Teaching Students with Disabilities

Classroom Accommodations

Accommodation Letters

Once a student is registered with the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD), they are encouraged to request academic accommodations within the first two weeks of each semester. The CSD will then generate a confidential academic accommodation request letter to each faculty member indicating the student’s requested accommodations. This means that the student has registered with the CSD, has a documented disability, and the CSD has determined what accommodations are appropriate. Faculty are encouraged to discuss these accommodations with students and CSD staff should any concerns arise. It is the responsibility of the student to notify the CSD if accommodations are not in place or are not effective.

Confidentiality

Students with disabilities are required to submit medical documentation to the CSD, which verifies their disability and need for appropriate accommodations. Documentation guidelines may be accessed on our Documentation Guidelines page at http://csd.uconn.edu/documentation-guidelines/. The CSD will maintain confidentiality and will not disclose any information pertaining to a student’s disability to faculty unless we have written permission from the student. The CSD will inform faculty of the accommodation(s) it has determined the student needs to access an equal opportunity education so as to arrange reasonable accommodations.

Confidentiality of all disability information is essential. At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability, except at the student’s expressed request. All disability information, which the student gives to the faculty member, is to be used specifically for arranging reasonable accommodations for the course of study.

Class Attendance

Modification to a class policy regarding attendance as an accommodation to a disability is appropriate when it is reasonable to do so. It is not reasonable to make such modifications when doing so means a substantial change on a course’s essential elements. Students using wheelchairs or who have mobility disabilities may encounter obstacles to getting to class on time. Others may have periodic or irregular difficulties, either from their disability or from medication. Faculty and staff can help by being flexible in applying attendance and promptness rules to such students and in some cases, alternate assignments may be appropriate.

Class Participation

During your initial meeting, ask students with disabilities what you can do to help them participate in class. Students who cannot raise their hands to answer or ask questions, for example, may feel isolated or ignored. Ask them how they wish to be recognized in the classroom. Some students will want you to call on them. Others may prefer to meet periodically with you before or after class to discuss the course content.

Course Requirements

When the need for accommodations in a specific course arises, the instructor will receive an accommodation letter from the CSD with the requested academic accommodations. Students should also identify themselves to the course instructor. Faculty are not required, to provide accommodations that constitute a fundamental alteration of the course. In determining the appropriateness of an accommodation, it is the CSD’s goal to ensure that a student receives the accommodations necessary for the course and to fashion such accommodations so as not to fundamentally alter the essential course requirements.

Testing Accommodations

Students with disabilities may receive testing accommodations determined on an individualized basis. A test, as used in this context, refers to quizzes and examinations taken during the semester in conjunction with an academic class.

If the need for accommodations is deemed appropriate, students are requested to meet with CSD staff with their course information each semester. The CSD will then generate a testing accommodation letter, which the student will hand carry to each class faculty. The University agent authorized to determine appropriate academic accommodations is the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD). Any other requests for academic accommodations from other University entities are not mandated.

Students are responsible for meeting with faculty to discuss exam accommodations at the beginning of the semester (within the first two weeks). It is our policy that students take exams at the scheduled time of the course unless the faculty member and director of the CSD approve an alternate time. It is also our policy that exams be administered within the academic department whenever possible. However, if this is not tenable, exams may be administered nd proctored at the CSD.

Test accommodations determined on a case-by-case basis may include:

  • Extended time to complete examinations and quizzes;
  • A reduced distraction environment separate from the class;
  • Special equipment such as a word processor, magnifier, or Braille;
  • Readers and/or scribes; and
  • Alternate formats such as oral or taped tests.
Notetaking Assistance

Notetaking assistance is provided as an accommodation for students whose documented disabilities interfere with their abilities to take notes. Notetaking assistance is provided as a necessary academic accommodation and is not considered a substitute for a student’s full participation in class. Assistance is determined on a class-by-class basis and is dependent upon the nature of each course and the method of instruction as it relates to the student’s documented disability. Notes and/or recordings provided are for a student’s personal study use only and are not to be shared with other individuals.

Notetaking assistance may include:

  • Use of a laptop, learning technologies, notetaking apps, etc. in class;
  • Permission to audio record classes;
  • Receipt of instructor outlines and/or notes;
  • Receipt of a class member’s notes via the Center for Students with Disabilities notetaking website.
Media Use

If you intend to use media in the classroom, remember that the media must be accessible to students with disabilities. Prior to purchasing the media, ask vendors whether they have captioned a video (for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing) or have a descriptive version (for someone who is blind or visually impaired). If accessible formats are not available, faculty should work with the Center for Excellence in Teaching (link to: http://cetl.uconn.edu/) and Learning or CSD to come up with other suitable alternatives.

UConn Policies Regarding Media (Provided by the Office of Diversity and Equity)

Classroom Use

The Center for Students with Disabilities encourages faculty to:

  • Include a statement on the class syllabus inviting the student to discuss academic needs with you. For example,
    Please contact me during office hours to discuss academic accommodations that may be needed during the semester due to a documented disability. The Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) engages in an interactive process with each student and reviews requests for accommodations on an individualized, case-by-case basis. Depending on the nature and functional limitations of a student’s documented disability, he/she may be eligible for academic accommodations. CSD collaborates with students and their faculty to coordinate approved accommodations and services for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a documented disability for which you wish to request academic accommodations and have not contacted the CSD, please do so as soon as possible. The CSD is located in Wilbur Cross, Room 204 and can be reached at (860) 486-2020 or at csd@uconn.edu. Detailed information regarding the process to request accommodations is available on the CSD website at www.csd.uconn.edu.
  • Clearly delineate expectations at the beginning of the course (e.g., grading, material to be covered, due dates).
  • Announce reading assignments well in advance for students who are using taped materials or other alternative formats. It takes an average of six to eight weeks to get a book tape-recorded.
  • When talking with the student, inquire about special needs in the classroom, in the lab, in fieldwork, and on field trips. Work with the student and the CSD to determine and provide appropriate accommodations.
  • Select course materials early. Distribute syllabi, assignments, and reading lists in advance and in electronic format (e.g. disk, network) to facilitate translation to audiotape, Braille, and large print.
  • Start each lecture with an outline of material to be covered that period. At the conclusion of class, briefly summarize key points.
  • Make lectures and notes easily accessible (use larger print, provide handouts of notes in class, etc.).
  • Provide adequate opportunities for questions and answers, including review sessions.
  • Allow preferential seating for students with disabilities.
  • Face the class when speaking. Repeat discussion questions. Write key phrases on the blackboard. Hand out assignments in writing. Provide written summaries of demonstrations in advance and use captioned films if you have a hearing impaired student in class.
  • Verbally describe visual aids if there is a student with a visual impairment in class. For example, you might say, “The 3 inch long steel rod,” rather than “this”.
  • In class discussion, focus primarily on the student with the disability and not on the student’s aide or interpreter. Look and speak directly to the student with only occasional reference to the interpreter.
Laboratory Use

The Center for Students with Disabilities encourages faculty to:

  • Discuss safety concerns with the student and the CSD. Depending on her/his disability, ensure that safety equipment is adapted with Braille or large print labels, pull-chains are lengthened, and visual or auditory warning systems are in place.
  • Assign group lab projects in which all students contribute according to their abilities.
  • Arrange lab equipment so that it is easily accessible. Give oral and written lab instructions. Provide raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials for students with visual impairments.
  • Work with student and CSD, to identify, modify, and provide appropriate lab equipment, such as adjustable tables, ramps, talking thermometers and calculators, liquid level indicators, large print and tactile timers, and computers.
Fieldwork, Internships or Clinical Placements

The Center for Students with Disabilities encourages faculty to:

  • Measure knowledge and comprehension rather than physical performance of a task when testing a student’s understanding of material.
  • Ask the student how s/he might be able to do specific aspects of fieldwork. Attempt to include the student in field work opportunities, rather than automatically suggesting non-field work alternatives.
  • Arrange to have accessible transportation for field trips.
Syllabus Statement regarding Students with Disabilities

The Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) encourages faculty to include a statement in their courses syllabi inviting students to discuss academic accommodations with their instructors. For example:

The University of Connecticut is committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities and assuring that the learning environment is accessible.  If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on disability or pregnancy, please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options. Students who require accommodations should contact the Center for Students with Disabilities, Wilbur Cross Building Room 204, (860) 486-2020 or http://csd.uconn.edu/.

 

Resources

  • DisABILITY Resources Toolbox (DART) – Working with Students with Disabilities in Higher Education
    Be sure to check out the American Psychological Association’s DisABILITY Resource Toolbox (DART), which includes great information and tools to better support students with disabilities in higher education. By visiting each toolkit, you will gain a better understanding of your legal obligations, learn about typical accommodation strategies, improve communication skills and become aware of disability-related data, statistics and available resources. The toolkits are broken down into five sections including: Students with Disabilities in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Legal Issues-ADA, 504, FERPA, Reasonable Accommodations Explained, Recruiting Students with Disabilities, and Training Students with Disabilities in Testing and Assessment. To visit their website, click on the following link: http://www.apa.org/pi/disability/dart/index.aspx