Don't assume you know the reasons someone needs accomodations

So, here’s a thing that happens:

  • Person with a disability: I need accommodation x.
  • Person with power: Oh, you have condition y! No problem!
  • Person with a disability actually has condition z, which needs some of the same accommodations as y, but also different ones.
  • But they’re afraid to correct the person with power, lest they think that the actual reason isn’t a good one, and stop being willing to do the necessary accommodation.
  • And they’re also afraid to ask for some of the other accommodations they need for the condition they actually have, because then they’d have to change the conversation.

For instance:

  • Student with an audio processing disorder: I need to sit in the front in order to understand what’s going on in class.
  • Teacher: Oh, because you can’t see the board otherwise! Sure, I’ll make a note of it on the seating chart and be sure not to assign you anywhere you can’t see the board.
  • The student is afraid to correct the teacher, because they might not think audio processing problems are a real thing. Or the teacher might feel like the student lied to them, even though the student never said anything about vision.
  • On a field trip, the teacher doesn’t realize that the student needs to be near the tour guide. The exhibits are large, and students gather around them and can see them equally well from any point, so the teacher doesn’t realize there is a problem.
  • And the student is afraid to say that there is a problem, because the teacher hasn’t shown that it is safe to do so, and has given some indication that it isn’t.

So, do not be that guy. Don’t tell people what their disability is, or what their needs are. Doing so makes it harder for people to tell you what accommodations they actually need in order to be able to participate.

Instead, ask. Don’t ask invasive personal questions, just ask what people need.