Creating inclusive environments is a University goal. Inclusive, barrier-free classrooms enhance access, and learning, for all students, including those with disabilities. We've come to rely on disability accommodations to provide access to students with disabilities. However, "accommodations" often mean "separate but equal".
A better option is to design inclusive courses, accessible to all, thus reducing the need for accommodations for many students
Students with disabilities
What does a student with a disability look like?
Most look like all other students.
If the student with disability uses a wheelchair or a white cane, or is accompanied by an ASL interpreter, it's easy to spot them. However, most of the students who come to you for accommodations will have only their LOA to identify them.
The vast majority of students with disabilities have invisible disabilities: psychological or learning disabilities or chronic illnesses. Though they look fine (and most do), it is very disheartening when faculty tell them, "You look fine to me." It makes them feel that they are not being taken seriously or perhaps that you think they are "faking a disability". Be assured that any student who gives you an LOA qualifies for the accommodations listed in the LOA.
All disability-related information about a student is protected.
Please protect the the confidentially of all of these conversations.
Ideas for a welcoming classroom
1. Make sure you have an inclusive statement on your syllabus.
We suggest the following:
Students with disabilities:
It is the policy and practice of the University of Minnesota Duluth to create inclusive learning environments for all students, including students with disabilities. If there are aspects of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or your ability to meet course requirements such as time limited exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos, please notify the instructor as soon as possible. You are also encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Resources to discuss and arrange reasonable accommodations. Call 218-726-6130 or visit the DR web site at www.d.umn.edu/access for more information.
2. Announce your willingness to remove barriers.
Often we hear professors are frustrated that students don't come in in a timely manner. A verbal announcement on the first day of class will send a powerful message to students that they are welcome to disclose their disability-related needs to you. You might say:
"If you need disability-related accommodations in theis class, or if you have medical information you want to share with me, or if you need other special arrangements, please inform me immediately. Talk to me privately, in my office."
It is also helpful to announce at the beginning of the semester:
"If you have a Letter of Accommodation from Disability Resources, please see me during my office hours."
3. Get more information.
Students are usually the experts on the barriers that prevent their full access. Ask them how they learn best.
4. Consider a class presentations
Disability, like other facets of diversity, has its own culture and experiences. Knowing more about disability increases everyone's comfort level when interacting with individuals with disabilities. If you think your class would benefit from a presentation by Disability Resources students and staff, please send your request via the Classroom Presentation Request early as possible in the semester.
Faculty Role in Accommodation
When students come to Disability Resources, we help them identify their disability-related barriers and discuss needed accommodations. We share this information with you via the Letter of Accommodation (LOA).
The primary responsibility of making classes accessible for all students belongs to the faculty. Students who qualify for accommodations will give you their LOA plus any relevant accommodation request forms. Click the links below for more information about these accommodations.
If you have questions or concerns about the LOA - or additional ideas about accommodating the students in your classes - please talk with the student or call the DR specialist whose name is on the letter
- Test Accommodations
- Note-Taking Accommodations
- Note-Taker Class Announcement
- Working with an Interpreter
Where do I refer this student?
Refer these students to Disability Resources:
* Students who indicate their academic problems are disability related (such as anxiety or depression) or say they had ADD or a learning disability in the past but
have "out-grown" it.
* Students who are asking for disability accommodations but have no Letter of Accommodation (LOA).
* Students with consistent testing issues such as always running out of time, often “mis-reading” test questions or are unable to maintain focus on the test.
Test anxiety: Commonly reported symptoms of test anxiety include “blanking-out” and being unable to remember content during exams. Unlike generalized anxiety, test anxiety is not a disability and DR does not accommodate it. Refer these students to Counseling Services (part of Health Services).
English Language Learners: Students with reasonable conversational English may still be struggling with “thinking in English” and comprehending academic English. If you suspect this is causing ta student academic difficulty, refer student to the Multicultural Center (Second Floor KSC) and the appropriate student program.
Disability Law Definitions and Information
Disability laws (both Sec. 504 and the ADA plus its many amendments) prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified students with disabilities.
Discrimination means excluding a student with a disability from any University course, program, service, or employment because of the limitation(s) of the student’s disability.
Some examples of discrimination on the basis of disability:
- * A textbook that the student can't read because of a disability
* A lecture – or video - that the student can't hear because of a disability
* A test that can't be completed in the allotted time because of a disability
* A restroom that can't be used because of a disability
"Qualified" means that the student has met the admission standards of the University, with or without accommodations.
To remain qualified, students with disabilities must meet all relevant academic and conduct standards, just as other students.
Accommodations provide access to students with disabilities by adjusting how a task is completed: a ramp instead of stairs, a voice-input computer, additional exam time.
To qualify for accommodations, students must submit disability documentation to Disability Resources. DR specialists review the documentation and discuss it with the student before authorizing accommodations that specifically mitigate the impact of the student's disability.
A reasonable accommodation does not fundamentally alter a course or reduce the academic standards of a course or program.
If Disability Resources specialists suggest an accommodation that you think will fundamentally alter your course, please let us know immediately. You are the expert on what is essential in your classes
A New Perspective On Disability
UMD is a leader in acknowledging disability to be an aspect of diversity. We believe that disability is a human difference as defined by the Social Model of disability, rather that a personal deficit as defined by the (outdated) Medical Model of disability.
Guide to Accessible Meetings
Hosting a meeting or conference in the future? This downloadable guide from UMTC will help you ensure that your event is accessible and welcoming to all of your participants.
Student Mental Health Module
Mental health diagnoses and issues are increasingly prevalent in the college population. Some practical strategies and ideas for working with students with psychological disorders are presented in this article, also from the Southern Campus.
The Faculty Room is a comprehensive on-line resource for faculty, staff and administrators.
Tips On Interacting With People With Disabilities is a quick and entertaining guide to Disability Etiquette.
DR 1001: Intro to Disability Resources contains everything you ever wanted to know about Disability Resources - and then some.
UM Board of Regents Policy on Disability Services.
The University of Minnesota is committed to equitable access and opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and guests with disabilities.