Invisible Disabilities: Professors, Take Note



Writer Adriane Kong is deaf in one ear.


Dear Professors of Fordham University,


My name is Adriane Kong, I am a freshman and I have a hearing disability.

And I would love to take your class, but I physically cannot due to the fact that you refuse to provide my accomodations.

I am deaf in my left ear. Due to this, Fordham implements accommodations: a quiet location to take tests, preferential seating, subtitles during videos and a copy of class notes. They’re simple, but most can only be provided by the willingness of professors.

It was only two weeks into the school year when I met my first professor who refused to compromise.

It was a sunny Thursday, my class was at 12:30 p.m., but I arrived 15 minutes early. The professor rushed into the classroom at 12:29, carrying a large stack of binders filled to the brim with notes.

She told the class to sit in a circle and immediately started in on a tangent about cultural appropriation, which somehow transitioned into paternalism and polytheism.

I scrambled to write everything down and struggled to comprehend what was even being said. By the end of the class I was frustrated. I had understood nothing and learned nothing. But I was still determined to take the class. I hoped the professor could provide a copy of notes so I could focus on understanding the material in class. The alternative was trying to listen, take notes, comprehend and participate, all with only one functioning ear.

As I approached the professor after class, I felt my gut clench. Already, I was preparing for rejection and indifference to my request.

“Hi Professor! My name is Adriane Kong, I’m deaf in my left ear, and have accommodations set up with the Office of Disabilities Services due to this.”

She listened intently.

“One of my accomodations is that I get a copy of notes.”

I paused to let her interject. She said nothing.

“And I was wondering if it was possible for you to provide that?”


“Something like that would be perfect.” I gestured to the printed copy of her notes in her hands that she referenced throughout the class.

She glanced briefly down at her notes, looked back at me and said “No I can’t give you these. They’re my notes.” As she said this, she held her notes to her chest like I would forcibly snatch them out of her hand and run away.  

There was an awkward beat of silence. Neither one of us knew what else was left to say.

In the end all I could say was, “Oh. Okay. I see. Thank you.”

Now, New York State law has many weak points in accommodating for disabilities, particularly in providing for disabled people in the workforce. It was in public grade school that N.Y. State had the greatest capacity to provide. Public school teachers had to comply with accomodations, or they’d be breaking the law.

I knew to expect differently in college. I had to be self-reliant. Professors don’t have the sole responsibility of teaching you, and so they feel less compelled to support you.

Even though I knew all of this, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. My next course of action was to go to the Office of Disability Services to see if there was anything more that could be done.

I explained the situation and got a few nods of understanding. They continued to explain that the reason professors have the right to refuse is because professors are different than teachers, in that they conduct their own research which could be incorporated into their notes. Therefore anything they teach, any of their notes, could be considered intellectual property.

I had hit a roadblock. I could either continue being stubborn, take the class, struggle my entire first semester at Fordham and work with a professor who seems disinterested in aiding me.

Or, drop the class.

The decision was obvious, and I hated making it. But staying in that class would not further my education. I would just be struggling to stay above the surface from start to finish, never fully comprehending the material, never having the full capacity to participate.

Professors, please understand that it is completely within your right to reject certain accommodations of students with disabilities. But in doing so you may be losing a promising student and their contributions. Students with disabilities want to be in your class, and they want to learn. But due to circumstances beyond their control it’s just more difficult to do so. And when professors refuse accommodations that even the playing field for disabled students, it harms everyone involved.

Just something for you to consider.



Adriane Kong