In 1973, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was passed. That legislation prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving or benefiting from federal assistance. The law has greatly affected higher education, challenging colleges and universities to make adjustments on their campuses. There are six major disability categories, some of which are not always visible to an observer and each of which may require different accommodations.
Paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation, and other mobility impairments are caused by such conditions as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, or by injury. Depending on the severity of the disability, students may have limitations in stamina, manual dexterity, speech, or ability to stand.
Visual impairments may range from a slight visual loss to total blindness (only 2% of the visually impaired population is totally blind). Some students can read using large print or a magnifier. Others need readers, textbooks on tape, or Braille materials. Community, state, and federal agencies often help produce materials for visually impaired students.
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There is a great range in hearing loss. Many students can use hearing aids and hear sufficiently for classes and social situations. Students with a greater hearing loss may rely on lip reading (which is 55% correct at best) or on a sign language interpreter. Some students can make use of specialized amplification devices for PA systems in classrooms.
A learning disability affects the manner in which individuals take in information, retain it, and express the knowledge they possess. LD students have normal intelligence and exhibit a discrepancy between ability and achievement. This discrepancy is not a form of mental retardation or emotional disorder, nor is it related to other handicapping conditions, environmental, cultural, or economic influences. The most serious and common deficits in LD students are in reading comprehension, spelling, mechanics or writing, math computation, and/or problem solving. Also, troublesome are problems in organizational skills, time management, and social interpersonal skills.
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Epilepsy, diabetes, asthma, cancer, chemical dependency conditions can cause difficulties with medication, stamina, absences from school, etc. Students with these invisible disabilities may be reluctant to disclose their condition for fear of negative stereotyping and/or disbelief.
Psychiatric disabilities refer to conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, personality disorders, schizophrenia, etc. As with the systemic conditions, individuals may not choose to disclose the disability because of the stigmatization involved.
Students who have survived head injuries are a new group seeking services on campuses today. Cognition and behavior may be altered as a result of virtually all forms of head injury, including those that seem minor at the time. The head injury may affect one or more of the following areas: speed of thinking, memory, communication, motor, sensory, physical and psychosocial abilities. Possible effects of head injuries vary greatly among individuals.
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Following is a list of commonly used academic accommodations. The list is not meant to be exhaustive; individual student needs cause requirements to vary from situation to situation. The purpose of an academic accommodation is to remove the barrier presented by the disability, giving the student an equal opportunity to demonstrate his or her competency. Ideally, accommodations are mutually negotiated, flexible, and agreed upon in advance. In making decisions about the best way to accommodate a student, the instructor can provide the information about coursework objectives, while the student will provide information about which techniques work most effectively for his or her situation.
- Adaptive computers/equipment (i.e., Kurzweil Reader, Dragon Naturally Speaking)
- Assignments given in both auditory and visual format
- Classroom relocation/adaptations
- Course modification (i.e., % time extension, alternate assignments, etc.)
- Early registration
- Early syllabus
- Early text availability
- Library/Laboratory assistants
- Multi-modal classroom presentations; consideration for various learning styles
- Note takers, shared notes (or access to lecture notes/outline if available)
- PA system amplification (Telex, PhonicEar)
- Permission to tape record class lectures
- Permission to use spell check, grammar check on written assignments
- Preferential seating
- Sign Language Interpreters
- Skill Development (i.e., study skills, test anxiety, stress/time management, etc.)
- Taped textbooks/materials or large print
- Test modifications (i.e., % time extension, quiet space, reader/scribe, alternate format, taped exam, and oral exam)
- Tutors/Study groups
- Verbal description of visual aids or tactile models of graphic materials
- Referral to campus resources (i.e., Student Support Services)
The above information has been reproduced for you by the Counseling Center at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (308) 865-8248. Information has been adapted from various sources including Career Connections, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, OSERS, and the University of Minnesota-Office of the Vice President for Student Life and Disability Services, 1992. (00-S)
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(Equal Access to Software and Information [EASI], 1994)
- Don’t assume a person with a disability needs your help. Ask before doing.
- Make eye contact and talk directly to the person, not through the person’s companion.
- Avoid actions and words that suggest the person should be treated differently. It is okay to ask a person in a wheelchair to go for a walk or to ask a blind person if he/she sees what you mean.
- Treat people with disabilities with the same respect and consideration that you have for everyone else.
Be descriptive. You may have to help orient people with visual
impairments, and let them know what’s coming up. If they are walking, tell them if they have to step up or step down; warn them of possible hazards. Let them know if the computer mouse is to their right or their left.
You don’t have to talk loudly to people with a visual impairment. Most of
them hear just fine.
Offer to read written information for the person with visual impairments
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Don’t assume the person is not listening just because you are getting no verbal or visual feedback. Ask the person if they understand or agree.
Don’t assume you have to explain everything to people with learning disabilities. They do not necessarily have a problem with general comprehension.
Try sitting or crouching down to the approximate height of people in wheelchairs or scooters when you talk to them.
Don’t lean on a person’s wheelchair unless you have the individual’s permission — it is their personal space.
Be aware of what is accessible and not accessible to people in wheelchairs.
Listen patiently. Don’t complete sentences for a person unless he/she asks for help.
Don’t pretend you understand what the person with a speech disability says just to be polite.
Ask the person to spell a word if you’re not sure what is being said.
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Face people with hearing impairments when you talk to them so they can see your lips.
Slow down the rate at which you talk when speaking to a person with a hearing impairment.
Increase the level of your voice, if appropriate, when talking with a person with a hearing impairment.
Communicate by writing if necessary.
Educating Students with Disabilities: A Shared Responsibility — NASPA 1995
- Set realistic goals and priorities for course work.
- Be prepared to request "reasonable accommodations" in your course work so you can learn and demonstrate your knowledge of course material. This is your right under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap.
- Become knowledgeable and comfortable about describing your disability so you can advocate for yourself with faculty.
- Keep only one calendar with all relevant dates, assignments and appointments. Do not try to keep a schedule in your head.
- Sit toward the front of the classroom to maximize your contact and to reduce distractions.
- Use a tape recorder during lectures. Selectively tape record key points using the "pause" switch.
- Listen to the tape or review your written notes as soon as possible after class to refresh your memory and to fill in any gaps.
- Estimate how long a given class assignment will take, generally planning on two hours outside of class for every hour in class. Build in study breaks; fatigue is a big time waster.
- If you learn better by listening to others and then discussing what you have learned, start a study group.
- Make notes of any questions you might have so that they can be answered before the next exam.
- If you are having trouble or feeling overwhelmed, talk with the professor immediately. Do not hesitate to seek help. It is critical that you link up with campus supports before you fall behind in your work.
Second edition by: Loring C. Brinckerhoff, Ph. D.,
LD Support Services, Boston University, 1991.
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