Working Together: K12 Teachers and Students with Disabilities

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Legal Issues

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and 2008 amendments, and state laws prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. According to these laws, no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity. They apply to educational programs at all levels.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) mandates that each state provide free and appropriate education for all children, regardless of abilities and disabilities. It requires that individual education plans (IEPs) be developed for students with disabilities who meet certain criteria. Other students with disabilities may have Section 504 plans.

Disabilities covered by legislation include (but are not limited to) low-vision, blindness, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, mobility impairments, and health impairments.

Working Together: Teachers and Students

Teachers should be responsive to the pedagogical needs of all students. However, students with disabilities may have some unique educational needs. Although you may receive direction regarding academic adjustments and accommodations through IEP plans and Section 504 plans for specific students, it is good to be thinking about the broad range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics of potential students as you design our curriculum. This approach is called universal design of instruction (see

To help students with disabilities develop self advocacy skills that they will need to apply in college, careers, and other life activities, privately discuss with students their individual learning styles and needs. By the end of their high school years, students with disabilities should be the best source of information regarding the assistive technology, alternate formats, assignment and test-taking adjustments, and other accommodations they need to succeed in postsecondary studies and employment. In these settings, it is the individual's responsibility to request reasonable accommodations. Precollege teachers can help a students become comfortable doing this.

Useful Teaching Techniques

Below you will find examples of teaching techniques in the classroom, laboratory, examinations, and fieldwork that benefit all students, but are especially useful for students who have disabilities.



Examination and Fieldwork


The videos, Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities, Building the Team: Faculty, Staff, and Students Working Together, and Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction may be freely viewed online at, or purchased in DVD format.

School Resources

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About DO-IT

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
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Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners


This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #HRD-0227995. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Copyright © 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2004, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.