Can chemistry be taught to students with disabilities?

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Students with disabilities can be successful in chemistry classes if they have access to the content and activities of the classes. When teachers adopt good teaching strategies that apply principles of universal design all students benefit, including those with disabilities. An example of a strategy based on universal design principles is to have students work with partners or in small groups where each student has the opportunity to contribute according to his or her strengths.

Some students with disabilities may require accommodations in order to fully participate in lab science activities. There are many assistive technologies available to address access issues for those with mobility, sensory, and other disabilities. For students who are blind or who have significant visual impairments, instruments that provide auditory or tactile feedback may be helpful. For students with physical disabilities, the position and height of lab tables and equipment may require adjustment or modification. In some cases, computer simulations of laboratory experiments may prove beneficial to students.

To learn more about teaching chemistry to students with disabilities consult The American Chemical Society's publication Teaching Chemistry to Students with Disabilities. For information about chemistry lab simulations consult the Educational Chemistry Software Directory.

To locate sources for assistive technology, consult Where can I find vendors who specialize in assistive technology and materials for science laboratories? Information on strategies for recording data in science labs can be found at How can I help a student record and analyze data in a science lab?

For additional information about teaching science to students with disabilities, consult the DO-IT publications The Winning Equation: Access + Attitude = Success in Math and Science, Working Together: Science Teachers and Students with Disabilities, Making Science Labs Accessible to Students with Disabilities, and Equal Access: Science and Students with Sensory Impairments. For comprehensive set of teaching materials, access Making Math, Science and Technology Instruction Accessible to Students with Disabilities: A Resource for Teachers and Teacher Educators and the AccessSTEM website.

Last update or review: January 18, 2013