Teaching Students with Disabilities
Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, university faculty and staff are working to provide physical and programmatic accommodations, services, and accessibility to equalize educational opportunities of students with disabilities. As the number of students with disabilities attending college grows, it becomes increasingly important for university instructors to know how to provide instruction, accommodations and service with sensitivity and respect for individual difference.
An Overview of the Process for Obtaining Accommodations
It is the responsibility of the student with a disability to inform the university through Disability Services of the need for academic accommodations.
Possible accommodations include, but are not limited to:
- Alternative testing (distraction-reduced environment, extended time, etc.)
- Access to class lecture notes
- adaptive teaching methods
- application of technology
- priority seating
- auxiliary aids
A qualifying professional must document each disability, and identify the functional limitations imposed by the disability. Disability Services staff review the information provided and work with instructors to arrange appropriate and reasonable accommodations.
Most instructors will, at some point, teach students who have physical, learning and/or psychological disabilities. All students require various amounts of assistance in order to have equal access to their college experience. Students with disabilities differ from other students in their needs for modification of the environment in which they move, learn and are evaluated. While many learn in different ways, their differences do not imply inferior capacities.
Some important issues to consider:
- Students with disabilities enrolled at the university have met academic qualifications for admission.
- They are expected to perform at the same level academically as other students.
- It is not necessary to lower academic standards to accommodate a student with a disability.
- While course requirements are specified, the means to achieve them may need adjustments in order to equalize the competitive disadvantage caused by a disability.
- The same treatment is not always equal treatment when a functional or processing problem limits a student's involvement in an activity.