K-12 Accommodations

Most teachers are responsive to the pedagogical needs of all students. However, some students with disabilities have unique educational challenges. Although teachers may receive direction regarding academic adjustments and accommodations through Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Section 504 plans for specific students, it is good to be thinking about the broad range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics of potential students as you design your curriculum.

Students with disabilities will need to develop self-advocacy skills to succeed in college, careers, and other adult activities. By the end of high school, students with disabilities should be the best source of information regarding their individual learning styles, and possible accommodations such as adaptive technology, alternate formats, and test-taking adjustments. Allowing and encouraging students to privately discuss their needs will reinforce the development of self-advocacy skills as well as provide you with useful information.

Teaching Techniques

Below you will find examples of teaching techniques for classrooms, laboratories, examinations, and field work that benefit all students, but are especially useful for students who have disabilities.


  • Select course materials early so that support staff have enough time to translate them to audiotape, Braille, large print, and/or electronic media.
  • Make course outlines, assignment sheets, and reading lists available in electronic format (e.g., text files, electronic mail, WWW).
  • Face the class when speaking. Repeat discussion questions.
  • Write key phrases and lecture outlines on the blackboard or overhead projector.


  • Take students on tours of the lab they will be working in. Discuss safety concerns.
  • Assign group lab projects in which all students contribute according to their abilities.
  • Arrange lab equipment so that it is easily accessible.
  • Give oral and written lab instructions.

Examinations and Fieldwork

  • Assure that exams test the essential skills or knowledge needed for the class.
  • Make appropriate arrangements for students who require extra time to transcribe or process test questions.
  • Consider allowing students to turn in exams via electronic mail or on diskette.
  • Provide accessible transportation for field trips.

Examples of Academic Accommodations

The following lists provide examples of accommodations typically used by students with specific disabilities.

Low Vision

  • Seating near front of class
  • Large print handouts, lab signs, and equipment labels
  • TV monitors connected to microscopes to enlarge images
  • Class assignments made available in electronic format
  • Computers equipped to enlarge screen images


  • Audiotaped, Brailled or electronic-formatted lecture notes, handouts, and texts
  • Verbal descriptions of visual aids
  • Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
  • Braille lab signs and equipment labels, auditory lab warning signals
  • Adaptive lab equipment (e.g., talking thermometers and calculators, light probes, and tactile timers)
  • Computers with optical character readers, speech output, Braille screen displays and printer output

Hearing Impairment

  • Interpreters, real-time captioning, FM systems, notetakers
  • Open or closed-captioned films, use of visual aids
  • Written assignments, lab instructions, demonstration summaries
  • Visual warning systems for lab emergencies
  • Use of electronic mail for class and private discussions

Learning Disability

  • Notetakers and / or audio-taped class sessions, captioned films
  • Extra exam time, alternative testing arrangements
  • Visual, aural, and tactile instructional demonstrations
  • Computer with speech output, spellcheckers, and grammar checkers

Mobility Impairment

  • Notetakers, lab assistants, group lab assignments
  • Classrooms, labs, and field trips in accessible locations
  • Adjustable tables; lab equipment located within reach
  • Class assignments made available in electronic format
  • Computers equipped with special input devices (e.g., speech input, Morse code input, alternative keyboards)

Health Impairment

  • Notetaker
  • Flexible attendance requirements and extra exam time
  • Assignments made available in electronic format; use of email to facilitate communication

For more information consult the DO-IT publication Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction.