Teaching Students with Disabilities

Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, university faculty and staff work to provide physical and programmatic accommodations, services, and accessibility to equalize opportunities of student 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 services with sensitivity and respect for individual difference.

Most instructors will, at some point, teach students who have physical, learning and/or psychological disabilities. All student require various amounts of assistance in order to have equal access to their college experience. Student 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.

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. The student must open a file with Disability Services, complete the intake process, and provide appropriate documentation from a qualified professional prior to accommodations being formally approved. If an instructor is asked to provide accommodations without receiving the proper DS approval forms, please ask the student to see DS to make their accommodation request.

The qualifying professional must document the 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.

Possible accommodations include, but are not limited to:

  • Alternative testing (distraction-reduced environment, extended time, etc.)
  • Access to class lecture notes
  • Use of assistive technology
  • Priority seating
  • Auxiliary aids (i.e. textbooks in alternate format, interpreter, assistive listening device)

 Some important items to consider:

  • Students with disabilities enrolled at the University have met academic qualifications for admission.
  • It is not necessary to lower academic standards to accommodate a student with a disability.
  • Student with disabilities are expected to meet the same course requirements as other students.
  • While course requirements are specified, the means to achieve the requirements 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.
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