Universal Design: Instruction for students with learning disabilities

by Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

Amanda Kastrinos

The goal of any successful instructor is to teach the course in a way all students will understand. But how can college teachers plan instruction for students with special needs, specifically students with learning disabilities?

With the passage of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act, teachers are required to make necessary accommodations to any student with a learning disability.

As the law states, “No otherwise qualified person with a disability shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity”  (Section 504).

Some of these accommodations could include providing a note-taker, preferential seating, additional time on tests and assignments, providing copies of lesson plans and assignments, or allowing video or audio recording of lectures.

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The why and how of making accommodations for students with disabilities

by Kevin Hull
PhD student, University of Florida

While there are a multitude of different skills a new instructor must learn when entering the classroom, there may be none more important than dealing with students with disabilities.  If not addressed correctly, both the teacher and the institution could face some heavy penalties from the government.

Simply put, teachers need to know the correct way to accommodate students with disabilities because it is the law.  A law passed in 1973 states:

No “otherwise qualified” individuals, solely by reason of their disabilities can “be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination” in (secondary institutions).

The main point of this law is that students with disabilities need to have the same opportunities to succeed as others in the classroom.

This should be achieved through inclusion.  Students with disabilities should not be singled out, and instead should be treated as equals to their classmates.  Instructors will be provided with a listing of the accommodations that must be followed for the individual student.  The instructor should meet with the student so they can come to a determination together about what will work best for the semester.

Here at the University of Florida, the Disability Resource Center is available to help answer many questions to ease concerns.  Their website is: http://www.dso.ufl.edu/drc/

The DRC can help with testing accommodations, supplying note-takers, and creating a positive working experience between the student and the faculty.  Please check with them if you have any questions or concerns regarding a student with a disability in your classroom.

Kevin Hull is a student in Mass Communication Teaching.