Choosing Whether or Not to Register with the Disability Resource Center
There are many reasons college students with disabilities might decide they don't need disability services, and it's your right to not use the services office on campus. But it's also in your best interest to make an informed decision. Here are some reasons why students often don't want to use disability services, and some considerations to help you think about your options.
"I don't want professors to know I have a mental health condition or [fill in the blank with another type of disability] - they might treat me differently, expect less of me, or put me in different courses."
- Under Confidentiality laws, the Disability Resource Center can't tell professors about your diagnosis or disability without your permission, and even though you may decide to share information with them, professors should never see disability documentation from your doctor or start asking questions and details about your disability (unless you started the conversation)
- If you think students with disabilities are getting an easier course-load, check out the facts laid out by SUNY Empire State College
"I am not disabled."
- If you hate the term "disability," then don't use it... or learn more about why people should #SaytheWord "disability" and thinking of it as a powerful (even positive) word; also read about one student whose attitudes about disability kept him from using services at Columbia University
- If you're culturally Deaf and don't like the term "disability," remember that your campus may have rules about paying for interpreters if you do not register for disability services. They may also not allow you to bring in (and pay for) your own interpreters unless they are approved by the Disability Resource Center. Check your campus policies.
- If you are pretty sure you outgrew your disability and don't need services, learn more from Chapman University about the differences between high school and college -- you can always stop using services, but it's sometimes a long process to sign up after you realize you need accommodations
"I'll just wait and register when I need the services."
- This is pretty common among first-year undergrads and grad students. For example, many students with diabetes don't need services right away, so see what the College Diabetes Network has to say about whether or not to register early (with applications to all students).
"I'll work out my accommodations for myself with my instructors because it's easier/it's a political statement/I'm independent."
- Professors will usually not give you any accommodations unless you're registered at disability services. Learn more about the roles and responsibilities of students and faculty.
"All my needs are being met through health services or counseling services."
- That's great - but remember that the Disability Resource Center is the only office that is usually authorized to negotiate accommodations with professors. They are supposed to work with health services, counseling services, and other offices on campus. So if you might be in the hospital, need academic or course adjustments, or require someone to negotiate with professors, it might be useful to register with disability services. Here's what one student had to say about how Counseling services and Disability Services worked together .
"I've heard our campus disability services office is really bad and probably won't help me."
- You will still need disability services if you want accommodations (check out info about their roles and responsibilities)
- If you or other students need to address problems with services, check out our page on dealing with problems, information about filing a grievance, or off-campus legal resources to help you
"I really-truly-honestly don't need any accommodations or services!"
If your disability is really mild, temporary, or doesn't require any services or accommodations, then you're probably right - there's no reason to register with the Disability Resource Center! However, know that the Disability Resource Center is not just about accommodations and services. Their role includes ensuring the rights of disabled students from discrimination.
If you register with the Disability Resource Center, even if you all agree that you don't need services, you can call upon them in the event an instructor, staff person, internship site or others try to discriminate against you just for having a disability.
Another bonus for the campus is that the Disability Resource Center can count you (anonymously) when it writes its annual report to the campus administration. They'll be able to say, "Yes, we do have X number of disabled students on campus," That ends up helping everyone.