Supporting Students with Disabilities
The Office of Accessibility Resources is the campus office designated to provide appropriate accommodations, services, and assistive technology for students with disabilities. In order to implement most accommodations, students, faculty, and the OAR Director must collaborate, communicate, and follow through on commitments in a timely fashion. The following best practices can assist faculty in making this collaboration successful:
Include a statement about disability accommodations in course syllabi:
- This statement should read as follows: "Any student who may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact Heather Fowler, Director of the Office of Accessibility Resources at 570-577-1188 or firstname.lastname@example.org who will help coordinate reasonable accommodations for those students with documented disabilities."
Maintaining students' confidentiality about their disabilities and respecting their choices to disclose or withhold the nature of their disabilities:
- Disability information is confidential.
- Students differ on self-disclosure, some may choose to disclose the specifics of the disability to their faculty, but other's may not. A student requesting accommodations in the classroom must disclose to their faculty through their registration with the OAR and Letter of Accommodation, the student is not obligated to reveal the disability to the faculty.
- The OAR Director will not disclose a student's disability unless that student has granted written permission.
- Students are instructed to initiate a meeting with faculty after the Letter of Accommodation is sent and this meeting ideally, will be held in a private space.
Providing accommodations only to students who have registered with the OAR:
- While OAR is the only campus office authorized to review disability documentation and determine students' eligibility for specific accommodations, not all students with disabilities are registered with the OAR.
- If students have not registered, they are ineligible to receive accommodations.
- Faculty are free to confirm a student's registration with the OAR, which can provide a Letter of Accommodation when required.
Supplying accommodations as requested, only when requested:
- Many students' accommodations are administered through the OAR, but when faculty provide accommodations themselves, they must implement the appropriate accommodations correctly.
- Faculty should not guess or predetermine what students may need without a specific request for accommodations; persons with disabilities have the right to choose not to use accommodations, and in exercising that right, they accept the resulting outcomes.
- Faculty are under no obligation to retroactively fix any problem arising from students' choices to forgo accommodations.
- Faculty may consult with the OAR Director for further guidance on the reasonableness, parameters, or adequacy of authorized accommodations.
Working with the OAR to supply students with alternative formats for print materials and other classroom media in a timely manner:
- Students registered with the OAR must receive all converted materials at the same time as their peers. This requires particular proactivity from faculty of students who receive these accommodations, ideally through selecting already-accessible materials (e.g., print materials available in a searchable text digital version, audiovisual recordings with accurate captions embedded, etc.).
- The OAR is able to assist faculty with this process. If faculty do not have accessible formats for print or audiovisual materials for their students, it is critical that they inform the OAR of the materials they plan to use as soon as they are requested to do so by a student or by the OAR.
Understanding that students with disabilities vary in their academic success:
- All faculty expect their students to perform to the best of their abilities. It follows, likewise, that faculty should require students with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the class. Just as academic performance varies among students without disabilities, students with disabilities can display a wide range of academic abilities as well.
Remembering that the student is the expert on strategies that may help:
- Many students registered with the OAR have experience advocating for their needs. Most are knowledgeable about their disability, the strategies and accommodations that work for them, and the assistive technology they use.
- Meeting with students individually can provide faculty with additional insights and helpful suggestions.
Supporting ALL Students and Universal Design for Learning
While advising faculty on course management and instructional methods falls outside of its scope of service, the OAR suggests the following practices may be helpful to all students in class, potentially averting the need for many student-specific accommodations:
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to designing course instruction, materials, evaluation, activities, and content in such a way that all persons can participate in the educational process without adaptation or retrofitting. By creating a Universally Designed environment, accommodations are likely rare because options for learning and evaluation are available to all of the students in the class. Incorporating these ideals, in whole or in part, is both feasible and helpful to all students. More information on UDL is available at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) website: http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html#.VQL_LWc5CUk
Accessible Media is the converting of images, text, audio, and video into accessible materials. It is faculty's responsibility for ensuring ALL content uploaded into Moodle is accessible. To help make your Moodle page(s) accessible, information can be found here at http://libguides.unca.edu/tlt/accessibility. Some examples of accessible media include: captioned videos, required text available in e-book version, (check with your publisher first before purchasing) and captioned/descriptions of pictures on PowerPoint slides. It might be coming clear that these small changes can also greatly enhance the learning of students without disabilities as well because it presents content in multiple modes.