Teaching Students with Disabilities
A person with a disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as one who (a) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (b) has a record of such an impairment, or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment. The range of disabilities that students may have is broad. While it is not expected that instructors become an expert on any disabilities, it is important for you to have some working knowledge of issues that may affect your students. Awareness of these issues will ensure that appropriate accommodations can be provided in order for students with disabilities to reach their potential in an academic setting.
Keep in mind that accommodations ensure complete access to, and full participation in, the educational process for students with disabilities. They are not intended to require faculty to compromise academic standards. Rather, they make it possible for students to truly learn the material presented to them, and for instructors to fairly evaluate their understanding of the material, without interference from their disability.
Another point to remember is that many students with disabilities depend on adaptive technology or special services in order to do their work. Be understanding when problems arise with these accommodations that result in an interference with course work.
If any difficulties develop when teaching a student with a disability, attempt to discern if the problem is disability-related or a problem that any student would have. Concerns about the success of provided accommodations or the student's learning should be discussed with her or him. In addition, Student and Employee Accessibility Services is available for consultation.