The Thread: College Accommodations

Sheryl Burgstahler

I wanted to share with you a discussion that took place in our online discussion forum so that you can get the flavor of the many rich conversations the AccessSTEM community has online. Some forum posts are edited for clarity and brevity.

Many of you are in college or have graduated from college. It would be informative to others if each of you would share the specific accommodations you have received in college classes.

Student Team Member: At San Jose State University, I had the following accommodations: a special center with computers running the assistive technology I needed where I could take my exams; extra time and assistance for taking tests; and a disability center that trained me to use assistive technology, converted my textbooks and exams to an accessible format, and staff that helped me talk to professors about accommodations.

Ambassador: At UW Seattle, my accommodations included alternate format for texts (usually large print or electronic), large print tests and extended test time, extensions on projects/papers if needed, adaptive equipment in class for viewing lectures and notes, and a single occupancy dorm room (one person in a room made for two people at regular rate).

Ambassador: I received a printed copy of the presentation slides (since most of my classes use them as notes) and a testing space option with extended time on tests.

Student Team Member: The accommodations I received were: books on tape, a note taker, and extra test-taking time.

Ambassador: Right now my accommodations are at a minimum since my classes are online. But I do ask for transcripts of the videos that I have to watch. When I attend classes on campus, I use my laptop to record the lectures while I type my notes.

Student Team Member: For my diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome/ high-functioning autism, my accommodations varied depending on the subject-matter of individual courses. For instance in mathematics courses where I frequently struggle, I felt I needed more accommodations that would help me succeed than a course in geology. Here is an aggregate list of accommodations I have received: extended time to write exams (usually one-and-a-half times the allotted time); for a public speaking course, I requested and received accommodation that my speaking not be graded based on the my speaking patterns (i.e., monotone, somewhat halting inflection), which for many autistics, including me, is a notable characteristic; and for courses that have a field trip component, (common in geoscience courses) I requested that my instructor give me advance notice as to the "four Ws" what, when, where, and why. My brain needs extra time to process what I am about to do and where the trip is.

Ambassador: I received books from Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) and the disability resources center at Portland State. I had in-class assistants describe what the instructor was drawing on the board for math and statistics classes. I used a standard laptop for note taking. It had Microsoft Excel and a calculator so I could perform calculations during math and science classes. In addition, I installed Victor Reader Soft on my laptop so I could read books from RFB&D.

Ambassador: I have Asperger's syndrome. Normally, I get double the time on tests, which ranges from two-to-four hours extra and testing in a private room with a proctor at request. I have a digital voice recorder to record lectures because it is hard to take notes and listen to professors. I have a note taker for classes, which helps me make study guides for tests, or I get the presentation slides from the professor for notes. I get instructions repeated for group assignments, and professors can pick who I work with. I have medical and health warnings for my medications that cause drowsiness, so I am not penalized for sick days.

Ambassador: I've had a number of accommodations over the past few years (I'm deaf), which all boil down to accessibility of audio information. Here's what has been provided, depending on the situation: ASL interpreters (especially good for labs); live transcribers; and remote captioning, interpreting, and transcribing.

Student Team Member: My college accommodation involved receiving course material in an electronic format, especially in my computer classes. Receiving class material and communication with professors was done via email. If the disability resource center (DRC) created an electronic document for me, I accessed it with a flash drive. For lab classes, the DRC technician would sit with the professor and me while we figured out how best for me to participate and make adjustments to the lab equipment. It was fascinating to the class whenever the technician was showing my professor how accessible technology works, the lab was almost like a show and tell. Also, I was able to use my own laptop in class, which made it possible to take my exams in class as well.

Student Team Member: I have orthopedic issues with my hands, wrists, shoulders, and neck. My accommodations have included extra time on exams, digitally recorded lectures and meetings, note takers, using a laptop during class, and using voice recognition software on my laptop. Most of my classes are in advanced math and biological science so the professors don't have the time to draw out complex diagrams during our lectures. It is more expedient to have the notes in a pre-made, electronic format. Since most of my cohort knows that I have a digital recorder, I have become the go to person for my classmates when they miss a lecture. My voice recorder's software saves to either a .wav or MP3 format and I can just transfer the lectures to them via a flash drive or an electronic drop box. Additionally, since I am a graduate student, I have an assigned office and designated desk space. I was granted an office in a more centrally located building to help me avoid carrying a full backpack between campus multiple times a day.

Student Team Member: At UW Seattle (biology major), my accommodations include a note taker, time-and-one-half on exams, which are proctored by the department or at the disability office; early or priority class registration; and a reduced credit load. I just learned about a special study room for students with disabilities at the UW Seattle's Suzzallo library. This is great since the library can get crowded and noisy.

Picture of a group of students and a science teacher in a lab.
A University of Washington faculty member prepares a lab experiment with accommodations for three high school students.