A person who is colour blind can t see light blue text on a beige background by G86WSI


									     Guidelines for Faculty in
the Accommodation of Students
       with Disabilities


       Accessible Learning Centre
       Wilfrid Laurier University
Arts Building 1C11
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Part 1: The Centre and Its Services
Ontario Universities and the Ontario Human Rights Code . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Bill 125: The Ontarians with Disabilities Act . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Laurier’s Commitment to Student Success . . 9
Partnership between Faculty, Staff and Students. . . . . . . .. . 10
On Documentation for Accommodation ................................................................................ 11
The Instructor’s Role .................................................................................................................. 12
The Role of the Student .............................................................................................................13
Support Services for Students....................................................................................................14
Writing Accommodated Examinations ....................................................................................17

Part 2: Disabilities and Disorders
Teaching Students with:

 ........................................................................................Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/HD)                        22
....................................................................................................................... Hearing Impairment          24
......................................................................................................................... Learning Disability       26
.........................................................................................................................Medical Conditions         29
           Physical or Mobility Impairment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
.......................................................................................... Psychological/Psychiatric Disabilities                   31
.....................................................................................................................Acquired Brain Injury          32
.......................................................................................................................... Visual Impairment        33

Part 3: Resources

Accessibility in Online Course Material Creation
A Few Words on Universal Design for Instruction


T    his is the second edition of Laurier’s guidelines for faculty members, regarding
     accommodations for students with disabilities. We value diversity, and strive to be
a caring community. We support the participation of all students both in academic
activities and in campus life. For these reasons, we are glad to make the efforts required
of us by law.

The Ontario Human Rights Code requires us to provide “equal treatment with respect to
services, goods, and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of
origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital
status, same-sex partnership status, family status or disability,” and the Accessibility for
Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, mandates “developing, implementing and enforcing
accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities
with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings,
structures and premises. . .” (AODA, 2005, p. 1).

In some cases, we need to make difficult decisions where there are competing
requirements. For example, we need to be able to accommodate all students while
respecting the integrity of academic requirements. Providing appropriate
accommodations may sometimes involve extra work for us. We may need to prepare
our course outlines and materials further in advance such that necessary materials can
be transcribed. We may need to prepare our exams further in advance such that
students who write exams in a different location can do so. We appreciate that personal
information about students and their abilities is confidential and should not be
disseminated to others.

If you have questions or concerns about the process of providing accommodations,
please speak to the Director of Accessible Learning, to your Dean, and, if appropriate, to

Thank you for your help in making Laurier an inclusive and welcoming environment
for all students.

                                                                                Sue Horton

    Vice President: Academic
                    Fall 2005


A       disability exists when a person is temporarily or permanently prevented from
      performing routine daily duties. These duties include those performed in
personal, social, vocational or educational settings. While accommodations for persons
with disabilities in any of the preceding settings in effect “levels the playing field,”
those with disabilities need, and desire, to find employment in the workplace and to be
admitted to post-secondary institutions on their own merits. The dignity of the person
with a disability is integral to this philosophy.
       For the year 2004-2005, 642 students accessed support services through Laurier’s
Accessible Learning Centre. By disability group, there were 186 clients with learning
disabilities or acquired brain injuries, 15 who with vision disabilities, 13 with hearing
disabilities, 53 with mobility and chronic pain disabilities, 80 students with medical and
123 with psychological/psychiatric conditions and, finally, 172 students with multiple
disabilities. Students with disabilities must meet the same academic criteria as non-
disabled students. To be offered admission, they must meet the same academic
standards as other students, and they are expected to achieve to the same level
academically as other students in their program or faculty.


The Ontario Human Rights Code lays the foundation for equal access for students with
disabilities (whether physical, medical, learning or psychological) in that it affords
them the same opportunity to learn as non-disabled students. The excerpt from the Code
cited above in Dr. Horton’s Preface clearly describes the law’s intent.

Disability is further defined in the Code as:

       (a) any degree of physical disability, infirmity or malformation that is caused by bodily
       injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing
       including diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, and any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of
       physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment,
       muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or wheelchair or
       other remedial appliance or device. . .
       (c) a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes
       involved in the understanding or using symbols or spoken language. . .
       (d) a mental disorder.
                                                                           Revised Statutes of Ontario, 2005,
                                                  chap. 32, s. 27(4)

Students who are temporarily disabled, through injury or illness, are entitled to the
same services as those who are permanently disabled.
       According to the Ontario Human Rights Code, Ontario universities have “a duty
to reasonably accommodate students with disabilities to the point of undue hardship
when their disabilities prevent students from benefiting equally from educational

             Hicks, Morely, Hamilton, Stewart, Storie, LLP, Universities, Students and the Law: A Practical Guide for
                    University Officials (Toronto: Hicks, Morely, Hamilton, Stewart, Storie, 2000).

                        The Ontarians with Disabilities Act

On November 7, 2001, the Ontario legislature passed Bill 125--the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act. As of September 2002, all public institutions, including those in post-
secondary education, were required to draft an accessibility plan to set goals, identify
specific steps being taken, and report on achievements in improving inclusion for
persons with disabilities. Laurier’s Accessibility Plans from 2002-2004 are available from
the University Secretariat.

         Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (Bill 118)

On June 13, 2005 the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was given royal
assent. This latest act, which replaces Bill 125, includes development, implementation
and enforcement of standards of access for all goods and services in Ontario–including
education. A Standards Development Committee is currently being created by the
provincial government. In the interim, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act will continue to
encourage institutions to move forward on accessibility issues. Laurier’s 2005
Accessibility Plan has received Senate approval and its recommendations can begin to
be put into place. The current plan ca be accessed at www.wlu.ca under University


W            ilfrid Laurier University “is committed to academic freedom, access to
        university education and individuals’ personal and intellectual development. To
these ends, Laurier aims to create a learning and social environment that offers equal
treatment and opportunity to all its students, including those with disabilities.” 2

Hence, the institution strives
•      to foster a climate of understanding and respect for the dignity and worth of all
persons while encouraging them to reach their full academic potential;
•      to ensure that students with disabilities are accommodated in accordance with
the terms of the Ontario Human Rights Code, while protecting their privacy,
confidentiality, autonomy and self-esteem;
•      to preserve the academic integrity of the University by re-affirming that all
students must satisfy the essential requirements of their respective courses and
programmes, while at the same time, recognizing that students with disabilities may
require reasonable accommodations to enable them to do so;
•      to reinforce an application process based on equitable access to all courses and
programmes; to clarify the roles and responsibilities of students, instructors,
Departments, Faculties and administrative staff in provision of accommodations.

              “Policy for Academic Accommodation of Undergraduate Students with Disabilities, p. 1. The complete document, as
approved by Senate on May 11, 2005, can be accessed at http://cubic.wlu.ca/docsnpubs_detail.php?grp_id=158&doc_id=5995. The
“Policy for Academic Accommodation of Graduate Students with Disabilities,” as approved by Senate on October 19, 2004, is
available at http://www.wlu.ca/page.php?grp_id=158&s_id=146&sb_id=281&p_id=874.


W       ith recommendations from medical documentation or psycho-educational
        assessment as a guide, accommodations for students at Wilfrid Laurier are
constructed through consultation, dialogue and partnership among appropriate faculty,
staff and the student. The details of this process are reinforced through the procedures
portion of the undergraduate and graduation accommodation policies.


S    tudents requesting academic support services from the Accessible Learning Centre
     for classroom or examination accommodation are required to self-identify and
provide current documentation from a registered health-care professional (i.e.,
physician, psychologist or psychiatrist to the Accessible Learning Centre).
        Documentation should include:
$       clear identification and diagnosis of the disability;
$       indication that the disability impedes or impairs academic functioning; and
$       specific recommendations regarding appropriate academic accommodation.
        On receipt of such documentation and meeting with the student to determine
their needs, the student will formally register as a client of the Centre. In the case of
students with learning disabilities and/or Attention Deficit Disorder, a current psycho-
educational assessment performed under the supervision of a registered psychologist
must be presented to access services.
        Examination accommodations are determined by the Accessible Learning Centre
consultant, based on recommendations set out in the student’s documentation. If a
recommendation involves a facilities issue, the matter may be referred to the Director,
Accessible Learning, who, in conjunction with relevant university departments, such as
Physical Resources, will determine an appropriate course of action.

                           THE INSTRUCTOR’S ROLE

I nstructors play a vital role in shaping a student's post-secondary educational
  experience. An important relationship for many university students is the one
established between themselves and their instructors, one which can be key to

success for many students. Although this relationship is very important to all
students, it becomes more so, perhaps, for students with disabilities, whose academic
success may rely on good communication with their instructors. All requests to
instructors for accommodation must first be discussed with the Accessible Learning

To facilitate a student's academic success and maintain the University's standards for
the benefit of all students, instructors shall:
•     indicate to students who raise disability and/or accommodation issues that
      they should first discuss these matters with the Accessible Learning Centre;
•     if requested, identify the essential requirements of a course;
•     participate, as appropriate, in structuring a suitable accommodation plan that
      meets the needs of the student and satisfies the essential requirements of the
      respective course/programme;
•     refer any proposed accommodation plan that has substantial financial
      implications to the Chair of the department;
 •    work cooperatively with Accessible Learning in announcing requests for tutors,
      educational assistants and note-takers when required.3

                                  THE ROLE OF THE STUDENT

T  he University recognizes the importance of a student's experience and knowledge
   with respect to his or her disability and its impact on learning. This being so, it is
imperative that the student with the disability participate fully in determining the
appropriate accommodations.

Students requiring accommodation shall:
•     self-identify to the Accessible Learning Centre to discuss whether
      accommodation will allow them to meet the essential requirements of a
•     discuss with the Accessible Learning Centre any required accommodations in a
      timely manner as outlined in this policy;
•     provide to the Accessible Learning Centre any relevant and recent psychological
      or medical documentation (from an approved and regulated health professional)
      to substantiate their disability and any resultant restrictions;

          “Policy for Academic Accommodation of Undergraduate Students with Disabilities,” p. 8-9.
•   work with the Accessible Learning Centre, instructors, and others to develop an
    appropriate accommodation plan for each term;
•   follow the procedures outlined in this policy when an accommodation is
    required, and comply with the Accessible Learning Centre's instructions relating
    to the implementation of any specific accommodation;
•   meet with instructors as needed to discuss arrangements for accommodations. 4

        “Policy for Academic Accommodation of Undergraduate Students with Disabilities,” p. 8.
A    dvocacy and support services provided by the Accessible Learning Centre include:

Accommodations for Disabilities

Classroom and examination accommodations are dependent on the nature of the
disability, the documentation provided by the student and the recommendations made
by the student's specialist, i.e., psychologist/psychiatrist, or physician. After the
document has been reviewed, classroom/examination accommodations are
recommended, in consultation with the student. Accommodations are made judiciously,
and in accordance with presented documentation. Common examination
recommendations include extended time, use of a computer, separate exam settings, or
enlarged, taped, brailled or scribed exams. Common in-class ones may include
provision of note-takers or texts on tape or in alternate format.

Academic Support

The Centre staff assist students registered with Accessible Learning with their learning
needs. They help students identify their preferred learning styles and support students
in developing effective learning strategies for taking multiple-choice or essay
examinations, developing organizational strategies for formal essays, note-taking, and
improving memory. The Centre refers students to suitable supports within the Learning
Services group--Counselling Services, Writing Centre, Academic Advising, etc.

Transcription Services and Books on Tape

For students with visual impairment, the Transcription and Technology Coordinator
provides course materials in alternative formats such as braille, enlarged print, or on
disk The Centre provides this service in conjunction with the W. Ross MacDonald
School for the Blind in Brantford, the CNIB and the Readings for the Blind and Dyslexic.
As not all texts are readily available, it is essential that the Centre receive notification of
course registration and text requirements well in advance of the start of term. A six-
week waiting period for transcription is not uncommon.
       A Transcription Technology Agreement has been put in place to provide the
Transcription Coordinator access to WebCT site course material. Access such as this is
required only when a student with an accessibility issue is registered in the course.
Professors are contacted to facilitate this request.


ALC staff refer students to on-campus services such as personal or career counselling or
to Health Services. As well, consultants will refer or provide information on
community resources such as addiction support, community and social services, etc.

Liaison with Laurier Faculty or Staff

While students are encouraged to develop their self-advocacy skills, consultants will
(with consent) discuss students' needs, explain documentation and recommend
accommodations to Laurier's instructional or administrative staff. Students sign a
Consent to Release Information form before any disability-related information is shared
with faculty or staff.

Accessible Learning Lab

Lab facilities are located on the second floor of the Arts Building in room 2C7. This
room also serves as the office for the Assistive Technologist. A variety of hardware and
software are available for demonstration and instruction, including the following:
      Dictation software (Dragon Naturally Speaking)
               1.    Screen-reading software (Jaws, Kurzweil 3000, Wynn)
               2.    Screen enlargement software (Zoomtext)
               3.    Writing organization software (TextHelp, DraftChoice, Inspiration)
               4.    Scanners for creating electronic text
               5.    Lecture notetaking systems (Fm systems, digital recorders,
               6.    PDA’s (Palm Pilot)
               7.    GPS spoken navigation system (for navigating around Waterloo)
Computers have internet access for student study purposes. Students learn how to use
equipment or study individually in the lab. A loans program allows students an
extended trial period for equipment. In addition to meeting student needs, the lab is
available for faculty and staff to assess accessibility of materials and methods of

Note-Taking Services

Students with disabilities who have difficulty taking notes in class may be eligible for
our note-taking service, which relies on instructors to advertise the need for volunteers.
Temporary Disabilities

Students experiencing temporary disabilities (e.g.., broken bones, temporary illness)
can receive accommodations for exam writing through the office. These may involve

or taping an exam in the case of a broken hand or arm, or extended time for a student
recovering from an illness. In all cases appropriate medical documentation must be
presented to the Centre.


S   tudents requiring examination accommodations must meet with their consultant at
    least once per year, at which time documentation will be reviewed and any
modifications to previous accommodations made.
       While students are encouraged to approach their instructors to introduce
themselves and disclose their status with our Centre, for a variety of reasons, some will
be reluctant to do so. In an effort to keep instructors informed as to numbers and
supports required by these students, the Centre generates email twice each term with
this confidential information. The registration data current on Banner is generated and
contains information only on the students who have identified with the Centre.
       The Centre welcomes any questions faculty may have regarding
accommodations.       Contact    us   at     extension   3086,    or    via    email     at
       An announcement in class expressing an instructor’s willingness to meet with
any students requesting alternative classroom or examination evaluation is valuable.
Students who are reluctant to approach faculty regarding their disability will be more
apt to seek the help of someone they view to be receptive. As well, it is helpful that this
information is present on course handouts.

Midterm Exams

 Students receiving accommodation through Accessible Learning are informed of
deadlines around examination booking dates. For mid-term examinations, their
booking forms must be in the office at least 14 days before the exam. Late bookings are
not accepted.
       Accessible Learning’s Exam Coordinators will contact instructors well in advance
of their scheduled exam to confirm exam details, i.e., date, start time, length of exam, or
format. Complete information regarding aids and any special instructions for exams is
invaluable for Accessible Learning staff. These details will be conveyed to the proctors
who supervise exams. ALC staff will request the number of copies required for the
exam. Instructors are requested not to send extra copies of exams to the office, as
security is always a primary concern. Exams should be delivered to the Accessible

Learning Centre at least 48 hours before the start of the exam.

Mid-Term Exam Responsibilities
 Time Frame                   Instructor                          Student

 14 days before exam                                              Book exam with
                                                                  Accessible Learning

 5 days before exam           Respond to ALC request, relay
                             any special instructions, e.g.,
                             length, aids allowed, etc.

MINIMUM 72 hours             Alternate-format exams (to be
prior                        Brailled, taped, enlarged, etc.)
                             delivered to the Centre.

 48 hours prior              Copy of exam to Accessible

 24 hours after               Exam returned to faculty

       For exams requiring conversion to an alternative format (i.e., Brailled, taped or
enlarged), instructors are requested to provide an e-copy in addition to one in print.
Please deliver these exams to the office a minimum of 72hours before the exam, to allow
time for transcription.
       Accessible Learning will return completed exams to the instructor or to the
department within 24 hours of the writing of the exam. The return of the completed
exams is acknowledged with a signature on the receipt.

Final Exams

 Regulations for the scheduling and delivery of final examinations for students writing
through the Accessible Learning Centre are coordinated through the university’s
Examinations Office.
       Bookings for final exams must be received from students by the deadline set each
term. Students are well aware of this important information.
       All final exams are provided to the Centre by the Examinations Office, unless the
instructor is taking responsibility for their own exam (“See Prof” exam). Under normal
circumstances, Accessible Learning does not contact instructors regarding final exam
information. Contact will be made only with instructors under exceptional
circumstances, i.e., exam on disk, music, art exams, “See Prof” exam, etc.
 Final Exam Responsibilities
  Time Frame                Instructor                          Student

  Minimum 1 month                                               Book final with
  before final                                                  Accessible Learning

  1 week prior              If “See prof” final (disk, music
                           listening portion or slides,
                           required) delivered to Accessible

  24 hours after            Exam returned to faculty

Late Changes/Corrections to Exams:
If there is an error or change in a particular exam, faculty are requested to advise the
office so students writing through the ALC can be advised of the correction.
        If faculty would like to pick up their own exams, they should inform the Exam

Coordinators so arrangements can be made for them to be released by the proctor.
      Students appreciate a visit from their instructor during the writing of the exam.
The Exam Coordinators will inform you of room locations on request. Locations of
students writing exams through the Centre are on the web
(www.mylaurier.ca/accessible) for instructors who would like to be available for their

Exam Security

Exams should be delivered to the Centre in a sealed envelope and are secured in the
office until they are to be written. On their return, they are signed for by the receiving
instructor or department staff.
        If students writing with Accessible Learning begin at an earlier time than students
in regular classrooms, they must remain in the exam room until one half (½) hour after
the rest of the class starts writing.
        When exams are written on computers, proctors ensure that students save exams
both on disk and hard drive, and that computer exams are deleted from both locations
once the student has finished writing and has generated a printed copy of the exam.
        Sometimes students with physical, learning or psychological disabilities will need
one or more breaks during the writing of their exams. This accommodation will be noted
on the student's accommodation form and students using this accommodation will be
supervised at all times by ALC proctors.
        Proctors, volunteers and paraprofessionals are never involved in the production
of alternative format exams. This is done only by Accessible Learning Centre staff.
Issue of Accommodating for Exam Anxiety

While the Accessible Learning Centre does not accommodate students who request an
alternate setting or extra time because of exam anxiety per se, this symptom is often
present in students who have documentation for other disabilities. One such disability
may be an anxiety disorder (a psychological or psychiatric disability), which includes
panic disorder, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder and acute stress disorder.
        Symptoms of these disorders may include restlessness, difficulty concentrating,
fear of losing control or fear of not being able to cope. Examinations may aggravate these
fears and the student's performance may be adversely affected. These students may be
receiving instruction from health-care professionals in relaxation techniques and
building or improving self-esteem; however removing the student from the regular
classroom exam setting is helpful. Documentation from a qualified health-care
practitioner is essential before exam accommodations for these students are approved by

their consultants.

Distance Education Courses

Students taking Distance Education courses may register with the Centre by phone or
email if they are a distance away from Laurier. Completed examination forms are
forwarded to Distance Education and the Examinations Office.


                      DEFICIT DISORDER (ADD/ADHD)

W      hile there is debate whether Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention
       Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD) is one disorder or two, both “arms”
of the disability may present in the classroom differently. The ADD and ADHD student
share common characteristics--inattention and impulsivity. While the student with ADD
may have problems sustaining attention for long periods of time and is prone to
daydreaming, the ADHD student may be easily distracted and “hyper.” Impulsivity
affects both the ADD and ADHD student’s attention to detail, causing them to rush
through work and fail to proofread for errors. This impulsivity also affects the student's
ability to manage time.
        Many students who have ADD/ADHD take the stimulant, Ritalin, considered by
many to be the safest and most effective way to manage the disorder. Ritalin allows the
student to focus for longer periods of time, and reduces impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Documentation Requirements for Students with ADD/ADHD

To accommodate students with ADD/ADHD, a psycho-educational assessment,
completed by a registered and practising psychologist, is be presented by the student to
their consultant. This assessment outlines the nature of the disability, the extent to which
it impedes learning and also contains classroom and evaluation recommendations. On
the basis of this documentation, the consultant, in discussion with the student, will
approve accommodations for classroom and evaluation processes.

Common Academic Problems of Students with ADD/ADHD

$      Slow and inefficient reading;
$      Distractibility;
$      Does not like to go through established channels–-needs to do things their own
$      Frequent and careless errors (math and grammar);
$      Slow essay writing;
$      Poor time management skills;
$      Poor concentration;
$      Weak handwriting;
$      Anxiety;

$      Mood swings;
$      Procrastination and organization;
$      Problem with follow through; and
$      May follow intuition rather than logic.

Instructional Strategies for Students with ADD/ADHD

$      Clear structure in the form of syllabus, firm due dates and well-defined
$      Reminders of impending due dates of assignments or examinations;
$      Brief review of previous lecture before starting new material;
$      In lectures longer than one hour, vary pace, allow breaks;
$      Give written reinforcement of oral instructions and assignments-– individually if
$      Invite the student to sit near the front of the class to minimize distractibility;
$      Discuss with the student what helps them best–they are often experts at their own
       “variety” of ADD; and
$      Be approachable: encourage students to discuss assignments, upcoming tests, etc.

Evaluation Accommodations for Students with ADD/ADHD

$      Extended time on tests and exams;
$      Quiet, distraction-free room;
$      Computer to assist them in organization; and
$      Large assignments broken down into parts.


A    s with visual disabilities, there is a wide range of severity of loss in people who are
     hearing impaired. Hearing loss may range from mild to profound, and, as such,
people with hearing disabilities are either deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing.
       Some people with hearing disabilities read lips; others rely on sign language. Still
others rely on gestures, writing or interpreters. If students have some residual hearing,
they may be able to use a hearing device to amplify sounds. This may take the form of

hearing aids and may require the instructor to wear an FM-transmitter to direct sound
exclusively to the student. Students who were deaf at birth or deafened at an early age
may have speech impairments, making their speech difficult to understand.
        Students with hearing impairments face significant obstacles in an academic
setting due to the large amount of information conveyed orally. It is likely that a
hearing-impaired student at the post-secondary level will have above-average
intelligence to compensate for the significant disability.
        There are many ways that students with hearing impairments may have their
needs accommodated in the classroom.

Instructional Strategies for Students with Hearing Impairments
$      Provide handouts, lecture notes, photocopies of overheads, outlines ahead of
$      Speak at a normal pace, as clearly and distinctly as possible in the classroom; do
       not lecture with your back turned to the class or pace as you speak;
$      Try not to cover your mouth while lecturing, and avoid talking as you are
       handing out papers, etc.;
$      Do not exaggerate lip movements as you are speaking;
$      If the student is accompanied by an interpreter, speak to the student, not the
       interpreter. Small breaks in your speaking will allow the interpreter to catch up;
$      If a class member asks a question, repeat it before answering;
$      Use captioned videos whenever possible;
$      Use chalkboard or overheads as much as possible;
$      Communicate assignments in writing to the student;
$      Minimize auditory distractions in the classroom, i.e., overhead left running; and
$      Cooperate by wearing an FM sound transmitter, if requested.

Evaluation Accommodations for Hearing-Impaired Students
$      Students with a hearing impairment may need extended time for exams and
$      Note-takers will be essential;
$      Hearing-impaired students should not be penalized for grammar and spelling
       errors, as these are caused by their delay in language acquisition. Use of a
       computer will aid in this area;
$      Students may need assistance with essay-writing.


S   tudents with a learning disability have deficits which interfere with their ability to
    process information. These deficits affect the student's performance in areas
involving thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling and/or mathematics.
       A learning disability is not an intellectual deficit; in fact, most learning- disabled
individuals have average to above-average intelligence. Nor is the disability an
emotional problem or weakness. A learning disability is caused by a central nervous
system dysfunction and is lifelong in nature. Learning disabilities are intrinsic to a
particular individual and differ in nature from person to person. Although no one cause
of learning disabilities is accepted, possible precipitators are genetic predisposition,
trauma before or after birth, environmental toxins, allergies or medical factors. It is
estimated that up to 10% of a university population has some form of learning disability.
       While a learning disability cannot be “cured,” students learn and achieve through
the use of instructional intervention and compensatory strategies.

Documentation Requirements for Students with Learning Disabilities

In order for LD students to be accommodated at universities in Ontario, a complete
psycho-educational assessment must be completed and presented to the disability
service provider. This assessment outlines the nature of the disability, the extent it
impedes learning and recommendations for accommodation of the disability in the
classroom setting. The assessment must be current, i.e., within the last five years.
       In the case of first-year students, an IPRC or formal identification from high
school is sufficient for interim accommodation. To receive accommodation past first
year, students must undergo formal assessment.
       All students must meet regularly with their consultant to discuss their needs and
determine exam accommodations.

Common Problems the Student with a Learning Disability May Have in the Classroom

$      May read very slowly or have difficulty reading for meaning;
$      May have difficulty picking out main points, or summarizing text;
$      Usually will have difficulty finishing examinations in allotted time, or may rush
       through exams;
$      Poor retention;

$      Cannot express themselves in writing;
$      Spelling and grammar inaccuracies;
$      Difficulty learning a foreign language;
$      Poor penmanship, often uses printing rather than cursive writing;
$      May be unable to write lengthy answers even with accommodation or additional
$      Poor organization of ideas in written responses;
$      Difficulty copying from board or overhead;
$      Poor note-taking skills;
$      Computational difficulties or incomplete mastery of basic facts, e.g.,
       multiplication table; and
$      Spatial difficulties.

Instructional Strategies for the Student with a Learning Disability

$      Make syllabus available, and if possible, discuss it with student in advance;
$      Begin lecture with review of material covered previous day;
$      Provide students with samples, practice tests and exams;
$      Use overhead or chalkboard instead of relying on oral lectures;
$      Allow students access to overheads;
$      Emphasize important points, main ideas;
$      Provide periodic summaries throughout class;
$      Give assignments in writing as well as orally;
$      Canvass class for volunteer note-takers;
$      Select a text with a study guide; and
$                 Ask student (privately) how you can help their learning.

Evaluation Accommodations for the Student with Learning Disabilities

Although learning disabilities are unique to each individual, certain “standard”
accommodations assist students to achieve to their full potential.
$     Extended time on tests and examinations;
$     Alternate examination format (objective rather than essay, or vice versa);
$     Quiet, distraction-free environment for examinations;
$     Minimal deductions for spelling and grammar on exams (formal essays not
      included); errors which affect meaning of student’s response should be dealt with
      as faculty see fit;
$     Taped examinations when they include significant reading (multiple choice);

$      Oral examinations;
$      Alternate methods of assessment than exams, e.g., research papers, reports;
$      Tables or computational devices allowed;
$      Word processor for writing; and
$      Ensure student does not have to copy large amounts of material from exam to test

                                        TEACHING STUDENTS WITH
                              MEDICAL CONDITIONS

M      edical disabilities (“invisible disabilities”) that may be encountered in the
       classroom include, but are not limited to: asthma, cancer, Crohn’s Disease,
diabetes, environmental allergies, epilepsy, fibro-myalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome,
sleep disorders, including apnea or narcolepsy, and acquired immune deficiencies.
        For many students with medical conditions, pain and fatigue often affect their
performance in class and during examinations. Many students with medical conditions
require medication, and side effects such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue and loss of
concentration may cause difficulties. Depending on the condition, mobility, vision and
hearing may also be affected. Absenteeism may be a concern.
        The Accessible Learning Centre will (with the student's consent) discuss with
faculty any issues a serious medical condition may have on the student's performance in
class; however, it is beneficial for the instructor to get to know the student so that they
will be able to anticipate and meet their needs. Open communication enhances the
relationship between the student with a medical condition and the instructor, and can
often alleviate stresses the student may feel.
        While flexibility and understanding are key components in dealing with the
chronically ill student in the classroom, the integrity and standards of the course should
not be compromised.

Instructional Strategies for the Student with a Medical Condition

$      Provide a list of readings and course syllabus as soon as possible;
$      Preferential seating in class–near the door, close to the front, etc.
$      Frequent breaks;
$      Student may need to eat in the classroom;
$      Student may need to get up or stretch during class;
$      Note-takers may be beneficial;
$      Due to absenteeism, lectures available as handouts or on the web;

$     Student may need to bring Obus-Forme or pillow to class for comfort.

Evaluation Accommodation for a Student with a Medical Condition

$      May need extra time to write exams;
$      Write exams on computer;
$      Provision to take supervised breaks during exam;
$      May need exams broken up into shorter units;
$      Some flexibility regarding due dates for assignments; substitution of oral for
       written assignment, or vice versa.

                        OR MOBILITY IMPAIRMENTS

T   he range of physical impairments is broad--from limited manual dexterity to
    paralysis. Illness, injury or birth trauma may be the cause. In the case of students
with limited dexterity, the disability may be “invisible” in the classroom setting.
Students with more profound disabilities may use wheelchairs, crutches, or canes.
       The needs of physically impaired students are likewise broad. Depending on the
student, they may require only that buildings are accessible, including residence and
classrooms. Other students may require academic and physical accommodations and
evaluation methods.

Instructional Strategies for the Student with Physical Disabilities

$      Ensure that the student can see the instructor, chalkboard or screen;
$      Speak directly–at eye level if possible–if the student is in a wheelchair;
$      Do not avoid words like “run” or “walk”;
$      Privately ask the student if they need rest breaks;
$      Students with upper-body weakness or paralysis may be unable to raise their
       hand to contribute. Establish eye contact to include them in classroom discussion;
$      Understand that students with mobility concerns may at times be late for class;
$      Special seating or adjustable tables may be necessary;
$      Field trips need to be planned with the student in mind; transporta-tion assistance
       may be needed.

Evaluation Accommodations for the Student with Physical Disabilities

$      Alternate exam accommodations may be needed, e.g., computer, oral, taped, or
       scribed exams;
$      Taped lectures;
       May need assistance with research assignments;
$     Note-takers;
$     Flexibility with respect to due dates;
$     Wheelchair-accessible exam sites.


P   sychological disabilities may be chronic or short-term, moderate or severe,
    and may affect the student in your class in various ways. Psychological/
psychiatric disabilities are true “invisible disabilities,” however, the impact on the
student is as severe as on those who are more visibly disabled.
       Psychological/psychiatric disabilities cover a broad spectrum and describe
(but are not limited to) those with severe anxiety, bipolar disorder (manic-
depressive), clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia,
alcohol or drug addiction, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders and personality
disorders or phobias. While students with other lifelong disorders may have
“come to terms” with their disability and are able to discuss its impact on
themselves and their learning, most psychological disorders (notably
schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) are often diagnosed in the late teens and
early twenties. With this late diagnosis, students have not had time to accept or
truly understand their illness, and may be unwilling or unable to discuss it.
       Many students with diagnosed disorders take medications which may have
side effects such as drowsiness, headaches or lethargy.
       While many psychological/psychiatric disorders present on the surface as
exam anxiety or late assignments, it is crucial not to dismiss them. This presenting
behaviour may be indicative of a more serious psychological or psychiatric
disorder. A referral to Accessible Learning is recommended if you suspect a
student may have a serious problem.

Instructional Strategies for Students with Psychological/Psychiatric Disabilities
$      May help to break assignments into smaller, more manageable goals;
$      As concentration may be an issue, vary content of lectures;
$      Schedule breaks in longer lectures;
$      Praise often helps students overcome feelings of discouragement;

$       Be firm re availability for meetings/discussions to avoid dependency;
$       Do not attempt to counsel on your own; and
$       Encourage student to use campus support systems, i.e., Health Services and
        Counseling Services.

Evaluation Accommodation Strategies
$     Extended time for examinations;
$     Distraction-free environment;
$     Computer to organize longer responses; and
$     May benefit from supervised word or definition list.

A    cquired Brain Injuries (ABI) may result from birth difficulties, serious illness or
     accident. Depending on the area of the brain that has been injured, symptoms may
vary from loss of the ability to speak to disabilities in memory, language, attention or
emotions. There are, however, several outcomes that are common for all students who
have acquired brain injury. These are memory loss, lack of concentration and
impairment in recognizing relevant information. Many students with ABI (especially
those who have been in motor vehicle accidents) also suffer from chronic pain.
        The effects of acquired brain injury may lessen with time, but many symptoms
can remain indefinitely, causing long-term cognitive, social or emotional difficulties. In
many cases the young person who has experienced a brain injury must cope with the
sudden realization that mentally they are not the same as before the injury. Depression is
a common outcome for individuals who have suffered brain injury, as well as a sense of
denial and inaccurate self-observation.
        Many of the accommodations useful for the learning disabled student also apply
to the student with brain injury

Evaluation Accommodations for the Student with ABI
$     Students will need additional time for tests and exams;
$     Distraction-free examination setting;
$     May need short breaks during testing;
$     May need word list to access short-term memory5;
$     May require exams broken into smaller pieces and be tested in units;

          Word List: If this accommodation is approved by the Learning Consultant, the course instructor
will be notified by phone or e-mail. It is the student’s responsibility to forward the word list to the
instructor for approval in sufficient time for the instructor to check, sign, and forward to the Accessible
Learning Centre, Distance Education or the Examinations Office for inclusion in the exam packet.
Students will not be allowed to bring an unapproved word list into the examination room.
$   May need exams (parts) scheduled at least one day apart;
$   Will perform better with visual stimulus, i.e., multiple-choice rather than essay


T   he definition of legal blindness is broad, ranging from visual acuity of 20/200 (10%
    vision) to no sight. Depending on the severity of disability, a student's needs may be
accommodated in a number of ways—from sitting at the front of your classroom, to
relying on Braille, note takers or tape recorders.
       People who are classified as “legally blind” may be better described as having
“low vision,” but even that term is not a generic one. Some are able to read the
blackboard or textbook with magnifying glasses, others can only discern colours or
       Although most sighted people associate Braille with visual impairment, not all
visually impaired students are Braille readers. Most use adaptive equipment such as
screen-reading computer systems, scanners and taped books, instead of Braille.
       The Centre welcomes your questions or concerns about students with vision
impairments in your classroom.

Instructional Strategies for Visually Impaired Students

$      Students should be permitted to sit near the front, if they so request;
$      Material written on the board should be read aloud;
$      Provide your name, phone number, e-mail and office hours verbally;
$      In case of a cancelled class, call the student at home;
$      Provide syllabus and course outlines as early in term as possible for taping
$      Provide electronic versions of course materials;
$      Provide verbal explanations of any graphs or charts used in class;
$      Put a tape recorder on the podium if possible;
$      Do not lecture facing the blackboard/whiteboard. Students taping will be at a
$      In a lab setting, pair the student with a sighted partner;
$      If the student reads Braille, label equipment with Braille, etc.;
$      Use good contrast in printed handouts;
$      Avoid excessive use of overheads;
$      Use verbal descriptions instead of gestures;
$      Do not avoid words like “see,” “look” in the presence of a visually impaired
       student. Talk and act naturally;
$      In inclement weather, ask student if they have transportation home;
$      Talk to the visually impaired student directly.

Evaluation Accommodations for Students with Visual Impairment
A visual disability does not mean the student is impaired in any other way, either
intellectually or emotionally. The instructor should discuss with the student what
evaluation accommodations will be needed.
$       Student may use scribe or computer for examinations;
$       Examinations may be converted into an alternate format for visually impaired
        students to write;
$       Consider oral assignments instead of essays (if requested by the student);
$       Extended time for exams or assignments may be requested;
$       Exams may have to be read aloud by a proctor;
$       Breaks may be needed during examinations.

Guide Dogs

Some visually impaired students have guide dogs to assist them through their daily
activities. Guide dogs are highly trained and are selected for their intelligence and placid
nature. In the classroom, they will usually lie quietly at their owner’s feet.
        It may be helpful to the student if an announcement is made (with the student’s
permission) to the class early in the term that the dog is a working dog, not a pet, and
should not be petted or distracted when it is in harness.

Guiding a Blind Person

Ask the student if they require assistance; if so, offer your arm. Walk at a normal speed;
slow your pace if you are approaching steps or other obstacles, telling them why you are
doing so. Inform them if you are ascending or descending steps. Use words like north,
south, left, right. If you are approaching a door indicate if it is open or shut.


Every student receives information in a different way. Some blind students read Braille,
some use a scanner to scan their books and read them back using screen readers. (A
screen reader is a program that speaks back information from the computer screen.)
Adopting the idea that “simple is better” when creating material and organizing it
online ensures it will be accessible to more people. The purpose of this document is to
introduce you to some considerations for accessibility when creating material online, as
well as how to modify material.

Types of Access Issues
There are many different types of access issues. In some cases, students can have more
than one type of issue, for example, a person with MS may have difficulty seeing print
and also have difficulty typing on a keyboard. Several categories of access issues are:

$      Someone who is blind cannot make sense of a posted picture or graphic, or follow
       chat rooms on Web Ct.
$      A person who is colour-blind can’t see light blue text on a beige background.
$      Someone with low vision cannot make out small graphics that “blow apart” when

$      A student with severe arthritis cannot operate a mouse or regular keyboard to
       access parts of a site.

$     A deaf person cannot make sense of the actions occurring in a short video posted
      to a course site.

$      A student with dyslexia cannot read and make sense of a complex .pdf file.

Organizing Materials Online
The following are a few suggestions for improving accessibility to online materials:
Basic Layout
$      Minimize the use of frames. Frames are “divided” areas of the screen that are
       inaccessible to older screen readers. For example, in Web CT you can close the
       left course menu frame so that it simply shows a drop-down list of links at the top

      of the page.
$     Leave some space between icons or elements on a course page. If they are really
      close together, people with vision or mobility issues may have difficulty
      navigating through them.
$     Use high contrast colours (e.g., black/white) when selecting font and background

$     Put links to the left of any graphic, so the screen reader will encounter the link
      first rather than the graphic.
$     Have links underlined (this is usually the default) so that people with colour
      issues can identify the link more easily.
$     Use a good description of the link. For example, use “Access to marks” as the link
      instead of “click here.”
$     Make it easy to tab to your links and hit “enter” to get into them, so that students
      who do not have the ability to use a mouse can navigate.


$     Make documents as accessible as possible by having an alternative to .pdf (Adobe
      Acrobat files). A plain text (.txt--no formatting) or rich text format (.rtf--some
      formatting), or simple Word (.doc ) file is useful.
$     Tables are not read well by screen-readers, especially if they have more than two
      rows or columns. Summarizing the info in a text file is a good alternative.
$     When encountering numbers, screen readers will say the actual character that was
      typed in the document. Thus, if you mean “zero,” using the letter “O” will be
      confusing, but the numeral “0" would be the appropriate choice (similarly
      distinguish between “els” and “ones”).
$     If the document is long, a table of contents with links to each section is useful.
$     If you are using diagrams or graphs, a simple summary of the content of the
      graph is useful. For example: “Graph showing that car accidents are highest at
      age 16, then decrease until age 70, when they slowly rise again.”

$     For audio or for video with audio, descriptive captioning is an option. A link
      with a typed transcript as a file is also accessible. Try to choose materials where
      the transcript gives enough information about what is happening that no
      additions are needed.

$      Simply paste the info into the body of the e-mail itself, instead of creating an
       attachment, will make it more accessible.
$      Resist using emoticons. Putting the word (smile) in your e-mail is easier to read
       than :^) which is just a bunch of characters to a screen reader.

Chat Rooms
$     Real time chat is often difficult for blind students to use with a screen-reader. Use
      another method of delivery to provide important course information.

Other Sites as Resources
$      If students are required to use other sites (e.g., Turnitin.com), check with
       Accessible Learning to see whether screen-readers can navigate the site.
       Sometimes they are not accessible.

Contact Jane Fridrich, Assistive Technologist, at ext. 3212, jfridric@wlu.ca, with
questions about accessible online materials.

Resource Materials

Designing Accessible Web Based Courses www.evc.edu/ada/index.htm,

Glossary of Adaptive Technology Terms

Examples and Techniques for Accessible Web Courses (University Of Toronto)

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (World Wide Web Consortium)

Web CT and Accessibility (Georgia State University)

Distance Education Tools and Accommodation of Print Disabilities-Conference (EASI)

List of Evaluation and Repair Tools for Web Accessibility


U    niversal Design for Instruction is the subject of much discussion among educators
     working with students who have traditionally faced systemic barriers to success.
UDI is a method of instructional design whose goal is to expand accessibility of
education through removal of these barriers. Its roots are found in the concept of
Universal Design, first devised by architect Ron Mace and his associates. These pioneers
suggested that our cities, buildings and consumer goods be designed so that
accommodations are built in rather than added on as afterthoughts. When such
thoughtful design occurs, not only are those with disabilities accommodated, but the
improved designs make the products easier for everyone to use.
       Our student populations represent increasingly diverse educational backgrounds,
ages, gender, culture, ability, disability and primary language. Lifelong learning
“implies rethinking of content to reflect such factors as age, gender equality, disability,
language, culture and economic disparities.”6 UDI, with its emphasis on thoughtful,
barrier-free design, allows instructors to maintain “their academic standards and
autonomy as the designers of their courses.”7 Hence, accommodating a diverse student
population in the classroom does not require “watering down” or compromising the
essential requirements of the course being taught. UDI appears to address the principles
of adult learning held by noted educators as Knowles, MacKeracher, and Brookfield,
Merriam & Caffarella.
       ERIC provides a very concise, complete definition of UDI:

                  “The Mumbai Statement on Lifelong Learning and the Reform of Higher Education,” Convergence, 33 (2000): 4.
                  S. Scott, J. M. McGuire, and P. Embry, Universal Design for Instruction Fact Sheet (Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut,,
2002), p.1.
                   ...the design of instructional materials and activities that makes the
                   learning goals achievable by individuals with wide differences in
                   their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand
                   English, attend, organize, engage and remember. Universal design
                   for learning is achieved by means of flexible curricular materials and
                   activities that provide alternatives for students with disparities in
                   abilities and backgrounds.8

            ERIC/OSEP, “What Is Universal Design for Curriculum Access,” www.cec.sped.org/osep.ud-sec3.html,
p. 1.
         A surprising estimate of “students with disparities” is provided by Jim Bryson,
who holds that, in a typical post-secondary class of 50 students, fully 15 to 20 of the
registrants may require an accessible curriculum to succeed. These statistics are
extrapolated from data regarding adult population in general. Of the 30 to 40% of
students thus requiring accommodation, in addition to those students who are working
with their disability (be it mobility, sensory, learning or psychiatric/psychological), a
significant number of students, comprising perhaps 15 to 20% of any class, are less
skilled academically than the larger portion of the class. They are the “second group of
students who may not learn in the manner in which many teachers teach and whose
success depends to a large degree on a ‘good fit’ between their way of learning and the
teacher’s instructional methods,” and whose undeveloped student skill sets may make
it difficult for them to adjust to the instructor’s teaching method.9
         Burgstahler’s description of the seven basic principles of Universal Design for
Instruction is comprehensive and enlightening:
1.       Inclusiveness: The environment must respect and value diversity. Invite students
         to meet with the instructor to discuss accommodation and other learning needs;
         Avoid segregating or stigmatizing students. Respect their privacy.
2.       Physical access: Ensure that all meeting places are fully accessible, that
         equipment and activities minimize sustained physical efforts, provide options for
         operation, accommodate those with limited physical abilities, ensure student
3.       Delivery methods: Alternate between lecture, discussion, hands-on activities,
         field work, web materials; ensure each activity is accessible to all students; face
         the class and speak clearly; create a comfortable and distraction free environment;
         make presentations multimodal; and provide print summaries for material
         presented orally.
4.       Information access: Use captioned videos; provide print material in e-text;
         prepare text descriptions of graphics; make print material available early for
         preparation; print/web material in simple, intuitive, and consistent formats; and
         arrange content in its order of importance.
5.       Interaction: Encourage different forms of interaction (in-class discussion, group
         work, internet) which is all accessible openly without additional accommodation
6.       Feedback: Provide prompting during activities and feedback after completion.
7.       Demonstration of knowledge: Devise multiple ways for students to demonstrate
         knowledge–exams,         papers,     groupwork,      demonstrations,      portfolios,

           Jim Bryson, Universal Instructional Design in Postsecondary Settings: An Implementation Guide (Toronto: Ministry of Training
Colleges and Universities, 2004), p. 23.
       Students with disabilities are arguably the first group to be thought of as
benefiting from UDI, but it benefits other groups as well. For example, captioned
videotapes (most often associated with deaf/hard of hearing students) benefit students
for whom English is a second language, students with Learning Disabilities, and even
those students who may be watching in a noisy or distracting environment. “Delivering
content in a variety of ways can improve instruction for everyone, including students
with a variety of learning styles and cultural backgrounds.”11 More succinctly put, “The
use of technology is integral, not peripheral, to accessible course content.”12
       And so, a summary of best practices employing the principles of UDI: 1)
determine the essential components; 2) provide clear expectations and feedback; 3)
incorporate natural supports for learning; 4) provide multi-modal instructional
methods; 5) provide a variety of ways to demonstrate knowledge; 6) use technology to
enhance learning; and 7) encourage frequent faculty-student contact (p. 35), fully
address the needs associated with adult learners. These best practices ensure that the
adult classroom is a “welcoming, positive and nurturing environment that encourages
student attendance, participation and interaction.”13
       UDI can be considered a collection of best practices for teaching, however, good
teaching can exist outside of these practices. UDI can be considered “good teaching with
accessibility as the outcome.”14
       The strengths of planning instruction through UDI–broad accessibility and
inherent inclusiveness–can be thought to provide a one-size-fits-all solution to
curriculum design. It is important, however, to recognize that: “Learning environments
can never be entirely accessible to all students’ needs since some students will continue
to need individualized accommodations. But all learning environments can be made
more accessible and inclusive.”15

              S. Burgstahler, “The Faculty Room: Universal Design of Instruction,” www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/
Strategies/Universal, 2002, pp. 2-3.
              Burstahler, “Faculty Room,” p. 3.
              Bryson, Universal Instructional Design, p. 30.
              Ibid., p. 72.
              Ibid., p. 118.
              Scott, McGuire and Embry, Universal design for instruction, p. 1.

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