Important Considerations When
Teaching Student with Disabilities
general, please consider:
Students using wheelchairs or other utility devices 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.
adjustments: A wide range of students with disabilities may be served in
the classroom when a faculty member makes book lists available prior to the
beginning of the term, by speaking directly toward the class, and by writing key
lecture points and assignments on the board.
relationships: Dialogue between the student and the instructor is
essential early in the term, and follow-up meetings are recommended. Faculty
should not feel apprehensive about discussing the student’s needs as they relate
to the course. There is no reason to avoid using terms that refer to the
disability, such as “blind”, “see”, or “walk”. However, care should be taken
to avoid generalizing a particular limitation to other aspects of the student’s
functioning. Often, for example, people in wheelchairs are spoken to very
loudly, as if they were deaf. The student probably will have some experience
with the kind of initial uneasiness you may bring to the relationship. The
student’s own suggestions, based on experience with the disability and with
schoolwork, are invaluable in accommodating disabilities in college.
Some understanding is required in working with subtler and sometimes
unexpected manifestations of a disability. Chronic weakness and fatigue
characterize some disabilities and medical conditions. Drowsiness, fatigue or
impairments of memory or speed may result from prescribed medications. It is
important to distinguish such difficulties and interference with the student’s
ability to perform from the apathetic behavior it may resemble.
Students who cannot take notes or have difficulty taking notes adequately would
be helped by allowing them to tape-record lectures, by making an outline of
lecture materials available to them, or by assisting them in borrowing
- Testing and
evaluation: Depending on the disability, the student may require the
administration of examinations orally, the use of readers and/or scribes,
extension of time for the duration of exams, modification of the test
formats or, in some cases, providing make-up or take home exams. For
out-of-class assignments, the extension of deadlines may be justified.
The objective of such considerations should always be to accommodate the
student’s learning differences, not to weaken scholastic requirements. The
same standards for evaluation and grading should be applied to all students,
regardless of disabilities.