Lesson 14: Conclusion

Serving Students with Disabilities
Distance Learning Course


The purpose of this lesson is to summarize briefly the main points presented in this course and to gain awareness of the changes you have considered making to your existing programs or services.

Questions to reflect upon while reading the content

  1. What have you learned from this course?
  2. Have you learned strategies for making your service area more accessible to students with disabilities?
  3. Are you familiar with resources available to assist you in accommodating students with disabilities in your programs or with access to your materials?


The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and mandates the provision of reasonable accommodations to ensure access to programs and services. Accommodating students with disabilities in higher education is a shared responsibility. The best accommodations are unique to the individual and develop from a cooperative relationship between the staff member and the student, with the assistance of the campus disabled student services office. Accommodations can be simple, creative alternatives to traditional ways of doing things.

In postsecondary settings, students are the best source of information regarding their special needs. They are responsible for disclosing their disabilities and requesting accommodations. You and staff in the disabled student services office should always remember that disability-related information is confidential and is not to be disclosed without permission from the student.

Flexibility and effective communication between the student and staff members are key in approaching accommodations. Although students with similar disabilities may require different accommodations, it is useful for you to be aware of typical strategies for working with students who have various types of impairments. With this basic knowledge you will be better prepared to ask students to clarify their needs and to discuss accommodation requests.

Universal Design

Employing universal design principles when initially designing materials, the facility, and services creates an accessible and welcoming environment, minimizing the need to alter it later for individuals with special needs.

Hearing Impairments

The term "hearing impairment" refers to functional hearing loss that ranges from mild to profound. Often, people who have no functional hearing refer to themselves as "DEAF." Those with milder hearing loss refer to themselves as "HARD OF HEARING." HEARING IMPAIRMENTS make it difficult or impossible to hear conversations, access multimedia materials, and participate in discussions. It is important to remember that a student who is using an interpreter or who is lip-reading will have DIFFICULTY looking at another resource at the same time. Completing forms may also be a challenge.

Examples of GENERAL ACCOMMODATIONS include the following:

  • Interpreters
  • Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), sound amplification systems
  • Note takers
  • Real-time captioning
  • Electronic mail
  • Visual warning systems for emergencies
  • Flashes or contrast changes for computer auditory signals

Visual Impairments

Students with LOW VISION have some usable vision. Those with BLINDNESS are unable to see to read printed text, even when enlarged.

Typical accommodations for LOW VISION include the following:

  • Large print reading materials (e.g., books, handouts, signs, and equipment labels). Large print is defined as 16- to 18-point bold type, depending on the typeface used.
  • Print materials in audiotaped or electronic formats.
  • Computers with screen enlargers, optical character readers (which convert print to speech output), or speech output.
  • The use of a reader or scribe for completing forms.

Typical accommodations for BLINDNESS include the following:

  • Audiotaped, Brailled, or electronic-formatted text-based materials
  • Verbal descriptions of visual aids and graphics
  • Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
  • Braille signs and equipment labels, auditory warning signals
  • Computer with optical character reader, speech output, Braille screen display and printer output

Consult the disabled student services office on your campus to coordinate production of materials using BRAILLE, AUDIOTAPE, TACTILE MODELS, and RAISED-LINE DRAWINGS.

Mobility Impairments

Mobility impairments may make walking, sitting, bending, carrying, or using fingers, hands, or arms difficult or impossible. Mobility impairments may be permanent or temporary, resulting from many causes, including amputation, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and cerebral palsy.

General accommodations for students with mobility impairments include the following:

  • Accessible locations (buildings, floors, office space)
  • Wide aisles and uncluttered work areas
  • Adjustable-height and -tilt tables
  • All equipment located within reach
  • Computers with speech input, Morse code, and alternative keyboards
  • Access to handicapped parking spaces, wheelchair ramps, curb cuts, restrooms, and elevators
  • Materials available in electronic format
  • Access to resources available on the Internet
  • A scribe or extended time to complete forms
  • Sitting down or moving back to create a more comfortable angle for conversation with a student in a wheelchair.

Health Impairments

Health impairments affect daily living and can have a temporary or chronic impact on a student's performance.

Typical accommodations for students who have health impairments include the following:

  • Note takers or scribes
  • Extended exam time or alternative testing arrangements
  • The use of electronic mail or web-based materials
  • An ergonomic workstation with adjustable keyboard trays, monitor risers, glare guards, foot rests, adjustable chairs, and/or antifatigue matting
  • Speech recognition computer input devices, ergonomic keyboards, one-handed keyboards, expanded keyboards, or miniature keyboards

Learning Disabilities

LEARNING DISABILITIES are documented disabilities that may affect reading, processing information, remembering, calculating, and spatial abilities. When considering accommodations, remember that students with learning disabilities generally have average to above-average intelligence but may have difficulties acquiring and demonstrating knowledge and understanding. By working together, YOU, the STUDENT, and the DISABLED STUDENT SERVICES STAFF help create an environment to encourage success in the student's endeavors.

Typical accommodations for students with learning disabilities include the following:

  • Providing quiet meeting location
  • Distributing concise outlines or other written materials
  • Providing detailed instructions on audiotapes or in print or electronic formats
  • Reinforcing directions verbally
  • Breaking large amounts of information or instructions into smaller segments

Psychiatric Disabilities

The broad range of PSYCHIATRIC or MENTAL HEALTH impairments and the "invisible" nature of the disabilities complicate making accommodations for students with the various psychiatric or mental health conditions. They may have difficulty attending class regularly; they may FATIGUE easily or have difficulty taking notes. MEDICATION side effects may impact endurance, memory, and attention. Students may have particular problems receiving, processing, and recalling information during times of STRESS.

Technology Implications

In order to help your students, it is important for you to be aware of the many computer access issues facing students with disabilities and the hardware and software solutions for providing access to computers and electronic resources. Incorporating universal design principles into new material during the initial planning reduces the need for accommodations later. In addressing COMPUTER ACCESS ISSUES, the disabled student services office can also help coordinate with computing services staff.


This course has presented universal design and examples of accommodations for a variety of situations involving students with disabilities. The Student Services Conference Room website at https://www.washington.edu/doit/distance-learning-course-serving-students-disabilities provides a comprehensive resource for further study and future reference.

By reflecting on YOUR own department or office while reading the CONTENT in each lesson, you were guided to consider possible modifications to your services and materials. By considering and discussing your own services and materials, the services and materials of other participants, and the ACCESS ISSUES in case study readings, you were encouraged to develop an awareness of additional strategies and accommodations.

When accommodations are needed, the best accommodations are unique to the individual student and result from the coordinated efforts of you, the student, and the disabled student services staff. You now have additional resources to assist you in developing accommodations that can be simple, creative alternatives to traditional ways of doing things.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or problems. Also consider keeping in touch with other participants in this group. One of the benefits of this course is developing a network of people with whom to share our questions and our knowledge.

Topic for Discussion

In an email message to the group, state one thing that you have learned in this course that will help you make your service area more accessible to students with disabilities.

Your email SUBJECT line should read: Access 14: CONCLUSION.

Further Information

You can read answers to frequently asked questions, explore case studies, or access additional resources at The Conference Room, https://www.washington.edu/doit/distance-learning-course-serving-students-disabilities.

(c) 2004 DO-IT. Permission is granted to copy material in this email for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged. Contact DO-IT at 1-206-685-3648 or doit@u.washington.edu