Writing Assignments

For many students with disabilities, written assignments and exams present significant difficulties. Mobility impairments may make writing physically difficult, while visual impairments may impact a student's access to standard word processing programs and computers. Research (e.g., accessing library resources) and the writing process (e.g., spelling and grammar) may also be difficult due to mobility, hearing, language, or learning disabilities.

Assistive Technology and Other Accommodations

For students with disabilities, computers, assistive technology, software programs, and the Internet have increased the options for written communication. For example, students with learning disabilities can use software programs that help with spelling, grammar, and writing organization, while students with mobility impairments can do online research at home, or submit assignments via e-mail.

Despite improvements in technology, many students with disabilities still need accommodations to complete written assignments. Typical accommodations include:

  • extended assignment deadlines
  • extended exam times
  • alternative test and assignment formats
  • use of assistive technology
  • separate grades for content vs. grammar/spelling

Accommodations for Specific Disabilities

Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities may have difficulty with writing mechanics such as grammar and spelling, or with organizing thoughts and ideas during the writing process. Proofreading and editing may be difficult for a student with dyslexia.

Typical accommodations for students with learning disabilities include:

  • word processors with grammar and spell checkers
  • word processors with outlining and highlighting capabilities
  • word prediction software
  • phonetic spelling software, to render phonetic spelling into correctly spelled words
  • speech recognition products, to dictate assignments or navigate the Internet using voice commands concept mapping software

Blindness

With the availability of computers, assistive technology, and word processing programs, students who are blind are able to complete writing assignments. They can also access publications, journals, and resources to prepare written assignments.

Typical accommodations for students who are blind include:

  • screen-reading software and speech output systems
  • Braille translation software, Braille refreshable display, and Braille embossers
  • locator dots on the keys of computer keyboards
  • scribes
  • alternative test or assignment formats

Low Vision

Students with low vision may have difficulty writing in a standard format.

Typical accommodations for students with low vision include:

  • large-print handouts and visual aids
  • screen- and/or text-enlargers

Hearing Impairments

Hearing impairments do not interfere with the physical aspects of writing. However, for students who use American Sign Language (ASL), English is considered a second language; they may have difficulty with English grammar.

Typical accommodations for students with hearing impairments include:

  • examples of writing expectations (e.g., a sample of a completed assignment of acceptable quality, including content and grammar/syntax)
  • separate grades for content vs. grammar/spelling

Mobility Impairments

Students with mobility impairments may have difficulty using their hands to write or use a keyboard. Fatigue may be an issue during lengthy writing assignments or long exams.

Typical accommodations for students with mobility impairments include:

  • computer modifications to access word processing programs
  • extended assignment deadlines
  • extended exam times

Health Impairments & Psychiatric Impairments

Students with health conditions or psychiatric impairments may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily and/or have difficulty writing due to physical problems or medication side effects.

Typical accommodations for students with health impairments and students with psychiatric impairments include:

  • word processing programs
  • extended assignment deadlines
  • extended exam times

Consult the AccessComputing Knowledge Base

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

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