Group Work and Discussions

Some students with disabilities face challenges participating in group discussions and other interactive activities. Specific needs vary greatly. However, there are general teaching strategies for group discussions that benefit all students, including those with disabilities. These strategies include:

  • establishing clear ground rules for discussion
  • providing electronic course/discussion materials
  • describing visual materials verbally
  • paraphrasing questions and answers, and highlighting key points throughout the discussion
  • creating options for electronic discussions

Accommodations for Specific Disabilities

Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities may have difficulty processing, organizing, and remembering large amounts of verbal information. Taking effective notes may also be challenging, due to poor writing and/or organizational skills. Some students may also have difficulty communicating verbally.

Typical accommodations for students with learning disabilities include:

  • recorded sessions
  • note takers
  • laptop computers for note taking
  • electronic discussions via email, where there is sufficient time to formulate responses

Blindness

Students who are blind cannot see presenters, visual aids, printed materials, or demonstrations.

Typical accommodations for students who are blind include:

  • recorded sessions
  • Braillers or laptop computers for note taking
  • rules that require participants to state their names prior to speaking
  • verbal descriptions of visual content
  • handouts in Braille, on tape, or in electronic format, to be read before the group meeting

Low Vision

Students with low vision may have difficulty seeing visual aids, handouts, and demonstrations.

Typical accommodations for students with low vision include:

  • recorded class sessions
  • note takers
  • laptop computers for note taking
  • preferential seating
  • large-print handouts and visual aids

Hearing Impairments

Verbal discussions are challenging for students with hearing impairments or deafness. Students with residual hearing or who use hearing aids may require amplification, while other students may need to lip read or use sign language interpreters. Environmental conditions—e.g., background noise, poor lighting—can also impact a student's ability to hear or to read lips effectively.

Typical accommodations for students with hearing impairments include:

  • sign language interpreters
  • real-time captioning
  • captioned video presentations
  • assistive listening devices (ALDs) and microphones
  • preferential seating
  • electronic discussions

There are also communication strategies that assist students with hearing impairments. These include:

  • facing the student when speaking
  • speaking clearly and at a normal rate
  • speaking directly to the student, not their interpreter
  • repeating discussion questions and statements made by other students
  • writing key discussion points, questions, and answers on a white board or overhead projector
  • indicating who is speaking by gesturing or pointing

Mobility Impairments

Physical access to the discussion may be challenging for students with mobility impairments. A student who has difficulty using her hands will have difficulty taking written notes.

Typical accommodations for students with mobility impairments include:

  • recorded sessions
  • note takers
  • laptop computers for note taking
  • preferential and accessible seating

Health Impairments and Psychiatric Impairments

Students with health conditions or psychiatric impairments may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily, and medication side effects may impact their endurance, memory, and attention.

Typical accommodations for students with health impairments include:

  • recorded sessions
  • note takers
  • laptop computers for note taking
  • electronic discussions
  • flexible attendance requirements

Speech Impairments

Students with speech impairments may have difficulty speaking in group discussions. Some students with speech impairments use augmentative communication systems, including computer-based devices that provide speech output.

Typical accommodations for students with speech impairments include:

  • adequate time for the student to speak
  • electronic discussions

Consult the AccessComputing Knowledge Base

The AccessComputing Knowledge Base contains Q&As, Case Studies, and Promising Practices.