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Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology

The Faculty Room

Accommodations and
Universal Design
Rights and Responsibilities Faculty Resources Faculty Presentations Resources for Trainers, Staff, and Administrators
Disability Type | Academic Activity | Universal Design
Large Lectures | Group Work | Test Taking | Field Work | Science Labs | Computer Labs | Computers - Adaptive Technology | Web Pages | Distance Learning | Design and Art | Writing Assignments | International/Travel Programs | Work-Based Learning
A teacher explains something to a group of students around a computer

The largest gap between people with disabilities and people without disabilities in the United States is employment.

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Academic Activity

Increasing numbers of students with disabilities are pursuing postsecondary education. In 1998, approximately 9% of newly enrolled freshmen in postsecondary education reported a disability. This number has tripled since 1978, when approximately 3% of entering students reported disabilities (HEATH Resource Center). The American with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are key laws that protect the rights of students with disabilities. These laws mandate equal access for individuals with disabilities to all of the programs, courses, and activities offered by postsecondary institutions.

Students are the best source of information regarding their academic needs. Students are responsible for disclosing their disabilities and requesting accommodations. Students are required to have appropriate documentation of their disabilities and, typically, register with the campus disabled student services office when seeking academic accommodations. Students' disabilities may include:

  • Blindness.

  • Low vision.

  • Hearing impairments.

  • Mobility impairments.

  • Learning disabilities.

  • Health impairments.

  • Psychiatric/mental health impairments.

    These disabilities may or may not affect the participation of a student in your class. However, if a student cannot access your course or materials you must provide reasonable accommodations so the student is able to participate.

    In postsecondary education settings, accommodations often vary by academic activity. Some students may need multiple accommodations to meet requirements in various lecture, lab, discussion, and fieldwork activities. Flexibility and effective communication between the students, disabled student services staff, and the instructors are key to implementing successful accommodations.

    Although accommodations vary based on student needs, course content, information, resources, and physical facilities, it is useful for faculty to be aware of accommodation strategies commonly used for common academic activities. With this basic knowledge you will be better prepared to ask students to clarify their needs and to discuss accommodation requests.

    Sub-sections of this area of The Faculty Room are organized around academic activities. Within each section you'll find examples of accommodations for students in different academic activities, a case study, frequently asked questions, and resources. Choose one of the following sections to learn more:

  • Large lectures.

  • Group work/discussions.

  • Test taking.

  • Fieldwork.

  • Science labs.

  • Computer labs (facilities).

  • Computers (adaptive technology).

  • Web pages.

  • Distance learning courses.

  • Artwork.

  • Writing assignments.

  • International travel programs.

  • Work-based learning.