Learning & Teaching Topics
Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities
Disabilities can be visible or invisible. Examples of visible disabilities include: mobility-impairment (with individuals using wheelchairs or crutches), and visual impairment (with people using a guide dog or cane). Examples of invisible disabilities include: learning disabilities, psychological disabilities, low-level sensory impairments, and chronic conditions such as AIDS, cancer, and lupus.
Tips for Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities:
- Utilize Universal Design for Learning principles. Present information, engage students, and allow students to show what they know in multiple ways.
- Utilize a wide array of instructional formats in order to incorporate as many learning styles as possible.
- Structure your class so that students can meet the course learning objectives in a variety of ways, with accommodation when necessary. Ask ahead of time to find out if alternate activities will be required – don’t wait until the class before to find out if alternate assignments and accommodations are needed.
- Be flexible about punctuality and attendance. Students with mobility impairments may have a difficult time physically moving across campus, especially when they have to attend to their personal needs and get across campus in a 10-minute interval. Students with a wide array of disabilities may have a hard time coming to class and concentrating when they are physically or emotionally affected by their condition or medication side effects.
- Some students are not able to raise their hand when they wish to ask a question or make a comment. Work out a system with these students so they can participate. This could be an eye movement that signals that they would like to speak or you could arrange to call on them at certain times during the class.
- Get to know students with disabilities as whole people with diverse interests rather than just a representative of someone with that disability.
- If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the HSU Student Disability Resource Center: (707) 826-4678.
Deafness / Hard of Hearing:
- Make sure not to turn your back to students who are deaf or hard of hearing since they must see your face in order to read lips. Also, make sure that you do not continue conversation with your back turned or turn to look at something (sure as something written on the board) when talking.
- Insure that students can clearly see your mouth in order to read lips. Make sure not to cover your mouth and do not stand in front of windows or other light sources which cause face-obscuring shadows. Even good lip readers can only understand 30-50% of the conversation. Repeat key points and write it on the board.
- When talking to a student with a hearing impairment who utilizes an interpreter, make sure to speak directly to the student and not to the interpreter.
- Most individuals who use a wheelchair will ask for help if they require it; do not assume they need assistance.
- If speaking to an individual who uses a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, get on their level by sitting down, kneeling, or squatting.
- There are a wide range of psychiatric disabilities that may affect students in an academic environment in a multiplicity of ways including: lack of stamina, difficulty concentration, difficulty with stress, interpersonal communication difficulties, fear of authority (including instructors and TA’s), extreme test anxiety, difficulty blocking out distractions, and a range of medication side effects.
- Accommodation strategies include: Allowing these students to sit near the door so that they can leave the room for breaks if need be; permitting the use of tape recorders; when appropriate allowing examinations and projects to be completed in an alternate format (e.g., written instead of oral).
University of Washington. (2009). The Center for Universal Design in Education. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from: DO-IT Web site: http://www.washington.edu/doit/CUDE/
Davis, B.G. (2002). Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from Tools for Teaching Web site: http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/disabilities.html
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Center for Teaching and Learning. (1997). Teaching for Inclusion: Diversity in the College Classroom. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from UNC Web site: ctl.unc.edu/TeachforInclusion.pdf (204 page PDF)
University of Washington..(2005). Including Disability as Diversity in Teaching. Retrieved March 4, 2009, from: Center for Instructional Development and Research Teaching & Learning Bulletin Web site: http://depts.washington.edu/cidrweb/Bulletin/RethinkingDisability.html
Humboldt State University. (2003). Disability-Specific Accommodations: Suggestions for Instructing Individuals with Specific Disabilities. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from HSU Student Disability Resource Center Web site: http://www.humboldt.edu/disability/faculty/disability_specific_accommodations.htm
University of Washington. (2008). Academic Accommodations for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from: DO-IT Web site: http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/psych.html
University of Washington. (2004). Specific Disability Resources. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from: DO-IT Web site: http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Resources/Disability/
Format-Specific Resources (large lectures, science labs, field work, writing-centered courses, etc.):
University of Washington. (2004). Specific Academic Activity Resources. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from: DO-IT Web site: http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Resources/Academic/
Burgstahler, S. (2006). Making Math, Science and Technology Instruction Accessible to Students with Disabilities: A Resource for Teachers and Teacher Educators. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from University of Washington DO-IT Web site: http://www.washington.edu/doit/MathSci/
Humboldt State University. (2003). Discipline-Specific Accommodation Suggestions: Chemistry. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from HSU Student Disability Resource Center Web site: http://www.humboldt.edu/disability/faculty/discipline_specific_accommodations.htm