University of Minnesota

Disability Issues — Invisible Disabilities

Identifying the Problem

Students may inform you that they have a learning disability, mental health condition (e.g. depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder) or attention deficit disorder that is interfering with their learning. All of these conditions may be disabilities.

Students may ask you to make a modification (e.g. extra time on exams, a change in due dates, or alternate assignments) to allow them to succeed in your course. It can be difficult to determine what is fair for students requesting modifications and what is fair to the other students in the class. Understanding your role when presented with this information will allow students to get the assistance they are entitled to and allow you to provide optimal educational opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities.

How to Respond:

  • Talk with the student in a private setting.
  • Refer students to Disability Resource Center if they are requesting a modification in the course. Disability Resource Center will work with the student to obtain documentation of a disabling condition, identify and assist with implementation of reasonable accommodations, and communicate in writing to the instructor if classroom accommodations are necessary.
  • Assure the student that you are willing to provide reasonable accommodations. However, it is the role of Disability Services, with your input, to determine what is reasonable and to communicate this to you in writing.
  • Inform the student that Disability Resource Center works with many students with invisible disabilities and that this is the largest group of students receiving reasonable accommodations on campus.

    Contact Disability Resource Center if you have questions regarding the accommodation process, recommended accommodations, or your role in the process.

  • Be proactive.
    Encourage students to disclose the existence of a potential disability condition to Disability Resource Center. Disability Services recommends that University faculty use the following statement on their course syllabi to inform students of their willingness to provide reasonable accommodations:
  • "It is University policy to provide, on a flexible and individualized basis, reasonable accommodations to students who have documented disability conditions (e.g., physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, hearing, or systemic) that may affect their ability to participate in course activities or to meet course requirements.

    Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact Disability Services to have a confidential discussion of their individual needs for accommodations. Disability Resource Center is located in Suite180 McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak Street S.E. Staff can be reached by calling 612/626-1333 (voice or TTY)."

  • Consider using the Principles of Universal Instructional Design in your course. (See link under University Resources). The premise of universal instructional design is that curriculum should include alternatives to make it accessible and applicable to students with different backgrounds, learning styles, abilities and disabilities.

    The Center for Applied Special Technology

University Resources:

  1. Disability Resource Center
    612-626-1333 V/TTY
  2. Computer Accommodation Program

    A program to assist University of Minnesota students, staff and faculty with disabilities in accessing computers and information with adaptive technology.

  3. International Student and Scholar Services
    612-626-7100 (If you need assistance with referring an international student.)
  4. Curriculum Transformation and Disability: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education  
  5. Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
    419 Morrill
    100 Church St. S.E.
    Minneapolis, MN 55455
    Phone: 612-624-9547

    To consult about and/or report possible discrimination or systemic barriers to equal access.

Twin Cities Campus: