Access Assistants

Access Assistants

Trained student workers called Access Assistants help to remove barriers for students with disabilities. They may assist you with laboratory access, notetaking, library assistance, individual reading, textbook taping, and other activities. Think this accommodation is right for you? Talk with your Disability Resource Center access consultant or contact the Access Assistants Scheduler, (612) 624-1666 (V) or (612) 626-1333 (V/TTY).

Information for Students Working with Access Assistants

  • Arrive on time. If you are running late or will miss class, contact your access assistant directly or contact the access assistant scheduler directly.
  • Introduce yourself to the access assistant.
  • The access assistant will ask for your preferences and expectations. Examples of preferences  include:
    • Style of Notetaking - electronic, paper notebook, carbon notebook, paragraph form, bullet points, etc.
    • Style of Audio Description - Level of detail in description, include or do not include colors, etc.
    • Level of Assistance in Labs - Take notes during the lab, pour liquids, use tools, other lab tasks, etc.
    • Other Assistance – Guide or walk to restroom or vending machine, etc.
  • Access Assistants will not disclose who they are working with or disclose any information regarding you or your disability.
  • Access Assistants will not participate in class discussions or other class activities unless you request assistance.
  • Access Assistants will become familiar with class material to accurately describe and take notes on class material.
  • If you are a Jaws user, the access assistant can take you through the process or using Webvista or Moodle for the first time.
  • If the access assistant does anything to make you feel uncomfortable, talk to the access assistant directly or contact your specialist.
  • Access Assistants will not work on other homework or any other non-work related tasks when they assist you. 
  • Give the access assistant feedback on the notes, description and other assistance.  With feedback, quality of assistance can improve and be tailored to your needs. 
  • If the access assistant is functioning as a reader or a scribe, they will write legibly, read at a pace that fits your needs and will not contribute information or assistance regarding the exam topic.
  • It will be your responsibility to let your access consultant know if any issues arise during your time with your access assistant.

Inappropriate Expectations

  • An access assistant will not complete a lab for you and your lab partner.  You must give the access assistant explicit instructions on how to participate in the lab with your partner. 
  • Access Assistants will not accept any documents to be converted at the Disability Resource Center.  If you have a document to convert, you must take the document to the office and ask for document conversion assistance.
  • Access Assistants are not responsible for opening mail or any other non-academic related tasks. 
  • Access Assistants are not able to hand out copies of notes to your classmates.  If you would like to share your notes, that is your decision.


Information for Students Who Want to Apply to Become an Access Assistant

Each year the Disability Resource Center hires students to serve as access assistants for students, faculty and staff with disabilities. You can apply at  Search for the Access Assistant job openings in the "Equity/Diversity, VP/V Provost" College.

Information for Current Access Assistants

This is a resource for students who are access assistants working in the Disability Resource Center. These documents should provide guidelines for working with faculty, staff and students.

  • Audio Description

    • Start with an introduction. – Provide an introduction to the room, the setting of the classroom, the climate of the classroom (relaxed, professional), a general description of the individuals in the class, etc.
    • Vision Experience. – How much vision do you have?  What level of detail would you like? Would you like descriptions with colors?
    • Be confident in your descriptions.  You will have to make quick decisions regarding what to describe and what not to describe.
    • Use a voice to reflect the mood of the environment.
    • Be Objective.
    • Say what you see.
    • Get to know the student.
    • Be relevant to the student
    • Expect the unexpected.
    • Remember that you play an important role. 
    • Remember that you and your coworkers have a collective base a knowledge.  If you are unsure about describing for a new class, confer with your coworkers who may have more experience than you do in a particular subject. 
    • Remember that every individual is different.  Their preferences and needs will vary and you must be flexible to accommodate them. 

    What Not To Do

    • Do not talk over the audio (professor).
    • Do not censor the material.
    • Do not omit pertinent details.
    • Do not embellish. 
    • Do not disturb others around you.

    *NONE of these guide lines are absolute, they will change and adapt for each student. 

  • Lab Assistance

    • Introduce yourself to the student before the class starts.
    • Ask the student what sort of tasks you will be performing in the lab. (For example: pouring, filling, etc.)
    • Record data.
    • If there are group members, group members are responsible for all lab tasks excluding recording information/notes for the student.
    • If there are any tasks you are uncomfortable completing such as using power tools ask the TA or professor to help you and the student complete the task. 
    • The student must provide explicit instructions on how to complete the lab.

    What Not to Do

    • You are not responsible for getting information independently. The student should tell you what to record or do.
    • Do not make inferences on tasks.
    • Do not complete the student’s tasks independently. 
  • Mobility Assistance

    • Introduce yourself to the student or staff person.
    • Discuss the assistance you will be providing and expectations for each task.
    • Mobility Assistance is extremely variable.  Example tasks could include:
      • Filing Documents
      • Opening Mail
      • Cleaning off work desk
      • Running errands with the student or staff person on campus (Ex. walk and pick up Metro Mobility passes)
    • If you have questions about the tasks you are performing contact the Associate Director supervising Access Assistants or the Access Assistant Scheduler.

    What Not to Do

    • You are not expected to run personal errands (pick up laundry or other personal tasks).
  • Note-taking

    • Introduce yourself to the student before the class starts.  Ask them about their preferred style of notes. (Would they like their notes typed, hand written, in bullet point form, in paragraph form, etc?)  Also ask the student if they would like you to sit with or without them. 
    • Introduce yourself to the professor or instructor for the class.  Let them know that you are taking notes for a student and are NOT a member of the class, therefore they cannot call on you or expect you to participate in the class.
    • Take a seat in the classroom and take notes for the student to the best of your ability.
    • Submit your notes to the student (if typed notes, email an attachment to the student, if handwritten, give them the notebook at the end of the class. Also send email to with notes attachment.)
    • Give the student two class sessions to look over the notes and then ask for feedback.  They may want you to slightly change your note format and it is best to ask what their preferences are.
    • Make it clear to the student that you are open to suggestions from them about how to record the material and how you should best approach the subject as a whole.
    • Please note that when you are taking notes for a student you are on duty, it is not appropriate to do other things for example, Sudoku, reading the newspaper or the crossword. 


  • Note-Taking FAQ

    • What if the student is late?
      • Always show up on time to class.  If the student is late do not take notes until they arrive.  If you wait fifteen minutes into the start of class and the student has not arrived, discretely leave the classroom. 
    • What if the student does not show up?
      • If you have waited fifteen minutes for the student and they have not arrived, leave the classroom and report back to DS.  Inform your supervisor of their absence either via email or in person immediately following the missed class.
    • What if the student does not show up for a night class?
      • If the student does not show up for a night class, leave the classroom and you will still be compensated for the amount of time that you should have taken notes for.
    • What if a student in the class asks for a copy of your notes?
      • Tell the student politely that you are not a student in the class; you are a note-taker  and  cannot give out extra copies of notes. 
    • What if the professor calls on you in class?
      • State “I am not a member of the class” and remind the professor after the class that you are a note-taker. 
    • What if a student in the class sits down where you and the student you assist normally sit?
      • Politely ask the student if they can move seats.  If you feel comfortable, explain that the student you assist normally sits here and you would really appreciate it if they move.  Generally students are quite accommodating about this problem.

    *All jobs are to remain on campus, unless it is an approved location by the Associate Director in charge of Access Assistants or the Access Assistant Scheduler.

  • Reader Scribe

    • Arrive at least five minutes early and introduce yourself to the student.
    • Check to make sure you have enough pencils, paper, etc.
    • Do not correct spelling or grammar errors made by the student.
    • Do not offer any assistance with the material of the exam.
    • Write legibly.
    • Read clearly and at an understandable pace.
    • Be flexible. (Reading speed, breaks. Etc)

    What Not to Do

    • Do not correct spelling or grammar errors made by the student. 
    • Do not offer any assistance with the material of the exam.