I’m going to assume you’ve read AFB’s Cheat Sheet for Self-Advocating As a College Student Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired; if you haven’t, you’ll want to read it ASAP.
The foundation of the abovementioned blog, as well as this blog, is: the responsibility of advocacy has now been passed to you. Congratulations are in order actually; your family and educational team of cheerleaders deem you ready to assert yourself and request/ decline accommodations. Trust me, this team (including myself) wants you to succeed!
Here’s the best advice I can give regarding succeeding as a self-advocate: your first impression is key. Let me explain:
- When you contact your school’s disability resource center well before the semester officially begins to self-identify as a student who will need specific accommodations (as opposed to contacting them immediately prior to a test), your support team will know you are proactive
- When you call or meet your teachers well before the semester officially begins to discuss how you can get the most out of lectures and how you can access class materials/ tests, your teachers will know you take ownership of your academic success; you are responsible.
- When the first day of classes includes dressing neatly, arriving early, introducing yourself to the teachers, and showing genuine interest in the subject matter/ lectures, you are recognized as interested and confident.
- When you bring your materials to class (likely including assistive technology), you appear prepared.
- When a component of the lecture is inaccessible and you gracefully ask for an accessible approach, you will be seen as assertive.
- When your instructor suggests an alternative, yet viable, accommodation to the one you requested and you agree to give it a shot, you are viewed as flexible.
And here’s the thing about a student who, from day one, is proactive, responsible, interested, confident, prepared, assertive, and flexible: well-intentioned professors and disability resource center staff want to support your efforts in self-advocacy. They want to be on team-you. Trust me, you want teammates instead of opponents.
It’s clear, making a remarkable first impression is of utmost importance to your self-advocacy success.