Resources for faculty helping students

The Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) works with students who have a physical, medical or psychological disability, as well as, a learning disability or ADHD. Faculty members are asked to refer any student who discloses a disability to them to the DSS office (if the student has not previously registered). The faculty is also encouraged to include a disability statement on the course syllabus. In doing so, you indicate your willingness to provide reasonable accommodations for students with a disability and your willingness to fulfill legally mandated responsibilities. An example of a disability statement is as follows:

"Any student who thinks he/she may need an accommodation based on a disability should contact the Disability Support Service (DSS) office as soon as possible. The DSS office is located at 119 Alison Hall, 240 Academy Street, Phone: 302-831-4643, fax: 302-831-3261, website: www.udel.edu/DSS."

The process that students engage in to request an accommodation from the University of Delaware is outlined on our website (insert link) and includes submitting appropriate documentation to the DSS office that reflects the University's guidelines and establishes a clear diagnosis, a substantial limitation and the current impact of the condition. Eligibility for receiving an accommodation(s) is based on multiple factors including the severity of the disability and its affect on the student. Once eligibility is determined then the reasonable accommodation(s) is agreed upon through and interactive process between the student and the DSS staff.

If the student is eligible for an accommodation in your class, you will be notified. Most often you receive notification in the beginning of the semester or term (usually after the drop/add period ends), however certain circumstances necessitate that notification be either earlier or later in the semester. The notification, in the form of an email or letter, will generally specify the accommodation(s) and may not disclose the specific disability. Disclosure of the disability will only occur if the disability is visible or you need to know for accommodation purposes. Faculty are not permitted to review the actual evaluation or disability documentation. If a student gives you documentation regarding a disability, please regard it as confidential information and encourage the student to take it to the DSS office.

The student is the primary advocate for him or herself. Students are expected to introduce themselves to you to communicate the approved accommodations and how they may be implemented. The DSS Office welcomes your input, as it is often necessary to determine whether the accommodation(s) is reasonable in your class. Essential components of the curriculum may not be altered, unless agreed upon by you. Please see the fact sheet (add link) that explains what constitutes essential elements of the curriculum.

    The following is a list of accommodations that may be approved on a case-by-case basis; however, it is not an exhaustive list:

  • Enlarging and brailing of materials (usually done at the DSS Office)
  • Test setting with reduced distraction
  • Extended time for tests (usually up to time and a half or double time)
  • Permission to record class lectures
  • Priority seating
  • Scribe for exams as required
  • Books and articles in alternative format
  • Copies of slides or overheads for students with low vision
  • Reader for exams as required
  • Sign-language interpreters or captioning (CART)
  • Relocation of classes when necessary
  • Syllabi in advance
  • Typing essays and written exams
  • Volunteer note-taker from the class
  • Reduced course load
  • Priority registration

The most commonly requested accommodation is extended time for examinations. There is a process for the students to follow and a test cover sheet to be completed which are available on our website (add related links). It is important to remember that the student must contact you first.

In addition, students will sometimes ask for leniency in attendance or to have extra time for assignments and projects. Since students are expected to attend class just like any other student, it is up to you whether it would compromise the integrity of your course. If you allow absences beyond a set policy for any other student, you must also allow them for students with disabilities. The same is true for extensions. The bottom line is that the student with disabilities is entitled to equal access and non-discrimination, success is not guaranteed. The student is expected to fully communicate with you regarding any difficulties he or she is having in your course.

If your class or lab is taught by a TA or graduate assistant, it is your responsibility to notify the assistant about the student and/or direct the student to contact him or her.

Additional Resources for Working with Students with Disabilities

Universal Design for Instruction

The general concept of Universal Design (UD) includes a specific set of principles to systematically incorporate accessible features into a design instead of retrofitting changes or accommodations. As applied in the field of architecture, UD results in the creation of environments and products that are as usable as possible by a diverse range of individuals. Building on the framework of UD and its principles (Follette, Story, Mueller, & Mace, 1998), UDI anticipates the needs of diverse learners and incorporates effective strategies into curriculum and instruction to make learning more accessible. By focusing on methods and strategies that promote learning for all students, UDI embraces an inclusionary approach that enables students with disabilities to overcome some of their barriers to learning. When the principles of UD are adapted to reflect the instructional practices that have been acknowledged as effective with students with LD, a more inclusive paradigm for teaching emerges. UDI provides a conceptual framework for thinking about access and inclusion for diverse individuals.

Principles of Universal Design for Instruction

The UDI framework consists of nine general principles (Scott, McGuire, & Shaw, 2001) to guide faculty in thinking about and developing instruction for a broad range of students.

  1. Equitable use-Instruction is designed to be useful to and accessible by people with diverse abilities. It provides the same means of use for all students, identical whenever possible, equivalent when not. Example: Using web-based courseware products with links to on-line resources so all students can access materials, regardless of varying academic preparation, distance from campus, etc.
  2. Flexibility in use-Instruction is designed to accommodate a wide range of individual abilities. It provides choice in methods of use. Example: Using varied instructional methods (lecture with a visual outline, group activities, use of stories, or web-based discussions) to support different ways of learning.
  3. Simple and intuitive instruction-Instruction is designed in a straightforward and predictable manner, regardless of the student's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. It eliminates unnecessary complexity. Example: Providing a grading scheme for papers or projects to clearly state performance expectations.
  4. Perceptible information-Instruction is designed so that necessary information is communicated effectively, regardless of ambient conditions or the student's sensory abilities. Example: Selecting text books, reading material, and other instructional supports in digital format so students with diverse needs can access materials through print or by using technological supports (e.g., screen reader, text enlarger).
  5. Tolerance for error-Instruction anticipates variation in individual student learning pace and requisite skills. Example: Structuring a long-term course project with the option of turning in individual project components separately for constructive feedback and for integration into the final product.
  6. Low physical effort-Instruction is designed to minimize nonessential physical effort in order to allow maximum attention to learning. Note: This principle does not apply when physical effort is integral to essential requirements of a course. Example: Allowing students to use a word processor for writing and editing papers or essay exams.
  7. Size and space for approach and use-Instruction is designed with consideration for appropriate size and space for approach, reach, manipulations, and use regardless of a student's body size, posture, mobility, and communication needs. Example: Using a circular seating arrangement in small class settings to allow students to see and face speakers during discussion-important for students with attention problems.
  8. A community of learners-The instructional environment promotes interaction and communication among students and between students and faculty. Example: Fostering communication among students in and out of class by structuring study and discussion groups, e-mail lists, or chat rooms.
  9. Instructional climate-Instruction is designed to be welcoming and inclusive. High expectations are espoused for all students. Example: Creating a statement on the syllabus affirming the need for students to respect diversity, underscoring the expectation of tolerance, and encouraging students to discuss any special learning needs with the instructor.
  10. For more information, please refer to: http://www.cec.sped.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&CONTENTID=2495&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm

    Additional Resources Continued

  • University of Washington DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) - http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/ - Includes information on Universal Design, rights and responsibilities, resources on for fully including students with disabilities in course activities, faculty presentations, resources for making academic offerings accessible to students with disabilities, and a knowledge base with additional information.
  • University of Michigan Accessible Web Design - http://www.umich.edu/~webacces/home.html - Offers tutorials and resources on making web sites accessible to all persons with disabilities.
  • University of Delaware Center for Teaching Effectiveness Guide on Teaching College Students with Disabilities - http://cte.udel.edu/disabilities.htm - This comprehensive resource guide contains information on multiple aspects of teaching college students with disabilities.
  • University of Missouri -Kansas City Teaching Students with Disabilities - http://www.umkc.edu/disability/teaching.html - Offers information on teaching students with various types of disabilities, including vision impairments, hearing impairments, mobility impairments, chronic illnesses, psychiatric disabilities, learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • West Virginia University Strategies for Teaching Students with Behavioral Disorders - http://www.as.wvu.edu/~scidis/behavior.html - Information ranging from general strategies, teacher presentation, working in laboratory, group interaction and discussion, reading, research, field experiences, and testing.
  • University of California Berkeley Tools for Teaching - http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/disabilities.html - Includes information on general strategies, physical access, class participation, written materials and exams, and assistive instructional technology.