Support from faculty is integral to students' academic success. Instructors are key players in ensuring that students with disabilities receive the necessary accommodations in order to reach their potential. It is important to remember that accommodations are not advantages, but rather, they are a means of providing each student with full access to Brown's educational programs and an opportunity to effectively deminstrate what they have learned. Fair evaluations of students should reflect their course achievement and not their disabilities.
An essential point to keep in mind when teaching students with disabilities is that you should treat them as you would all your students. The similarities among students far outweigh any of their differences. After all, students with disabilities came to college with the same range of backgrounds, experiences, intelligence, and skills as other students and harbor the same high aspirations. The only difference is that these students require accommodations in order to achieve their true potential, which is often masked by their disability.
The following are some guidelines for accommodating students with disabilities who may be taking your class.
- Providing a course syllabus in advance, if possible, or at the very beginning of the semester can be very helpful to students trying to make decisions about an appropriate course load. Detail all course requirements, including the material to be covered, grading methods, and due dates.
- Including a syllabus statement, addressed students with disabilities, will let them know that you are approachable and willing to work with them, but will also remind them it is their responsibility to communicate their needs to you in advance. The syllabus statement might read, "Brown University is committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform me if you have a disability or other condition that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with me after class or during office hours. For more information contact Student and Employee Accessibility Services at 401-863-9588 or SEAS@brown.edu.”"
- Announce on the first day of class the desire to speak individually with students with disabilities as soon as possible. When meeting privately, you may want to ask how their disability affects them and how their learning may be facilitated by you.
- Announce on the first day of class your policies regarding attendance and make-up work. Reinforce this information by clearly stating it in the syllabus. These measures will allow students with disabilities who may anticipate being absent from class to make informed decisions about which courses to take.
- Announce reading assignments well in advance. Some students may need to use materials in alternate formats and this will give them time to get that in place.
- Treat students with disabilities as individuals. Be careful of making assumptions based on stereotypes. If one student with a particular type of disability has difficulty with a specific task, do not assume that the next student with the same type of disability will experience similar problems.
- Standards for academic credit should not be modified for students with disabilities. All students must meet the required level of understanding and performance competencies for a given course. There may need to be modifications in the evaluation or testing method, but the content should not be changed.
- If a specific task is impossible for a students to carry out, consider an alternative assignment unless the task is deemed an essential element of the course (see "Essential Components of a Course or Program" for guidelines on determining what are essential elements).
- When ordering videos for a class, buy versions of videos with closed captioning.
Common Classroom Accommodations
- Use of volunteer note-takers.
- Alternate formats for readings.
- Extended time for written assignments.
- Use of an FM system, Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), or sign language interpreters.
- Facing the class when speaking and/or wearing an assisted listening device.
- Change of classroom to an accessible location.
- Preferential seating in the classroom.
- Provision of copies of slide and lecture notes.
- Enlargement of exam questions, notes, class handouts, and required readings.
- Employing Universal Design in the classroom including using various modes and formats to present classroom material, including the chalkboard, overhead projectors, videos, or demonstrations.
- Providing individual orientation to laboratory and equipment
- Clearly labeling all tools and materials
- Use of specialized adaptive equipment
- Pairing the student with another student, the instructor, or a TA
- Extended time
- Reduced-distraction space
- Use of a secure SEAS computer
The general guidelines listed above may apply to any student with a disability, and more suggestions can be found in the sections dealing with specific disabilities. In the effort to provide accommodations, faculty are also encouraged to communicate regularly with students about their individual requirements. Students may know from past experience which types of accommodations work for them and which do not. In addition, Student and Employee Accessibility Services may be consulted for questions that may arise regarding accommodations.