Provide Equal Treatment
Helpful Resources for Faculty
Students with disabilities are similar to their counterparts who have not reported a disability in the fact that they share similar academic concerns. The only major difference between those students who identify as having a disability and those who do not are the use of academic accommodations that provide equal access to postsecondary learning experiences and institutional services. Students with disabilities should be treated like any other student. They should be included in class discussions and activities, encouraged to ask questions when clarification is needed, and be held to the same standards as other students.
Communication is key to establishing rapport with all students in the classroom, particularly those who identify as having a disability. Adding a statement to course syllabi about academic accommodations and disability services is one of the easiest and best ways to encourage students with disabilities to discuss their accommodations one-on-one outside of class. A few simple sentences can put students more at-ease about approaching their professors. It is also important that instructors verbally invite students with disabilities to meet with them during the first week of class to discuss their accommodations. If at any time instructors do not understand an accommodation, it is ok to ask the student for further clarification, as long as a professor does not specifically ask the diagnosis of a student. A student should never be forced to disclose their disability.
Because of the nature of certain disabilities, students may struggle with identifying themselves as having a disability. While other students may feel comfortable disclosing their disability to faculty, staff, and students, others may be more private about their diagnosis. Even if a disability is apparent, never publicly address one’s disability. All conversations with students about their disabilities should be in confidence.
Emphasize the Whole Student
No one likes to be labeled. Everyone is a human with certain characteristics. For example, she is a woman with red hair or he is a talented football player. Likewise, a student should be addressed as a student. When professors are talking about a student in their class who identifies has having a disability, it is inappropriate to say my wheelchair-bound student or my blind student in my classroom. Rather, an instructor should refer to those individuals as a student who utilizes a wheelchair or my student who is blind. Notice how student is emphasized, rather than the disability.
Utilize Student Disability Services
Developing a good relationship with the Coordinator of Disability Services will be a huge asset to faculty. This individual can help instructors better understand accommodations, provide training opportunities, and educate the community at-large through disability awareness initiatives.
Notification to Instructors
Students are responsible for notifying each of their instructors of his or her need for academic accommodations. Although the student initially works with the Coordinator of Disability Services to determine which accommodations are most appropriate, it is the professor’s responsibility to carry out these accommodations.
Adapted from: The New School. (2011). Basic guidelines for working with students with disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.newschool.edu/studentservices/disability/subpage.aspx?id=32573