When a Professor Isn’t Accommodating

By Guest Contributor, Karina Cotran

In January 2017, I just started my last semester of undergrad. By that point, class sizes went from several hundred to less than 30 people. No matter the size of my class, the first day was pretty routine. I can even break it down into steps:

Well, those five steps worked for three of my four classes. I hit a snag in one of them – an English class of less than 25 people. After the lecture ended, I approached my professor and informed him about my hearing loss.

I asked if it was ok if I sometimes drop by during his office hours for a quick recap if I missed anything in lectures or if I ask him to repeat himself should he ever ask me a question during lectures.

When asking this question to my other professors, I got very supportive responses from ‘of course!’ to ‘let me know if there’s anything that I need to do!’.

This professor said that it wasn’t okay. He went on to explain that this was a highly intensive and independent class, and that if I was not prepared for it, I should go elsewhere.

I was shocked. I remember my mouth dropping open, and then just mutely nodding and walking away. Then I was angry. Then I was worried.

I needed this last class to complete my English major, and all other classes were either full or didn’t work with my schedule. What was I going to do?

I stuck with that class, sat in the front, made some friends (which helped if I ever missed anything) and aced the class. However, not every class is as small as 25 people, and there are more challenges that can’t be overcome by simply sitting in the front row.

Professors should be accommodating students, but there are some out there that will resist.

Here are some ways on how to deal with a not-so-accommodating professor:

Start off with trying to mitigate the issue:

Talk to your accessibility counselor

If your school has an accessibility resource centre, book an appointment with them and explain your predicament. They might take over the situation and talk to the professor about the right to accommodate you in their classes.

Explain why you need the accommodations

I find that outright refusal of accommodations can sometimes stem from a lack of understanding as to why the accommodations are needed.

Explain the severity of your hearing loss (don’t downplay it), list what you will be doing for yourself to make sure that you get the best of the learning experience (sitting in the front row, having a friend nearby to explain anything that was missed etc.) but emphasize that added accommodation is necessary to ensure that you excel in their class.

If both suggestions above don’t work…

Look into other classes

You advocated for yourself and the professor is still not budging. At that time, you need to continue with your education – so try to find another alternative because at the end of the day, you do not want to be taught by a professor who does not want you to excel.

Choosing other classes does not mean you give up fighting for your right to accommodations. You can continue to talk to your accessibility centre to ensure that this doesn’t happen to a fellow student in the future by that same professor. Doing this will allow you to continue your education with a better professor, and in a healthier classroom environment while still advocating for yourself.

Have you ever had a professor that was not accommodating? If yes, I’d love to hear your comments and how you handled those experiences! You can reach out to me at karinacotran@hearingdifferently.com.