maybe, even easier than in high school.  You're being
>> sick has
>>>nothing to do with blindness and, because of the barrier of
>> needing someone
>>>to proofread the paper, you deserve the extra time.  It's not
>> like you were
>>>asking for a month to finish the paper!  You had it done the day
>> you said
>>>you would.
>>>----- Original Message -----
>>>From: "Jamie Rhoads" <jrhoads284 at gmail.com
>>>To: "National Association of Blind Students mailing list"
>>><nabs-l at nfbnet.org
>>>Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 5:42 PM
>>>Subject: Re: [nabs-l] professors and disability services
>>>> Hey Valorie
>>>>   First thing, wellcome to the list, and glad you have come
>> seaking help.
>>>>   Now to your issues.  As far as the DSS office not getting the
>> papers to
>>>> you on time.  What you probably should have done and should do
>> next time
>>>> is make sure to call them every couple days to see if the paper
>> is ready.
>>>> I noticed you said that they usually call you when something is
>> ready.
>>>> That is good, but keep in mind they probably have many other
>> students to
>>>> keep track of, and it isn't their responsibility to let you know
>> when
>>>> something is ready to be picked up even if they say they will.
>> You need
>>>> to remember you are not in high school anymore, and you need to
>> take these
>>>> kinds of issues into your own hands.  This will probably impress
>> your DSS
>>>> office as well if you put an active effort into getting your
>> materials no
>>>> matter what they may be.  As for not getting your outline, keep
>> on your
>>>> professor.  If need be, get someone from your DSS office to
>> contact
>>>> him/her.  Just remember that old saying *the squeeky wheel gets
>> the
>>>> greace*  It is hard sometimes to do these types of things, but
>> while I was
>>>> in school, it was one of the things I needed to learn in order
>> to get
>>>> things accomplished in an orderly fashion and when I wanted to.
>>>>     Secondly about your english professor, this is just one of
>> those
>>>> things we as blind people need to accept and honestly we
>> shouldn't be mad
>>>> about it.  Yes, we have other opsticals to overcome and yes it
>> seems very
>>>> unfair, but in the end we want to be treated just like any other
>> student
>>>> would, so we need to accept and understand why sometimes
>> professors won't
>>>> give us that extra time or help.  We can't go around saying we
>> want to be
>>>> equally treated, but then want extra time on something such as
>> when we are
>>>> sick.  Now, if she were giving her sighted students extra time
>> if they were
>>>> sick, that's a different issue.  You need to step back and see
>> this as the
>>>> professor is probably only trying to treat you as the same as
>> she does her
>>>> sighted students.
>>>>     One last thing, I don't see why you have a problem with
>> using DSS.  I
>>>> used them all the way through school and it made things much
>> easier.  I
>>>> got my books in formats that I needed, a letter to give to all
>> my
>>>> professors explaining my disability and the accommodations i
>> would need,
>>>> and many other things that helped school go a lot more smoothe.
>> We want
>>>> to be independent and that is fine, but if we need the help from
>> the DSS
>>>> office that is also fine because that is what they are there
>> for.
>>>> I hope this helps.  Please don't take this as i'm being mean.
>> These are
>>>> things that I either have had said to me at one point, or things
>> I truly
>>>> believe.  It isn't anything against you personally.
>>>> Jamie
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: "Valerie Gibson" <valandkayla at gmail.com
>>>> To: <nabs-l at nfbnet.org
>>>> Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 5:11 PM
>>>> Subject: [nabs-l] professors and disability services
>>>>> Hi,
>>>>> my name's Valerie.  don't really post here much, but looking for
>>>>> feeback on two situations i've got going on, which as you prob
>> know:
>>>>> situations before finals is never good.  anyway...
>>>>> one issue, i probably should have worked out sooner, but here it
>> is:
>>>>> when first regestering for my first year of psych, yes i'm a
>> freshmen
>>>>> btw, I emailed my professor and asked hi if he could send me any
>> notes
>>>>> and things that he shows the clas via email.  He's one of those
>>>>> teachers who teaches in a large auditorium, and projects an
>> outline
>>>>> for the class to cpy and fill out based on his lectures.  Well,
>>>>> natureally i don't see the outline, so i asked this
>> accomidation.
>>>>> "No." was his responce.  he said that he needed to see a paper
>> from
>>>>> disability services (DSS), if he was going to provide that.
>>>>> I didn't want to fight, and what harm could there be in going to
>> DSS
>>>>> to get the paper so long as i passsed the class, i thought.  so
>> i did.
>>>>> Well, the paper was a letter of accomidation where i had to
>> write down
>>>>> any accomidations i may need, and take each paper to my
>> professors.
>>>>> they would sign off on it, and i'd bring it back to DSS.  Well,
>> after
>>>>> filling out the paper DSS told me to ome back in a few days to
>> pick up
>>>>> the copies to give to my professors.  Normally, they'd call my
>> cell
>>>>> when i needed to come by, and it wasn't until three weeks later
>> that i
>>>>> finally got the paper, and even after my psych professor's
>> signature,
>>>>> i've still not gotten my outline.
>>>>> Second issue:  my english professor was probably the most open
>>>>> professor i've gotten this year.  she was open to working with
>> me, even
>>>>> when i didn't want to work with DSS, and emailed anything she
>> gave the
>>>>> class to me.
>>>>> We have four projects that we have to write by the end of the
>>>>> semester, and we can revise as many times as she wants.   My
>> first
>>>>> project got a good grade, but she pulled me aside on the second
>>>>> project, and told me that it earned an "unsatisfactory", the
>> lowest
>>>>> grade, based on the formatting.  natureally i understood that i
>> should
>>>>> have worked on finding someone to check the formatting.  So i
>> had to
>>>>> revise.
>>>>> The papers were due yesterday, and unfortuneately, i was sick
>> over the
>>>>> holidays, and wasn't in school.  I emailed my professor and
>> asked her
>>>>> if i could email her the papers that day, and give her the
>> physical
>>>>> papers the next day, to which she rudely told me that i could.
>>>>> If anyone knows my household, i don't get that much support with
>>>>> little things, like having a sighted person check to see if my
>> lines
>>>>> are double spaced and things, so the next day, i got back to
>> campus, i
>>>>> ran by the writing center just to ask them if my formating was
>> okay,
>>>>> before running to my english teacher's office and turning it
>> in...and
>>>>> now, she's "having to think on wether she will even take it".
>>>>> and if she doesn't, i will fail.  and i'm already failing psych
>> due to
>>>>> the information provided above...any thought?
>>>>> Val
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