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Speech recognition programs may not always be an appropriate writing accommodation for students with learning disabilities.

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Writing Assignments FAQ

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Q. GRAMMAR: How do I grade written essays when syntax and grammatical errors are evident for students who have a hearing loss and use American Sign Language (ASL)?

A. English is a second language for many people who are deaf, and therefore, presents unique challenges for the student and professor when written language assignments are evaluated. For students who rely on American Sign Language, transferring thoughts to a written form is difficult because ASL does not have verb tenses. As a student who is deaf explained, "I cannot hear the tenses in phrases such as 'I have been doing,' because American Sign Language uses symbols."

You must provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability, but should not lower your academic standards. Correct his grammar and syntax and assist the student in developing his English skills. You may wish to refer him to a tutor or writing lab.

You may suggest that the student submit two copies of each written assignment. This provides the opportunity to comment and grade an essay for content and then to note or grade grammatical errors on the duplicate essay, as applicable to the course criteria. The student rewrites the essay given grammatical feedback, then places the grammatically corrected copy in a "personal grammar journal" and uses it as a reference in future writing.

Q. LITERATURE SEARCHES AND ACCESS: How does a student with low vision conduct a literature search and access the literature in preparation for a writing assignment?

A. Many students with low vision are able to access library catalogs and other databases on the Internet to search for relevant articles and books as long as computers are equipped to enlarge text on the screen and/or read the screen with speech output software. Students may also work with library staff or the disability services office to request a library assistant.

Q. BLINDNESS: In what format can a student who is blind turn in written assignments?

A. In most cases, a student who is blind will type written assignments using a computer that is equipped with speech output. The assignments can then be submitted in print form, via electronic mail, or on computer diskette, depending on the preferences of the instructor. At times, students may also choose to dictate short answers to a reader who will handwrite responses. The reader is typically provided by the campus disabled student services office.

Q. EXTENDING DEADLINES: Do I need to extend assignment deadlines for students who have learning disabilities that affect their writing or students who have limited use of their hands?

A. An extended assignment deadline might be a reasonable accommodation for students with these types of disabilities as well as those with low vision, health, or psychiatric impairments. The need for and length of an extended deadline depends upon the student's disability, and the nature of the assignment. Consult the staff at your disabled student services office regarding the most appropriate accommodation for a specific student.

For answers to more questions, search the Knowledge Base.