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Students with disabilities need access to fieldwork experiences that are part of postsecondary coursework or program requirements. Instructors who require fieldwork experiences need to make sure that fieldwork sites, supplementary materials, and assignments are accessible to students with a range of hearing, visual, health, mobility, psychiatric, and learning impairments.
Fieldwork experiences may pose several challenges for students with disabilities. For example, transportation to the site, as well as access to the fieldwork site or building may be problematic for a student with a mobility impairment. A student who is blind may need orientation to a new environment prior to the fieldwork experience. Likewise, a student with a health impairment may have difficulty with a full-time schedule or fieldwork locations that involve travel or overnight stays.
Educational institutions should make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities in all fieldwork opportunities they offer. Fieldwork accommodations for students with disabilities will vary based on student needs, the fieldwork site, and the fieldwork requirements.
Some individuals with disabilities will need the same accommodations at a fieldwork site that they use to complete academic work. For example, a student who is blind will need Braille, audiotapes, or an adapted computer system to access printed material. For other students, new responsibilities and environments create new challenges and potential barriers. It is important that instructors are flexible when planning fieldwork assignments.
Instructors should review the accessibility of selected fieldwork sites and requirements early in the course planning process. Reviewing the requirements and designing activities so that they are accessible to students with a wide variety of abilities and disabilities will reduce or eliminate barriers and the need for special accommodations. Instructors and support staff can also invite students with disabilities to discuss their needs early in the term to help with timely fieldwork placements or the development of appropriate alternatives or substitutions.
Cooperative efforts between the student, instructor, and support staff can help to assure that fieldwork experiences are successful. Examples of fieldwork accommodations that apply to students with a variety of disabilities include:
- Fieldwork sites in accessible locations.
- Accessible transportation to and from the fieldwork location.
- Extended time to complete fieldwork assignments.
- Flexible attendance requirements.
- Access to disabled parking spaces.
- Orientation to the fieldwork site for students with visual impairments.
- Group fieldwork activities.
- Printed material in large print, in Braille, and/or on tape.
- Sign language interpreters, captioning, and/or TTY access.
- Access to computer hardware and software.
Check Your Understanding
Consider the following example. A university student who uses a wheelchair for mobility needs to collect water samples during a biology field trip. It requires hiking forest trails that are not accessible for the student. What accommodations would be appropriate for this student? Choose a response.
- Waive the field trip requirement.
- Allow him to complete an alternative assignment.
- Change the fieldwork site to a more accessible location.
- Change the fieldwork assignment.
- Have the student work with a partner to collect the field samples.
Fieldwork accommodations will vary based on the needs of each individual and conditions related to a fieldwork site and learning requirements. For additional information on specific disabilities and academic accommodations that may also be applicable in fieldwork programs, see the following sections of this website: