Disability Services for Students

302 Memorial Union Univeristy of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 02881


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For More Information

302 Memorial Union
50 Lower College Road
Kingston, RI 02881
T: 401-874-2098
F: 401-874-5694
TT via RI Relay: 711
E: dss@etal.uri.edu

Working with Students with Disabilities

Facilitating Faculty and Student Relationships

Information on Interacting with People with Disabilities

As greater numbers of persons with disabilities take advantage of the opportunities open to them in higher education, it becomes increasingly important that colleges and universities promote an environment that is positive for persons with disabilities. One of the strongest and easiest ways is appropriate language usage.

The recommended manner is known as “person first” language. This means that the person is emphasized first, the disability second.

Acceptable Terms

Unacceptable Terms

Person with a disability Handicapped person
Student with an intellectual, cognitive, developmental disability Retarded, idiotic, slow person
Student who is deaf or hearing-impaired Deaf student
Person who has a mental illness or psychiatric disability Crazy, insane, psycho, nuts
Person who is blind/visually impaired The blind
Individual who uses a wheelchair or wheelchair user Confined/restricted to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound
Person who has a communication disorder, is unable to speak, or uses a device to speak Mute, dumb

Adapted from the CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

Provide Equal Treatment

In general, treat students with disabilities as you treat students without disabilities. Some adjustments may be necessary to provide them with access to course materials and related services, but they are still students with the same issues and concerns that other college students have. Make sure to include a student with a disability in all classroom activities and offer the same level of attention you give other students. Don’t send a student with a disability to Disability Services for non-disability related issues.

Respect Confidentiality

Treat all conversations with the student as confidential. Some students with disabilities are quite open about their disability status and related needs. Others are more concerned about privacy. Don’t make any assumptions in this area. Even students with readily apparent disabilities may not be comfortable with their disability being the subject of a class discussion or with their accommodation requests being discussed in front of other students. There will be times when other students notice that an accommodation is being given. If they bring this to your attention, explain to them that it is a confidential matter than you cannot discuss.

Utilize Disability Services for Students

Develop a relationship with the staff of Disability Services for Students. Make yourself available for training. Request information. Encourage your department to schedule training sessions. Provide the director of Disability Services with a list of topics you’re interested in. Attend off-campus workshops or conferences in your field that cover teaching students with disabilities.

Notification to Instructors

It is a student’s responsibility to notify instructors of his/her need for reasonable accommodations. The instructor is most often the person directly responsible for ensuring that these accommodations are made and for helping the student address any problems or concerns related to the accommodations.

Disability Services will provide hard copies of an accommodations letter for the student, which will list the accommodations the student requires. It is then the student’s responsibility to provide their instructors with the notice, which is generally done by scheduling a brief appointment during office hours or another mutually convenient time, at which point the student and instructor review the accommodations listed. This helps develop a working relationship between the student and the instructor and helps ensure that any problems or concerns are addressed early in the semester.

Under certain circumstances the notice may come directly from Disability Services, but the student will still be expected to schedule a follow up by meeting with you to discuss his or her accommodation needs.



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