Every semester, students are given the opportunity to complete anonymous instructor evaluations to give feedback about their teacher and the course in general. Most professors consider these forms to be mandatory to complete. These forms are notorious for being inaccessible for students with vision impairments and dysgraphia, so I use any of the following methods to complete my instructor evaluations every semester.
Why no large print?
I don’t receive these forms in large print because they are designed to be anonymous, and everyone would know who wrote on the only large print form. I remember one time in high school, my teacher gave me a special large print form, and then was confused when I wrote very vague feedback- I touched on this experience in my post about horror stories for students with low vision here. Later on, I was questioned by staff members as to why I didn’t give detailed feedback, and then realized that I had not been given the same opportunity to submit information anonymously. Since I was the only student in my school with low vision, it was very easy to tell who had written on the large print form!
Pencil vs pen
My university allows students to complete evaluations in either pencil or pen, which is awesome because I can’t read pencil due to the low contrast. I strongly recommend bringing both a pencil and a pen though just in case, even if pencil is not used regularly for assignments or if students never hand write assignments. Speaking of handwriting, read more about dysgraphia accommodations in the classroom here.
Use a video magnifier
Using a video magnifier is a great way to stay with the rest of the class while completing evaluations, and helps to increase the likelihood your form will not stand out. One downside to this is if students need to bubble in information- I have always found that difficult to do regardless if I have a video magnifier or not. Technology also might not be permitted during evaluations, so check before using. Read more about my video magnifier, the Eschenbach SmartLux, here.
Ask for a scribe
Requesting a fellow student to assist in completing the form can further help protect your identity, however not all schools allow students to use scribes on evaluations like this. Also, there is no way to confirm if the scribe will actually write what you are saying. However, if you have a trusted partner and teacher permission, a scribe can be a quick and easy way to complete an evaluation.
Complete forms with Disability Services
Students can complete all of their teacher evaluations at the same time at the Disability Services office using their assistive technology. The staff will put the evaluations in with the rest of the class. I did this and found that it worked really well, though I got a bit scrambled trying to remember information from each class, as some of the experiences in my classes just blurred together.
Request that everyone receive large print
If the professor creates their own evaluations, request that everyone receive them in large print, so that the accessible form isn’t singled out. If one student gets it in large print, the rest of the class can get it too. I have had professors do this many times and I always made sure to let them know how much I appreciate them doing this.
Put the evaluations online
Many courses make their evaluations available online, which I have found to be the most helpful, since the evaluation is compatible with the zoom feature and screen readers. I also find it easier to type than to write out information. My university sends an email out to students notifying them if their course evaluations are available online, or the professor will post an announcement on the class homepage. Every online class I’ve taken has had an online evaluation- read more about taking virtual classes in college here.
Can I write about my disability accommodations?
I always thank my professors for following my disability accommodations, though I am never very specific about what those accommodations were. Since we have several students that receive accommodations for various disabilities, I like to make sure that the professor knows I felt included and appreciate what they did for me, without disclosing my disability even further.
Sharing negative experiences
On one of my (online) teacher evaluations, I decided to share a more negative experience I had in the course, so that the course could be improved in the future. I strictly wrote out the facts of what had happened as well as times/dates it had taken place. I had documented this information in a Word document, then copy and pasted the information directly into the evaluation. I tried not to include any identifying information such as my final project topic (which was unique to each student) to avoid being identified, though I’m sure the university and the professor had an idea of who I was.
There is a third-party website called RateMyProfessor that allows students to submit anonymous feedback about professors at their university. I prefer to write positive reviews over negative ones, and make sure to note that the professor was great with following disability accommodations. I do this a month after the semester ends so that I am able to write a level headed review. Make sure to include what class the professor taught so students in the future can easily review your feedback.
If a class experience was extremely positive or negative, I would follow up with the department and make sure my comments are known. I have more often done this for positive experiences than I have negative ones, but hearing about both is important. In these cases, I don’t mind my identity being known.
I hope this information on instructor evaluations is helpful for students with vision impairments and dysgraphia. Good luck with finals, and if you’re nervous, read this post on my advice for taking midterms and finals here.