Working Together: Teaching Assistants and Students with Disabilities University of WashingtonPDF Version (323 KB) - get Acrobat Reader
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Washington State laws prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
According to federal law, 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.
"Qualified" with respect to postsecondary educational services, means "a person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the education program or activity, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices; the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers; or the provision of auxiliary aids and services."
"Person with a disability" means "any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities [including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working], (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.
Disabilities covered by legislation include (but are not limited to) AIDS, Cancer, Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes, Epilepsy, head injuries, hearing impairments, specific learning disabilities, loss of limbs, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, psychiatric disorders, speech impairments, spinal cord injuries, and vision impairments.
UW Identification and Accommodation Process
Faculty members and teaching assistants are encouraged to be responsive to the pedagogical needs of all students. However, students with disabilities may have some additional educational needs which they should discuss with each faculty member. Teaching assistants can also play an important role in making accommodations. It is helpful to include a statement on the class syllabus inviting students who have disabilities to discuss academic needs. An example of such a statement is "To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS), 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924 (voice) or 206-543-8925 (TTY). If you have a letter from DRS indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations you might need in this class."
A student with a disability needing accommodation should provide each instructor with a letter from DRS indicating possible accommodations. The faculty member can then work with the student to make the appropriate accommodation(s) for the specific class. Under no circumstances should the faculty member or teaching assistant refuse to make a requested accommodation; instead, if agreement is not reached on an accommodation, the faculty member should contact DRS for assistance.
If a student does not present a letter from DRS and does not have a visible disability, the faculty member should refer the student to DRS prior to making an accommodation for a disability.
UW faculty members are encouraged to apply universal design principles in their instruction to minimize needs for accommodations and to make their courses more accessible to all students. For more information about universal design of instruction, consult www.uw.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/equal_access_udi.html.
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.
- Select course materials early so that students and DRS or the ATL staff have enough time to translate them to audio-recording, Braille, and large print.
- Make syllabi, short assignment sheets, and reading lists available in electronic format (e.g., CD, email, online).
- Face the class when speaking. Repeat discussion questions.
- Write key phrases and lecture outlines on the blackboard or overhead projector.
- Take the student on a tour of the lab she or he will be working in. Discuss safety concerns.
- Assign group lab projects in which all students contribute according to their abilities.
- Arrange lab equipment so that it is accessible to and visible by everyone.
- Give oral and written lab instructions.
Examination and Fieldwork
- Ensure that exams test the essential skills or knowledge needed for the course or field of study.
- Some students will require extra time to transcribe or process test questions. Follow DRS recommendations regarding extra time on examinations.
- Consider allowing students to turn in exams via email or Collect It (http://catalyst.washington.edu/web_tools/collectit.html).
- Ask student how she or he might be able to do specific aspects of fieldwork. Attempt to include student in fieldwork opportunities, rather than automatically suggesting non-fieldwork alternatives.
- Include special needs in requests for field trip vehicle reservations.
About this Publication
This brochure is available online at www.uw.edu/doit/. The content of this brochure was developed by the following units at the University of Washington:
- Center for Change in Transition Services
- Disability Resources for Students
- Disabled Student Services
- DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology)
- Rehabilitation Medicine
A 9-minute video, Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities, may be freely viewed online at www.uw.edu/doit/Video/, or purchased in DVD format.
Copyright © 2014, 2013, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2001, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.
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:DO-IT
University of Washington
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.