Fall on campus

Navigating college with a disability can pose additional challenges for many students. Whether you’re a first-year, transfer or seasoned Buff, here are four tips to help you have a successful experience at CU Boulder. 

1) Register with Disability Services as soon as possible 

The Disability Services office provides support and accommodations for students with disabilities. However, you must register with their office and meet with a designated Access Coordinator in order to receive accommodations. 

Accommodations are available to those with psychological and psychiatric disabilities, , attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, physical or systemic disabilities, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and temporary medical conditions, among others. 

If you’re unsure if you qualify for accommodations, contact Disability Services to explore your options.  

2) Reflect on your needs and barriers

One of the primary differences between high school and college accommodations is the need for students to advocate for themselves. That’s why it’s important to think through any potential needs you may have or barriers you may face during the school year. 

Here are a few things to consider: 

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? 
  • How might your disability affect you in the classroom? 
  • Do your academic goals align with your strengths and interests? 
  • What roadblocks or barriers might you encounter during your time in college? 
  • Who might you need to disclose your disability to? What are the pros and cons? 
  • How can you be proactive and anticipate your needs? 

These types of questions can help you plan for the future and find ways to adjust to various circumstances. For instance, you may need to adapt your approach to studying or preparing for exams in advance of your peers. Take some time to think through these various factors, where you can go for support and who you can reach out to if something goes wrong. 

3) Meet with your professors early 

If you’re receiving accommodations for a disability, it’s important to talk with your professors early on in the semester. Remember, students are in charge of managing their accommodation requests with faculty and staff, so you will need to communicate what your accommodations are and when you would like them to be implemented (e.g., in class, exams, etc.). 

Here are a few tips to help you start the conversation: 

Pick a time to meet

Let your professors know who you are and why you’d like to meet with them. You can say something like, “Hi professor [name]. I’m [name], and I would like to set a time to speak with you about some accommodations I have this semester.” All faculty offer designated office hours that provide a time for students to meet with them. If you’re not able to attend office hours, approach your professor or send them an email requesting to meet with them another time. 

Explain why you’re meeting

Students meet with faculty members for a variety of reasons. Make sure that you let them know that you are there to discuss your disability accommodations for the semester and how they will be implemented. You can say something like, “I’d like to talk with you about the accommodations I’ve received from Disability Services.”

Come prepared

Prepare for your meeting with professors in advance by having a clear outline of what your accommodations are and how they will need to be implemented. For instance, if you have 1.5 extended time on tests in a distraction-reduced environment, it’s important to discuss how you can make this work in a given class.

Ask questions

Different professors have different teaching styles and expectations. Review your syllabi and clarify any questions you may have for each course. This can help you learn more about what your classes will look like and how you can best prepare. For instance, you may ask if they offer printable PowerPoint slides for lectures or if there are important assignments that may take you more time to complete, so you can plan ahead.

Schedule reminders

Depending on what accommodations you have, you may need to remind your professors throughout the year about implementing them. For instance, if you have an accommodation to use the Student Testing Center, it can be helpful to set reminders for yourself to talk with your professor before any tests, so you have time to schedule an exam room.

4) Connect with additional support resources 

Campus support goes beyond accommodations. Be sure to connect with additional support resources that you may need to make the most of your academics, social connections and overall well-being. 

Disability Services

Disability Services is dedicated to providing students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in university programs, courses and activities through reasonable accommodations and services. Their office is here to support students, staff and faculty with accommodation requests, implementation, guidance and general information. 

Tutoring services

CU Boulder offers a wide variety of tutoring and learning resources to support you and your academic success. Some are specific to certain classes or departments or groups of students. Most are free while some require a fee. Be sure to check your syllabi or speak with your professors for additional help and referrals. 

Adaptive Sports and Recreation

The Rec Center has accessible equipment, adaptive sports and recreation gear and inclusive programs available free of charge for all students.  

Chronic Care Support Group

Living with a medical condition can be isolating and challenging to navigate. This group provides a space for students who are coping with chronic medical conditions or chronic pain to share their experiences, explore coping strategies and build a support community with others going through similar journeys. 

Autism Spectrum (ASD) Support Group

This support group is for students on the Autism Spectrum (ASD) who want to connect with a supportive community and discuss topics related to sensory needs, communication, advocacy and 'unmasking.' 

Published: Sept. 8, 2023