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Design and Art

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The nature of artwork, studio, and performance activities pose unique challenges, yet also provide creative opportunities for students with a range of visual, hearing, health, psychiatric, mobility, and learning impairments. Students with disabilities must be assured access to the visual, performing, literary, media, and design arts in postsecondary institutions.

Students require access to three major aspects of the arts. They need to be able to access the physical environment or location of the activity (e.g., studios, theaters, museums). They also need to access and participate in the activities (e.g., drawing, dancing, composing, filming). Finally, they need to be able to access products (e.g., films, videos, plays, musical performances).

Accommodations for design and art vary greatly and depend on the individual's needs and the activity, event, or product. Some students with disabilities need accommodations in order to access courses in the arts. For example, students with hearing impairments may need amplification, captioning, or sign language interpreters to access music, films, or live performances. Some students with mobility impairments need accessible seating in performance halls and theaters, while others need adaptive equipment to manage tools and materials. Students with visual impairments may need printed material such as scripts, sheet music, and literature in large print or Braille. Students are the best source of information about their specific needs.

General suggestions for instructors to make design and art classes more accessible for students with disabilities include:

  • Creating work environments that are wheelchair accessible (e.g., adjustable workstations, spaces that are free of clutter, tools and supplies stored within reach).

  • Allowing students extra time and/or assistance to set up materials.

  • Providing flexibility in assignment requirements and deadlines.

The following paragraphs describe additional accommodation strategies for specific disabilities: blindness, low vision, mobility impairments, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, health impairments, and psychiatric impairments.

Blindness
Students who are blind cannot see visual aids; visual, media, and design arts; music notation; demonstrations; or performances. Design and art class accommodations for students who are blind may include:

  • Descriptive interpreters who provide detailed descriptions of visual information.

  • Brailled materials (e.g., musical notation, scripts, and assignment instructions).

  • Extended assignment deadlines.

  • Clear verbal descriptions of visual aids, graphics, and instructions.

  • Raised-line drawings, tactile diagrams, or models.

For more information about students with blindness, consult the Blindness section of The Faculty Room.

Low Vision
Students with low vision may have difficulty seeing visual aids; visual, media, and design arts; handouts, demonstrations, and performances. Design and art class accommodations for students with low vision may include:

  • Documentation (e.g., plan drawings, musical notation, scripts, assignment instructions) in large print.

  • Preferential seating for demonstrations or performances.

  • Extended assignment deadlines.

  • Clear verbal descriptions of visual aids, graphics, and instructions.

  • Adequate lighting in work spaces.

  • Large monitors and/or screen enlargers.

For more information about students with low vision, consult the Low Vision section of The Faculty Room.

Hearing Impairments
Students who are hard of hearing have difficulty receiving auditory information and may require amplification to hear music or voice. Students who are deaf may need to lip read or use a sign language interpreter. It is important to remember that students with hearing impairments who use an interpreter, lip read or read from a script often find it difficult to simultaneously watch demonstrations, attend to visual details, or follow verbal descriptions. Specific design and art class accommodations for students with hearing impairments may include:

  • Sign language interpreters.

  • Real-time captioning.

  • Captioned videotapes, films, etc.

  • Sound amplification systems.

  • Preferential seating for optimal listening or lip reading.

  • Providing essential information in written format before the assignment begins (e.g., directions, scripts).

  • Extra viewing time for demonstrations or visual aids and descriptions.

For more information about students with hearing impairments, consult the Hearing Impairments section of The Faculty Room.

Learning Disabilities
Some students with learning disabilities have difficulty processing, organizing, and remembering large amounts of information. Completing extensive projects, such as portfolios, may also be challenging due to poor organizational or time management skills. Design and art class accommodations for students with learning disabilities may include:

  • Extended assignment deadlines.

  • Adaptive computer hardware or software to assist with writing, reading, and organization.

For more information about students with learning disabilities, consult the Learning Disabilities section of The Faculty Room.

Mobility Impairments
Physical access to art facilities or equipment may be challenging for a student with a mobility impairment. Students with limited hand use may also have difficulty handling art tools and equipment. Students may need to access some of the following art facilities and equipment: stages and dressing rooms, museums, visual art equipment, cameras, darkroom materials, easels, art supplies, drafting tables, and looms. Design and art class accommodations for students with mobility impairments may include:

  • Adaptive tools and equipment.

  • Accessible field-based learning.

  • Alternative assignments.

  • Assistance with material set-up and preparation (e.g., wedging clay, stretching canvas).

  • A workstation for a student in a wheelchair with a work surface 30 inches from the floor, a 29-inch clearance beneath the work surface to a depth of at least 20 inches, a minimum width of 36 inches to allow leg space for the seated individual, and a clear aisle width of 42 to 48 inches.

  • Uncluttered workspace.

  • Adjustable workstations.

  • Preferential seating to avoid obstacles and physical classroom barriers and that provides visual access to demonstrations.

  • Mirrors above the instructor or enlarged screen demonstrations.

  • Alternative workspaces such as pullout or drop-leaf shelves and counter tops, or lap-desks.

  • Alternate storage methods (e.g., a portable Lazy Susan or a storage cabinet on casters).
  • Accommodations to complete assignments using a computer.
  • Accommodations to transport large drawings or other work.

For more information about students with mobility impairments, consult the Mobility Impairments section of The Faculty Room.

Health Impairments
Students with various health conditions may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention. Students with chemical sensitivities may have difficulty with some types of art supplies and materials. Design and art class accommodations for students with health impairments may include:

  • Flexible attendance requirements.

  • Extended assignment deadlines.

  • Alternative assignments.

For more information about students with health impairments, consult the Health Impairments section of The Faculty Room.

Psychiatric Impairments
Students with various psychiatric conditions may have difficulty attending class regularly. They may fatigue easily or have difficulty completing extensive, long-term projects. Medication side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention. Artwork accommodations for students with health impairments may include:

  • Flexible attendance requirements.

  • Extended assignment deadlines.

  • Alternative assignments.
  • Quiet work areas or meeting areas where noise and other distractions are minimized.

For more information about students with psychiatric impairments, consult the Psychiatric Impairments section of the Faculty Room.

Check Your Understanding:
How could you help a student in your your design or art class, who has low vision, access a Photoshop program? Choose a response.

  1. Provide screen enlargement software and a large-screen computer monitor.

  2. Have the student work with a partner.

  3. Use detailed verbal descriptions during instruction.

  4. Suggest that the student take a different course.