Teaching Science and Math to Students with Disabilities

As you prepare to teach preservice and inservice teachers about access to science and math instruction for students with disabilities, consider this presentation example.


After this presentation, educators and administrators will be able to:

  • list challenges students with disabilities face in gaining and demonstrating knowledge in science, engineering, and mathematics classes
  • discuss accommodations for students with various types of disabilities in science, engineering, and mathematics courses
  • describe a process for selecting appropriate accommodations


Approximately 60 minutes.


Department chair, educators, staff, teaching assistant, student, or other department member. Little experience working with students with disabilities is required to deliver this short presentation.


  • Select the presenter(s).
  • Develop presentation outline and activities using the "Sample Script" provided in this section and the ideas listed in the Presentation Tips section of this handbook.
  • Create presentation slides from templates provided in the Presentation Tools section.
  • Add the contact information for campus resources to the "Resources" slide and to printed publications as appropriate.
  • Photocopy handout templates Working Together: Science Teachers and Students with Disabilities, Equal Access: Science and Students with Sensory Impairments, Access + Attitiude = Success in Math and Science, and Student Abilities Profile (optional). Create alternative formats as necessary.
  • Photocopy the presentation evaluation instrument to distribute at the end of the session (see pages 239-241 for examples) or create your own.
  • Add links on your department's website to AccessDL, AccessSTEM, Center for Universal Design in Education, and the Faculty Room.

Equipment and Tools

Presentation Outline

  1. Distribute handouts.
  2. Introductions.
  3. Begin presentation.
  4. Introduce and play videos as noted in the script.
  5. Hold a discussion on possible accommodations on your campus.
  6. Discuss department or campus issues.
  7. Discuss case study (optional).
  8. Note campus resources.
  9. Distribute and collect completed evaluation instruments.


For further preparation resources for this presentation, consult

Sample Script

[Distribute handouts, Working Together: Science Teachers and Students with Disabilities and Equal Access: Science and Students with Sensory Impairments.]

Today we will be discussing how to provide full access to science and math academic activities to students with disabilities.

The objectives for today's session include to increase your understanding of challenges that students with disabilities face in science and mathematics classes, accommodation strategies and processes, and resources.

As scientific fields make increasing use of technology, new opportunities emerge for people with a variety of abilities and disabilities. When students with disabilities and science and math teachers form learning partnerships, the possibilities for academic and career success multiply.

Some disabilities are visible; some are invisible. Since each person's situation is unique, the best solutions for maximizing participation come about when the student and teacher work together to develop creative alternatives to challenges faced by students with disabilities. Such challenges may occur when gaining and demonstrating knowledge. In most cases, it takes just a little creativity, patience, and common sense to make it possible for everyone to participate and learn.


We will view a video in which college-bound high school students with disabilities share their access challenges and accommodation needs in science courses.

The students in this presentation shared their experiences. Let's discuss some of their solutions. This information is summarized in your handout entitled Working Together: Science Teachers and Students with Disabilities. Imagine having these students enrolled in a science course at our school. Their challenges can be broken down into two areas: gaining knowledge and demonstrating knowledge.

[Discuss the access challenges and solutions listed below and in the handout. Encourage comments, suggestions, and experiences from the participants.]

Gaining Knowledge

Many students with disabilities face challenges in gaining knowledge. Examples of specific challenges and accommodations follow:

  • The student who has difficulty reading standard text or graphics because of a visual impairment can benefit from materials in large print or Braille, in audio format, or via a computer and adaptive technology that provide enlarged text, speech, or Braille output.
  • The student who cannot see materials on a blackboard or overhead projector because of a visual impairment can benefit from binoculars, verbalization of the content, and oral descriptions of all visually displayed materials.
  • For students who cannot read output from standard equipment because of a visual impairment, you can interface the lab equipment with a computer and provide large-print or speech output. Affix Braille and large print labels onto lab equipment so that they can identify and operate the equipment.
  • Students with difficulty hearing instruction may use an FM system, an interpreter, and printed materials. In addition, the instructor can face the student for lipreading and use an overhead projector or a blackboard. Students with difficulty hearing a multimedia or video can be accommodated with captioned presentations or an interpreter.
  • Students unable to participate in class discussions because of hearing or speech impairments can be accommodated with electronic communications (e.g., with an interpreter or email); where the ability to hear or speak is required, a laptop with speech output can be used.
  • Visual, aural, and tactile demonstrations can be incorporated into instruction for students who have trouble understanding concepts due to a specific learning disability.
  • Students experiencing reading difficulties due to learning disabilities may benefit from extra time on assignments and tests and access to materials via a computer equipped with speech and large-print output and Internet access.
  • Students unable to take notes in class because of mobility or visual impairments can benefit from in-class access to a computer with adaptive technology and a word processor.
  • Some accommodations for students experiencing problems operating lab equipment and conducting lab experiments due to mobility impairments may include accessible facilities, adjustable-height tables, a lab partner, a scribe, computer-controlled lab equipment with alternative input devices (e.g., speech, Morse code, alternative keyboard), or modified scientific equipment.
  • Students who have difficulty seeing demonstrations or viewing lab experiments while seated in a wheelchair can benefit from video projectors or overhead mirrors above demonstrations as well as flexible seating arrangements.
  • Flexible scheduling arrangements may assist students with difficulties completing assignments or labs due to health impairments.
  • Information that is accessible on computers (e.g., websites) equipped with adaptive technology can accommodate students who have problems doing library or book research.

Demonstrating Knowledge

Some students with disabilities cannot demonstrate mastery of a subject by writing, speaking, or working through a problem in a classroom or lab. Many of the accommodations used for gaining knowledge can also help the student demonstrate mastery of a subject.

Examples of other accommodations follow:

  • The student who has difficulty completing and submitting worksheets and tests because of a visual impairment or a specific learning disability can be accommodated with worksheets and tests in large print, in Braille, in audio format, or via the computer; access to adaptive technology that provides enlarged, voice, or Braille as well as standard print output as necessary.
  • For students experiencing trouble completing a test or assignment because of a disability that affects the speed at which it can be completed, the instructor can schedule extra time or make alternative testing arrangements.
  • In-class access to a computer with alternative input (e.g., Morse code, speech, alternative keyboard) devices can benefit students who cannot complete a test or assignment because of an inability to write.

Science and Students with Sensory Impairments

Science activities often erect barriers for students with hearing and visual impairments. In the next video we will hear about access barriers and solutions for students with sensory impairments. This information is summarized in your handout Equal Access: Science and Students with Sensory Impairments.

Do you have any examples of how you can make your science activities more accessible to students with visual or hearing impairments?

[Optional: Show the video and distribute the handout The Winning Equation: Access + Attitude = Success in Math and Science.]

Case Study

[Consider having participants discuss a case presented in one of the Student Abilities Profiles earlier in this section of the notebook or the AccessSTEM Knowledge Base.]


Accommodations for students with disabilities can be complex and expensive. However, most accommodations are inexpensive and simply require creative problem solving on the part of students, instructors, and support services.

[Distribute and collect completed evaluation instruments.]


For comprehensive information on accommodations, a wide range of case studies, frequently asked questions, and general resources, visit the AccessSTEM website. This resource was developed at the University of Washington as part of a nationwide project to provide resources to math and science educators. Other online resources include AccessDL, the Center for Universal Design in Education and the Faculty Room. [Arrange to provide links from your campus' department website before the presentation.] Consider linking to these websites from your department's website.

Thank you for your time today and for your interest in finding ways to ensure that all of the students in our math and science classes have equal opportunities to learn, explore interests, and express ideas.