|Instructional Strategies||Index||Blind or Low Vision|
7.1 General Guidelines
- A person with a disability is a person first.
- Your ideal role is to assist the student in finding practical solutions to specific requirements. It is important that professors and teaching assistants not lower their expectations of a student due to assumed limitations.
- At the beginning of term, it would be helpful for you to invite any students who require accommodations because of a disability to meet privately with you. Some students are self-conscious about their disability, or prefer others not know about it, and may be more willing to seek assistance if they believe you will be receptive. This announcement should be made both orally and included in the course outline.
- It is important to remember that the majority of suggestions or "teaching tips" will improve the learning and organization of all your students, not simply those who have a recognized disability.
- Some people feel uncertain about how to approach a person with a disability, how to ask questions or how to offer assistance. Go ahead and offer the assistance, but please wait until it is accepted before giving it.
- Treat a person with a disability as a healthy person. Because an individual has a special need does not mean the individual is sick. Many disabilities have no accompanying health problems.
- Recognize that disabilities vary across a spectrum of severity.
- Focus on the student's capabilities and individuality.
- Envision integration.
Students with disabilities must meet the same academic requirements as other students, and must demonstrate the same level of knowledge in their course work. They may need to do so in a different way, and that is the object of accommodation to do the same task in a different way. There may be many ways of demonstrating learning, but the knowledge must still be evident.
In accommodating students with disabilities, it is important to be aware of the "essential requirements" of the course. This refers to the aspects of the course which must be done in a particular way, or specific knowledge which absolutely must be demonstrated to show mastery of the material. These are things which do not have to be accommodated, since they cannot be altered if the integrity of the task or information is to be maintained.
Development of clear course objectives is helpful, while asking the question, "Is this essential to the demonstration of this body of knowledge?" Identifying that students must know, for instance, the tenets of a particular theorist's philosophy may be essential, but whether the students demonstrate that knowledge in a paper, an exam, or an oral presentation may be flexible. Whether that demonstration is accomplished with pen and paper or on a computer may be flexible. How quickly students write the answer with pen and paper may be very flexible. It is probably not essential to demonstrate knowledge of philosophy in three hours flat, with a pen and paper. There may be other ways to demonstrate knowledge of philosophy, or history, or psychology, or chemistry....
Some disciplines have essential requirements which involve speed or pace of performance. The speed at which music is played is a highly salient factor, and cannot be accommodated, beyond a limited range of flexibility, without destroying the music. However, physically producing the sound at a certain speed may or may not be the point of a given course.
These kinds of distinctions need to be clarified in course objectives to facilitate appropriate accommodations. Clear objectives also help with development of lecture material, focus of discussion and assignments, subsequent design of exams and determination of aggregate marks when necessary.
Last Updated: 19 May 2011