Providing Accommodations in the Classroom

Referring Students to Disability Services Coordinator

Providing reasonable and necessary accommodations to students with disabilities is an important part of the responsibilities as an educator. To ensure that the University meets its obligations to students consistently and fairly, students who seek accommodations should first register with the disability services coordinator in their school or division.

Instructors are often the first point of contact for students with disabilities who seek accommodations. You can help students receive the accommodations they may need by doing the following things:

  1. In your syllabus, include the recommended statement about classroom accommodations for students with disabilities:
    “If you are a student with a disability or believe you might have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the Office of Student Disability Services, Shaffer 101, (410) 516-4720,”
  2. Announce to your students on the first day of class how they can receive accommodations if needed.
  3. Direct any requests for accommodations to the Student Disability Services Office, Shaffer 101, (410) 516-4720.

Provide accommodations only to students who provide you with a letter from the SDS explaining the approved classroom accommodations.

Providing the Requested Classroom Accommodations

When you receive a letter from the SDS concerning a student with a disability, the letter will explain what accommodations that student requires in the classroom. The most frequently requested accommodations are extended time on examinations and quizzes; testing in a quiet or private location; and use of student notetakers. Students with hearing impairments may need interpreters in class, or use assistive technology that will require the instructor to wear a microphone when lecturing. Students with low vision may need enlarged print examinations and handouts. At times the SDS may ask the Registrar to change the location of a class to accommodate a student with limited mobility or a student who needs access to internet and telephone connections in the classroom.

The purpose of an accommodation is to ensure that students with disabilities have access to programs. Accommodations should not change the essential elements, criteria or performance levels of the course. If there are such concerns about a requested accommodation, please contact SDS.

Arranging for accommodations is a cooperative endeavor involving the student, the SDS Office, and the instructor. If as the instructor you believe that you can provide an accommodation in a manner that is superior to what has been requested, please contact SDS about it.

Providing Extended Time on Examinations

Many students with disabilities require 150% or 200% time on examinations. If there is such a student in class(es), please try to make arrangements for the student to take the examination under your supervision. Many departments have seminar rooms and offices that could provide a quiet or private space for the student to take an examination. The university does not have a testing center that can accommodate all of the students who receive extended time on examinations. Student Disability Services can only handle a few students at a time. If you cannot arrange for an examination requiring extended time, please contact the SDS office and we will work with you to see what arrangements can be made.

Accommodating Students with Hearing Impairments

Deaf and hard of hearing students may use an interpreter in the classroom. Or they may use assistive devices that require the instructor to wear a small microphone that can send signals to either an FM device that amplifies sound for the student or to a telecommunications device that enables converting the sound signal to written text on the student’s laptop computer.

In a seminar setting where there is considerable class discussion and the class is small, the microphone can be replaced by an omni-directional speakerphone that can pick up speech from all directions.

Many hearing-impaired students can communicate in a one-on-one situation by lip-reading. But in a some cases, the student may need to bring an interpreter when meeting with a faculty member. If a student does rely on lip reading, remember that you will only be understood if you are facing the student without obstructions or strong backlighting that would obscure the student’s view.

If you are having difficulty communicating with the student, you and the student can write down what information that is unclear. Writing down your suggestions is especially helpful with hearing-impaired students because lip readers generally pick up less than half of the information that is spoken.

If you use films and videos in your classes, it is important to make the information accessible to hearing-impaired students. Please consult with the SDS to discuss having your materials captioned.

Accommodating Students with Visual Impairments

Some students with visual impairments require large-print written materials. This may entail making enlarged print copies of examinations and handouts. If the student has trouble reading overheads, instructors can make enlarged print copies for the student. Most departments have copying equipment that can enlarge documents.

Disability Services can also provide students with assistive reading technology, books on tape, and books in braille.

If you use films and videos in your classes, it is important to make the information accessible to students with visual impairments. Please consult with SDS to discuss your specific situation.

Respecting the Confidentiality of Student Information

Many students with disabilities are hesitant to let other students know about their disability. In addition, information about disabilities is part of the student’s confidential academic record. Therefore, faculty members need to respect the student’s privacy when providing accommodations. This means that faculty should not discuss disability-related matters with the student when other students are present, unless the student approves. Some accommodations will naturally draw attention to the student with the disability (e.g., using a sign-language interpreter in class) and this cannot be helped.

Advising Students with Disabilities

In addition to accommodations in the classroom, students with disabilities may also require programmatic accommodations and support services. The DSC will discuss these matters when the student registers with the DSC. However, faculty may become involved when they advise students with disabilities about their courses. Here are some suggestions for advisers when working with students who disclose information to you about their disabilities:

  1. Emphasize the student’s strengths: students with disabilities often have strengths in specific academic areas. Discuss these strengths with the student and plan a course schedule with these in mind. To discover areas of weakness, ask questions about specific skills like reading comprehension, writing ability, time management, and memory for details.
  2. Encourage students to take a balanced schedule, with more courses in the stronger areas and fewer in the weaker areas: if the student’s program calls for a course that is likely to be very challenging, suggest taking other courses in the same term that will use the student’s areas of strength. If there are instructors that you know who are top teachers, who keep office hours and welcome students, recommend their courses if the student is interested.
  3. Some students do better in a shorter MTW course that meets for fifty minutes: consider the time of day when the course meets and the number of courses in a day. Students taking medication for ADD/ADHD may prefer morning classes when their medication is at full strength, for example.
  4. Students who need more time to finish assignments should consider taking 12 credits instead of 15 or more: some students can make up the other credits in Intersession and summer school. In other cases, the student and family may be willing to take more than four years to graduate. The University has helped such students in the past with letters to health insurers and financial aid offices to cover a fifth year.
  5. Write down your suggestions for the student, even if this takes a few minutes: students usually say that they understand so they won’t appear “dumb.”
  6. Remind students of resources (tutoring, time management assistance, and counseling) that may be of help to them: the Academic Advising Office can direct students to these services. Also, discuss add/drop deadlines so that students can repair a bad situation, should it arise.