Guidelines for Faculty
The fourth edition of Reasonable Accommodations; A Faculty Guide to Teaching Students with Disabilities is now available to assist faculty in understanding the unique needs of students with disabilities who are enrolled in their courses, and how to provide effective accommodations. Select the link to obtain the guide.
In the course of your teaching, you may have a student who reveals to you that he/she has a disability. Encourage the student to express how it may or is impacting his/her performance. Then, inquire if the student is registered with SSWD. If not refer him or her per the steps below. If the student presents you with SSWD's Notice to Faculty of Accommodations Eligibility, review it with the student, discuss any questions you have and seek assistance from SSWD as needed.
Faculty may refer students to SSWD in the following way:
- Discuss your reasons for the referral with the student.
- Document your reasons for the referral by providing specific, written information and/or observations.
- Notify the office BEFORE referring a student and at that time ask any questions you may have about what you know or suspect about the student and about the referral process.
- Don’t diagnose!
- Remember, services and accommodations are provided on the basis of eligibility determined by the SSWD, so don’t commit yourself or the college to more than a referral to the office.
Working with Students with Disabilities
Maintain a Positive Attitude. Fear of dealing with the unknown is a common reaction. You may have some experience with students with certain kinds of disabilities, but feel unprepared or uncomfortable working with a person who has a disability with which you are unfamiliar or inexperienced. Invisible disabilities, such as a learning disability, psychiatric impairment or a chronic medical problem may initially pose a challenge, but the student him or herself is a source of readily applicable solutions. Be proactive and engage them in planning solutions.
Keep an Open Mind. All students have individual strengths and weaknesses. Uniqueness should be stressed, rather than differences. Focus on the students' abilities and not just their limitations. Many students have achieved academic success in other learning situations by means of their own creative solutions to obstacles arising from their limitations. These are strengths that deserve attention and require nurturing.
Create a Positive Atmosphere. The term “disability” carries lots of social and cultural baggage. Among our diverse student population, the term signifies many different things. We want to offer a welcoming environment for all students, not just make them “feel” welcome. There are some things you can do to make this a reality.
- And in each of your classes at the start of each semester, ask if anyone requires accommodations because of a limitation associated with a disability or medical condition.
- Invite students to indicate such a need privately to you after class, in your office.
- Some students may have SSWD “Notice to Faculty of Accommodations Eligibility”. Discuss it with them privately and contact SSWD for assistance.
- Refer those who have not identified themselves to SSWD per the process outlined above. We’ll follow-up.
Faculty who approach their work with patience, imagination and flexibility, and who have an ability to create a climate of trust and openness, will generally have little difficulty instructing students who have a disability.
Teaching Students with Disabilities – Web Resources for Faculty
There are many resources about disabilities and a growing number specifically about teaching students with disabilities in higher education settings. A few of the best are listed below.