Critical Ways Faculty Can Support All Students with Disabilities
When students with disabilities are admitted to the University, they have met the same rigorous standards for admission as all other students. Faculty can support the continued success of students with disabilities by implementing certain practices described below.
The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost recommends that faculty include a statement on their syllabi informing students of available services. SSD recommends a statement such as the following:
Any student with a documented disability who requires academic accommodations should contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 471-6259 (voice) or 1-866-329-3986 (Video Phone) as soon as possible to request an official letter outlining authorized accommodations.
It is essential that disability information be kept confidential. At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability, except at the student's request. All information that a student gives to the faculty member is to be used specifically for arranging reasonable accommodations for the course of study. We recommend that students bring letters verifying their disabilities to faculty during office hours or by special appointment. At that time, arrangement of accommodations can be discussed in private.
Textbooks, Course Packets, Syllabi, and Videos
Please make your book selections, compiled course packets, and syllabi available in a timely manner. Students who are blind, have visual impairments, or have learning disabilities affecting their reading rates and comprehension, require printed materials that are transformed into alternate formats. Conversion of text into a spoken format or Braille can be a time consuming process, taking as much as six months to complete. Your syllabus is required to determine the extent to which each text will be used and the order in which reading assignments will be completed.
Some students will rely on having printed material scanned and saved in computer format that can be listened to using voice output software. If you are collating various journal articles and portions of books into course packets, please use original copies or a copy that is as clean as possible. Creating course packets using second, third, and fourth generation copies of material (copies made from copies, etc.) may cause images of text that are fuzzy. Such blurring often makes it impossible for character recognition software to decipher images as readable text. If material included in course packets is not all of top quality, SSD would appreciate being able to briefly borrow your originals for scanning.
You may also wish to ask if the publishers of the books you are considering have created electronic text (e-text) and/or audiotape versions of them. If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide to maximize comprehension for all students. Choosing one that does will ensure that the reading materials are accessible.
Finally, consider using captioned versions of videos as these are extremely helpful for deaf or hard of hearing students and students who have auditory processing difficulties. Although some videos used in classes are already captioned, others are not. If you are aware that you will be using videos in a class with an enrolled deaf or hard of hearing student, please contact SSD to discuss how to determine if a video is captioned or what alternatives might be available. When requesting audio-visual equipment, make sure you request equipment with a captioning decoder.
Special Testing Accommodations
When accommodations such as extended time on tests or a reduced-distraction testing environment are needed, it is in everyone's best interest if the proctor is either one of the teaching assistants for the course, the professor, or another member of the academic department. This practice allows students to address any problems or questions they may have to someone with knowledge of course content and departmental procedures.
Making a Referral to Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD)
Faculty members sometimes contact SSD regarding students they feel might need to avail themselves of services offered by our office. Although teachers in high school are active participants in the process of identifying and referring students to special services, there is no comparable requirement in higher education. If you see a student who is struggling and wish to refer that student to SSD, remember that our students are adults. They may respond best to private conversations in which you use an inquiring and supportive approach and share information about the existence and location of the SSD office. Only the student can decide to disclose his or her disability, or to pursue information about services available in the SSD office. If a student is requesting accommodations but has not presented you with a letter from our office, you may ask the student to contact SSD. See Faculty FAQs.
Universal design is an approach to teaching that includes strategies designed to benefit a broad range of learners, including those with disabilities. Consider the following suggestions, provided by students, in making your class/teaching accessible:
Other resources and training possibilities are available through the Center for Teaching Effectiveness in MAI 2200.
Other tips related to Universal Design that may be helpful may be found online at University of Connecticut's Universal Design in Instruction Project.