University of Nebraska Kearney > Disability Services > Students > Tips
Disabilities, Accommodations, & Success Tips
College Students with Disabilities
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.
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.
Commonly Used Accommodations
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.
Assignments given in both auditory and visual format
Course modification (i.e., % time extension, alternate assignments, etc.)
Early text availability
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
Sign Language Interpreters
Taped textbooks/materials or large print
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)
Helpful Hints for Interacting with People with Disabilities
(Equal Access to Software and Information [EASI], 1994)
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 when appropriate.
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.
Try sitting or crouching down to the approximate height of people in wheelchairs or scooters when you talk to them.
Listen patiently. Don’t complete sentences for a person unless he/she asks for help.
Face people with hearing impairments when you talk to them so they can see your lips.
Suggestions for College Students
LD Support Services, Boston University, 1991.
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