General accommodations

     Even though students may experience specific difficulties depending on their disabilities, some issues can be solved by very similar accommodations even though the reason they arise and the challenges they cause are different. Thus, this section exposes the most useful accommodations applicable for a broad panel of situations. If generally implemented, these accommodations can save time and energy for both students and lecturers as there will not be a need to request them or put them in place anymore. If implemented, they should be combined with the more specific accommodations mentioned in the following sections to provide optimal conditions of teaching and learning for both students and lecturers. 

     In general, communication between students and lecturers and the lecturer’s discretion and understanding is of great help: they allow students with disabilities to feel safe and comfortable in already taxing and challenging situations. In some cases, information on a specific disability is part of the course’s content. Lecturers should thus be aware of the importance of People-First Language (PFL; Person before the Diagnosis) and ableist language that may make students with disabilities uncomfortable and convey harmful stereotypes on the topic.

In class

Situation
What is happening when the issue arises?

Issue
Why is the situation challenging?

Possible accommodation
How can the situation be made more accessible?

The lecturer should know about one of their students’ disability, however, there is no opportunity for the student to let them discreetly know about it before the first class.

OR The student might not feel comfortable sharing during a round of introductions.

OR The lecturer wants to start the lecture right away and does not give students time for discussion prior to class.

OR There is no round of introductions and the student with a disability cannot introduce themselves to the lecturer and the rest of the class.

The lecturer or students might adopt a problematic behavior that leads the student with a disability to miss out on the lecture’s content.

- Round of introduction, if the student feels comfortable sharing in person.

- Letting an introduction sheet circulate between students; students who wish to let the lecturer know about their disability discretely can do so.

 

- If agreed between the lecturer and the student with a disability, the student can introduce themselves (or be introduced by the lecturer) to the class.

 

- If agreed between the lecturer and the student with a disability, the lecturer can send an email to the class.

Other students are not aware of one of their peer’s disability and adopt problematic behaviors (not necessarily disrespectful but leading to conflicts with the needs of the student with a disability).

The learning of the student with a disability may be impacted by said behaviors. They miss out on the lecture’s or assignment’s content.

- Prior to the first class, and if they are comfortable doing so, students should let their lecturers know about their disability. If necessary or requested, they can be introduced or introduce themselves to the rest of the class.

- In all cases, communication between the student and their lecturer and lecturers’ discretion is key to avoid misunderstandings and make everyone feel safe and comfortable.

The student’s disability leads to situations that may be noticeable by others (i.e., insulin injection, specific position in the classroom, self-stimulating behavior). The lecturer calls on the student in front of the class to ask about it or tell them to stop.

The student may not be comfortable sharing about their disability or being put in the spotlight. 

- Lecturers should avoid calling on the student in front of the whole class.

- A discussion between the student and their lecturer might be necessary.

Group work in class. There is a lot of sensory input (i.e., movements, loud discussion / noises)

Some students cannot work properly if overwhelmed (i.e., students with ASD), can be easily distracted (i.e., students with ADD or ADHD) or cannot hear their group partners (students with a hearing impairment).

- The student’s group can go work in a project room.

- Ideally, the lecturer booked a room prior to the class so that there is no time loss looking for one or moving to the room because it is far from the classroom.

Lectures with no PowerPoint or summary

Students may not be able to follow the lecture’s flow and thus may miss out on important information.

A PowerPoint or summary allows students to go through the class’s content again and catch up.

Note - Accessible PowerPoint:

  • Written components (keywords, questions, definitions)

  • Not just pictures (which makes it impossible to catch up on the class’ content without the lecture’s information. If necessary, use of the presenter’s notes to give the important points of a visual component.

  • Contrasted colors and no unusual or small font.

  • Reasonable amount of information on one slide.

Note taking

Some students cannot take notes as it causes them to miss part of a discussion or follow the class. This is problematic to study later on.

- Use of the PowerPoint.

 

- If agreed on with the lecturer, the student can record the class with their phone.

 

- Online: recording the class

Deadlines & Assignments

Situation
What is happening when the issue arises?

Issue
Why is the situation challenging?

Possible accommodation
How can the situation be made more accessible?

Readings:

- Extensive readings for classes

 

- Announcing or making readings available with a short notice.

Some students may need more time to complete the readings given for class. If they do not do the reading, they come unprepared for class and miss out on important information. 

- Use audio-texts and/or text-to-speech software.

 

- Spacing out the readings to give the students enough time to go through them.

 

- Making the readings available at the beginning of the course so that the students can organize themselves.

 

- Letting the students know what parts of the readings are most important.

 

- Providing visual summaries of the material (i.e., diagrams)

Many deadlines in the same week

Slow reading and writing speed lead to longer work sessions on an assignment and exhaustion. They might not be able to finish their work in the same timespan as other students who do not have a disability.  Some might not be able to plan and organise themselves a long time ahead. The situation causes a lot of stress which can cause psychological distress, exhaustion and meltdowns.

- Limiting the number of deadlines in the week.

 

- At the beginning of the semester, option to move deadlines to avoid overlap with other classes.

 

- Extension

Written assignments

Students’ difficulties do not arise from lack of work or misunderstanding of their final products, yet their work’s quality and assessment may be negatively impacted.

- Use of writing software.

- Peer review from another student.

- Some assessments such as weekly responses and less substantial essays can be completed in a non-written form (completely or partially), such as audio or video recordings.

- Class discussion (in-person or online)

- Graded participation

Students may not be able to  determine when to speak (thus stay quiet or speak out of turn), need more time to formulate a response (thus not be able to contribute on time), or be physically unable to follow the interactions (i.e., hearing impairment).

- Alternative to discussion or participation assessment (i.e., use of the canvas discussion board, short written assignment)

In-person class:

- Defining the discussion structure (writing questions or keywords on the whiteboard or PowerPoint.

 

- The lecturer/discussion leader can pace the discussion, check in with those who have not spoken at the end of the discussion, and ask for further comments.

Online class:

- Use of the chat to contribute.

- Typed answers can be considered towards participation grade.

The lecturer asks a question and quickly launches a discussion.

This also applies in “first come first served” situations (i.e., to pick partners for group work or a date for a presentation).

Students may not have the time to hear / process the question or gather their thoughts and are unable to contribute on time.

The students unwillingly end up with the “last pick”.

- Giving a few minutes for reflection, especially for “first come first served situations” and making sure all students are ready.

 

- Online sign-ups introduced in-class with a reminder in canvas announcements.

 

- Writing down the question on the board or the PowerPoint.

 

- Writing down the discussion’s main points on the board.

Examinations

Situation
What is happening when the issue arises?

Issue
Why is the situation challenging?

Possible accommodation
How can the situation be made more accessible?

Written examinations

Written examinations put a lot of pressure on students: not only is the quality and correctness of their work evaluated, but they also have to perform under a time limit that might not be sufficient for them to finish the exercises due to various reasons.

In some cases, exams are required to be handwritten which makes the situation even more problematic as it is a skill that is inherently altered for students.

- Extra time can provide the students with enough time to finish their work.

 

- Option of reading and writing the exam using a computer.

- In some cases, where students struggle with reading symbols (i.e. Logic course), the option of being read out loud the questions and/or having a writing assistant allow them to complete the examination and be assessed on their understanding of the material rather than the skills that should not be relevant to it.

Miscellaneous

Situation
What is happening when the issue arises?

Issue
Why is the situation challenging?

Possible accommodation
How can the situation be made more accessible?

The student has a medical appointment during class time or during an examination.

Some students have an extremely limited choice when booking a medical appointment regarding their disability. There can be a need to travel, a very long waiting list or no possibility to wait for additional days, weeks or months.

 

- The student will miss out on the content of the class as they cannot attend.

 

- The student fails the examination because they could not attend.

- It conflicts with the course’s absence policy (enhanced during intensives).

- Making available the class’ material and PowerPoint so that the student can catch up and prepare for the following class.

 

- Rearranging a time for an examination or giving an alternative assignment.

- Students could attend another group's class of the course if this is allowed by their schedule.

- Discussion between students and their tutors for further procedures