11 Strategies to Support Students with Disabilities


This article is based on the upcoming Helping Students with Disabilities Succeed in College course soon to be released on Atomic Learning by Dr. Theresa Kiley, a former Associate Professor at Argosy University and Western Illinois University, published author, and education conference keynote speaker.  (More about Dr. Kiley.)

Working with students with disabilities can be rewarding, yet challenging. In many situations, a student’s disability is not easily observed. To add to the difficulty, there are a variety of disabilities that college professors can often encounter. Regardless, preparing to teach students with disabilities and diverse characteristics is essential for faculty as instructors must provide academic and career opportunities that are equivalent to those provided for their nondisabled peers.

To help, here are eleven strategies to help faculty members support students with disabilities:
 

ADD/ADHD

As the number of individuals being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD continues to rise, the need for instructors who can plan a course that is more accessible for all students is also increasing. We invite you to consider these suggestions developed by Universal Design:

  1. Provide important information in both oral and written formats.
     
  2. Provide printed materials early in the course to allow students time to read the texts and reference any available software.
     
  3. Avoid last-minute assignment or additional assignments after distributing the course syllabus.
     

Memory Loss

Memory problems associated with learning disabilities can interfere with storage of new information, as well as the ability to retrieve that information at a later time. In order to assist students with memory issues, here are a few suggested strategies:

  1. Allow students to access memory devices, such as lists of background information (e.g., formulas or dates) to be used in problem solving or essay writing.
     
  2. Have students create realistic timelines when studying for tests. Test dates should be listed on a large wall calendar, and specific dates and times reserved for studying should be clearly visible. 

What Makes a Barrier-Free Campus?

When we talk about making public institutions accessible, normally the focus is on guard rails, elevators, and other structural changes to buildings. When considering institutions of learning, accessibility goes much deeper than that. To meet the requirements to make sure institutions of higher learning are accessible to all learners, focusing on digital accessibility is as important as making sure students can physically access brick and mortar areas of your campus. 

Building a Culture of Accessibility on Your Virtual Campus

With the shift from brick and mortar education to online or blended learning environments, accessibility does not often receive the consideration it deserves. As an advocate for accessibility, how can you manage key challenges such as conveying the importance of accessibility to instructors or how to provide effective training on how to make online courses accessible to the most students?