If a student identifies himself or herself as having a disability and is registered with the Office of Disability Services, generally it is the professor's responsibility to ensure that the learning environment is accessible. Due to the very personal and private nature of some disabilities, it is important that instructors create an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable about coming forward to discuss any accommodation requests they may have. This is where the ADA statement in your syllabi is helpful. It is also imperative that instructors safeguard the confidentiality of students who disclose having a disability or request reasonable accommodations for a disability.
Reasonable accommodations refers to steps that can be taken without significant difficulty to allow otherwise qualified students to fulfill course requirements by limiting as much as possible the effects of his or her disabilities on his or her performance.
The Office of Disability Services is responsible for assessing a student's eligibility for reasonable accommodations and recommending specific accommodation techniques. The following are examples of accommodations that may be necessary to ensure equal access to education:
- Coordination of special arrangements to meet individual test taking needs.
- Volunteer peer note-takers.
- Permission to use a recorder in lecture classes.
- Sign language interpretation.
- Real-Time Captioning services.
- Facilitation of obtaining books in alternate formats.
- Extended time for exams.
- Alternative and distraction free exam environment.
- Use of a calculator
- Alternative exam days due to a medical disability.
- Use of a word processor.
Suggestions for Online/Classroom Instruction
- Provide students with a detailed course syllabus. Make it available before the session. Be sure to include the required ADA statement.
- Clearly spell out expectations (grading, material to be covered, due dates) at the start of the course. This is especially critical for disabled students who need lead time in order to arrange support services (alternately formatted textbooks, enlarged print, interpreter services, etc.).
- Use all modalities: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Use visual aids to reinforce your lecture. Present new vocabulary in both verbal and written form. Describe orally any diagrams or charts used during lectures. Give opportunities for hands-on learning whenever possible.
- Give copies of visual aids to students before or at the beginning of a lecture when possible.
- Illustrate abstract concepts with concrete examples.
- Be sensitive to the fact that some students are very uncomfortable reading aloud.
- Encourage students to use current technology to enhance learning – voice recorders, computers, calculators, laptops, etc.
- For further information see the Resource Guide for Teaching Students with Disabilities.