To help faculty, staff, and students become more aware of:
- the rights, responsibilities, potential contributions, and needs of students with disabilities;
- departmental and individual legal rights and responsibilities for ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students in their programs;
- strategies for working with students who have disabilities, emphasizing the faculty-student relationship;
- campus resources available to assist in the provision of appropriate academic accommodations to students with disabilities; and
- actions that individuals and departments can take to ensure that students with disabilities have educational opportunities that are equal to those of their non-disabled peers.
Minimum of one hour; can be covered over several meetings.
Department chair, faculty, staff, teaching assistant, student, or other member of department who has experience working with students who have disabilities. This comprehensive presentation may be co-presented with a staff member of a campus unit responsible for providing academic accommodations for students with disabilities.
- Select presenter(s).
- Add contact information for resources available on your campus to appropriate overhead transparency.
- Create overhead transparencies from overhead transparency templates.
- Add contact information for resources available on your campus to the back page of the handout template Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities.
- Photocopy handout templates:
- Meet the Speakers in the Videotape
- Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities
- Adaptive Technology that Provides Access to Computers
Equipment and Tools
- VHS VCR and monitor
- Overhead projector
- Overhead visuals
- Videotape (Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities) Handouts
- Distribute handouts.
- Introduce presentation.
- Introduce and play videotape.
- Discuss possible accommodation strategies.
- Discuss department/campus issues.
Sample Comprehensive Presentation Script
- Distribute Handouts
- Show Visual #1
Recent advancements in adaptive computer technology, greater reliance on computers, and increased job specialization have resulted in career opportunities in fields that were once considered unsuitable for individuals with disabilities. Many of these careers require knowledge and skills obtained through post-secondary education. Although the number of individuals with disabilities seeking post-secondary education has increased three-fold over the last decade, they are still underrepresented in some academic and career areas. These areas include science, engineering, and mathematics. Federal legislation mandates that, when needed, academic accommodations be made to ensure that otherwise qualified students with disabilities have educational opportunities equal to those of their non-disabled peers.
Surveys show that the number of identified individuals with disabilities seeking post-secondary education has tripled over the last decade. Reasons cited for this increase include:
- advances in medical technology and techniques result in greater numbers of people who survive traumatic accidents and problematic births
- improvements in technology make it possible for more people with disabilities to live independently and have productive lives
- the creation of federal and state mandated pre-college academic support programs helps more students with disabilities complete high school and consider post-secondary education options
- publicity of recently passed federal disability-related legislation increases awareness of rights to accommodations and equal opportunities in education and employment.
Federal legislation mandates that, when needed, academic accommodations be made to ensure that otherwise qualified students with disabilities have educational opportunities equal to those of their non-disabled peers.
Studies show that faculty members, staff, and students who have had interactions with students with disabilities generally have more positive attitudes about working with these students. Further, those who are familiar with accommodation strategies are better prepared to make arrangements which will ensure that students with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in their programs.
Today we are going to view a videotape that was produced at the University of Washington. It will introduce us to several faculty members and successful students with disabilities who have worked well together. In this videotape, faculty share their concerns about and strategies for working with students who have disabilities. In addition, successful students with disabilities tell the viewers first hand about techniques and accommodations that contributed to their success. The videotape emphasizes the importance of the faculty-student relationship. Information about the speakers featured in the videotape is given in the handout Meet the Speakers in the Videotape.
After the videotape, we'll review the handout Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities, for an overview of faculty, staff, and student legal rights and responsibilities, examples of accommodation strategies, and a list of resources available on campus to assist us in our efforts to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students in our programs and courses. Then, we'll discuss the specific obstacles in our department to working with students who have disabilities and explore strategies for improving access.
We may find some useful ideas in the handout Adaptive Technology that Provides Access to Computers which describes various technologies that make it possible for people with disabilities to use computing and network resources.
- Show videotape
The people in this videotape have described some of the problems and solutions that surfaced in their academic experiences. We encounter these issues and others in our programs. Accommodation strategies may be simple; however, they may also require a bit of creativity and flexibility. If we take some time to think about how to make our programs and courses accessible to all students, we'll be better prepared to overcome current and future academic challenges. This videotape may have sparked some questions that will be answered in the next few minutes.
The information we'll cover is included in the handout Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities. We'll go over our legal rights and responsibilities, examples of accommodation strategies, and resources available on our campus to help us work with students who have disabilities. Let's begin with our legal obligations.
According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity.
In other words, we should not assume that a person who has a disability could not successfully participate in our programs or courses, simply because of the disability. Instead, if there is a concern that the student would not be able to complete specific requirements, we should ask the student (as well as someone who has experience in providing academic accommodations) how s/he may be able to accomplish essential tasks required in the program or course.
The law says otherwise qualified individual with a disability. What does otherwise qualified mean?
Otherwise qualified, with respect to post-secondary educational services, means a person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the education program or activity, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices; the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers; or the provision of auxiliary aids and services.
In other words, a person who has a disability is otherwise qualified if s/he can perform the essential tasks of a program or assignment when appropriate and reasonable accommodations are made.
So, what exactly does person with a disability mean?
Person with a disability means any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.
Disabilities covered by legislation include, but are not limited to, spinal cord injuries, loss of limbs, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, hearing impairments, visual impairments, speech impairments, specific learning disabilities, head injuries, psychiatric disorders, Diabetes, Cancer, and AIDS.
The examples listed here are conditions which limit people's abilities to perform specific tasks. Some of these conditions are readily apparent; some are invisible. Additionally, some students who have conditions with the same label may have very different abilities when it comes to performing specific tasks. For example, one student who has Cerebral Palsy may have difficulty walking. For another student, Cerebral Palsy may result in no functional use of his/her hands or voice.
Ultimately, a student who has a disability requires alternative arrangements only when faced with a task that requires a skill that his/her disability precludes. If a student informs an instructor that s/he has a disability and would like to arrange for academic accommodations, the instructor may ask which course or program requirements are expected to be problematic and which solutions and campus resources have been identified to help minimize the problems. Sometimes an effective solution can be found by thinking creatively about how the learning environment could be modified. To sum up, federal legislation requires that we accept otherwise qualified students with disabilities into our academic programs. Additionally, we should work with students to identify and implement academic accommodations which will ensure that they have educational opportunities equal to those of their non-disabled peers. Few of us have the experience to identify the effects of all disabilities on the learning process. We can work with the student and our campus service offices when determining and implementing appropriate academic accommodations.
Examples of Disabilities and Accommodations
I will discuss examples of how some disabilities may affect some students' abilities to learn. Then we'll discuss examples of academic accommodations. I emphasize that these are only examples, since disabilities and learning styles are individualized. Many accommodations are simple, creative alternatives for traditional ways of doing things. You and your students may generate additional uniquely effective ideas.
(Note: The following are brief examples and suggestions only. They are by no means comprehensive. The speaker may wish to substitute personal experiences, examples, or strategies that are more pertinent to the audience.)
For some students who have low vision, standard written materials are too small to read and/or objects appear blurry. Others may only see objects within a specific field of vision. Still others may see an image with sections missing or blacked out. Learning via a visual medium may take longer and may be more mentally fatiguing for people who have low vision than for people who have standard vision.
Examples of accommodations for students with low vision include large print books, handouts, signs, and equipment labels. Since it may take weeks or months to procure class materials in large print or audio-tape format, it is essential that instructors select and prepare their materials well before the materials are needed. Other examples of accommodations include reserved seating where the lighting is best; TV monitors connected to microscopes to enlarge images; class assignments made available in electronic formats; and computers equipped with screen enlargers.
What are some examples of ways in which blindness may affect the ability to learn? Students who have no sight may have difficulty referring to written materials. Students who have had no vision since birth may have difficulty understanding verbal descriptions of visual materials and abstract concepts. Consider the example, "This diagram of ancestral lineage looks like a tree." If one has never seen a tree, it may not be readily apparent that the structure of note has several lines of ancestry which can be traced back to one central family. However, students who lost their vision later in life may find it easier to understand such verbal descriptions. Additionally, demonstrations based on color differences may be more difficult for students with blindness to participate in and understand than demonstrations which emphasize changes in shape, temperature, or texture.
Ready access to printed materials on computer disk can allow a blind person, who has the appropriate technology, to use computers to read text aloud and/or produce it in Braille. Some materials may need to be transferred to audio-tape. Since it may take weeks or even months to procure course materials in Braille or on audio-tape, it is essential that instructors select and prepare their materials well before the materials are needed. During lecture and demonstration, clear, concise narration of the basic points being represented in visual aids is helpful. Other examples of accommodations for blind students include tactile models and raised-line drawings of graphic materials; adaptive lab equipment such as talking thermometers, calculators, light probes, and tactile timers; and computers with optical character readers, voice output, Braille screen displays, and Braille printers.
Some students who have hearing impairments may hear only specific frequencies, sounds within a certain volume range, or nothing at all. Students who are deaf from birth generally have more difficulty speaking and understanding English language structure than those who lose their hearing later in life. Students with hearing impairments may have difficulty following lectures in large halls, particularly if the acoustics cause echoes or if the speaker talks quietly, rapidly, or UN-clearly. People who have hearing impairments may find it difficult to simultaneously watch demonstrations and follow verbal descriptions, particularly if they are watching a sign language interpreter, a real-time captioning screen, or a speaker's lips. In- class discussions may also be difficult to follow or participate in, particularly if the discussion is fast-paced and un-moderated, since there is often lag time between a speaker's comments and interpretation.
Examples of accommodations for students who have hearing impairments include interpreters, sound amplification systems, and note takers; turning one's face towards students when speaking; visual aids; written lecture outlines, class assignments, lab instructions, and demonstration summaries; visual warning systems for lab emergencies; repeating discussion questions and statements made by other students; and electronic mail for faculty- student meetings and class discussions.
Specific Learning Disabilities
Students with specific learning disabilities generally have average to above average intelligence, but may have difficulties demonstrating knowledge and understanding. For a student who has a learning disability, auditory, visual, or tactile information can become jumbled at any point when it is transmitted, received, processed, and re-transmitted. It may take longer for some students who have learning disabilities to process written information, making lengthy reading or writing assignments or tests difficult to complete in a standard amount of time. Some students who have learning disabilities may find it difficult to process and digest oral instructions and lectures. Some students who have learning disabilities may be able to organize and communicate their thoughts in a one-to-one conversation, but may find it difficult to articulate those same ideas in a noisy classroom.
Examples of accommodations for students who have learning disabilities include note takers and audio-taped class sessions; extra exam time, a quiet testing location, and alternative testing arrangements; visual, aural and tactile demonstrations incorporated into instruction; course and lecture outlines; and computers with voice output and spelling and grammar checkers.
Mobility impairments range from lower body impairments, which may require use of canes, walkers, or wheelchairs, to upper body impairments, which may result in limited or no use of the hands. It may take longer for students with mobility impairments to get from one class to another. For some students it may be difficult to get to field work sites. It may also be difficult for some students to manipulate objects, turn pages, write with a pen or pencil, type at a keyboard, or retrieve research materials.
Examples of accommodations for students with mobility impairments include note takers, scribes, and lab assistants; group lab assignments; extended exam time or alternative testing arrangements; accessible locations for classrooms, labs, and field trips; adjustable tables; equipment located within reach; course materials available in electronic formats; computers with special devices such as voice or Morse code input and alternative keyboards, and access to research resources available on the Internet.
Some health conditions and medications affect memory and/or energy levels. Additionally, some students who have health impairments may have difficulties attending classes full-time or on a daily basis.
Examples of accommodations for students who have health impairments include note takers and/or taped class sessions; flexible attendance requirements; extra exam time or alternative testing arrangements; assignments available in electronic format; and electronic mail for faculty- student meetings, class discussions, and distribution of course materials and lecture notes.
To conclude our discussion of accommodation examples, here are some general suggestions for making classes accessible.
Our Campus Services
- Show Visual #16, modified with your list of available services, and discuss.
From ideas presented in the videotape and the examples of accommodations we've discussed, you can see how computer and network technologies can play a key role in increasing the independence, capabilities, and productivity of students with disabilities. The handout, Adaptive Technology that Provides Access to Computers describes some of these technologies.
(Discuss location and types of adaptive computer technologies available on your campus to faculty, staff, and students.)
(Discuss some or all of the following discussion questions.)
- Do we have students with disabilities in our department? What types of disabilities are represented?
- Have any of you worked with students who have disabilities before? What have your experiences been? What strategies did you find to be successful/unsuccessful?
- What can we as a department and as individual instructors do to make our programs more accessible to students who have
- visual impairments?
- hearing impairments?
- mobility impairments?
- learning disabilities?
- health impairments?
(Examples: publications in accessible formats (Braille, large print, electronic); awareness training of advisors and staff; continually evaluate essential program course requirements; and classroom instructional improvements.)
- How can we make our facilities, classrooms, offices, and computer/instructional labs more accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities?
- visual impairments?
- hearing impairments?
- mobility impairments?
- learning disabilities?
- health impairments?
(Examples: Braille labels, signage, building/room/furniture wheelchair access; arrangement and procurement of lab equipment; adaptive technology in computer labs.)
- What actions should be taken and who should coordinate them?
- (Examples: shall we bring in someone from outside of our department to answer specific questions and give us advice regarding appropriate accommodations
- designate someone to find out if there are disability access activities currently in progress on campus that we can contribute to and/or learn from;
- designate someone to find out if there is a reference document already available which summarizes campus resources for working with students with disabilities
- If so, should we distribute to all faculty and staff? If not, should we work to get one created? survey current students with disabilities regarding barriers they are facing and suggestions for removing them; then, work to remove some of the identified barriers survey facilities regarding accessibility
- survey faculty and staff regarding experiences and recommendations for working with students with disabilities, develop a recommendations summary, and create a means by which to disseminate this information to pertinent faculty and staff on campus
- identify and begin the procedure to procure signage, lab equipment, and/or adaptive computer technologies.
- designate someone to research the process for acquiring accommodation equipment or funding?)
Thank you for your time today and your interest in finding ways to ensure that all of the students in our programs have equal opportunities to learn, explore interests, and express ideas.