10 Things Faculty Can Do

UC Davis has hundreds of enrolled students web a wide variety of disabilities and specialized needs. These disabilities Are both visible and invisible, including students who are blind and low vision, deaf or hard of hearing impaired; students who have learning disabilities or ADHD; students on the autism spectrum; and students with chronic medical conditions, nobility impairments, and psychological disabilities. While many students request accommodations through the Student Disability Center (SDC), others choose not to disclose their disability. Creating a more accessible classroom/teaching environment benefits all students, not just those with disabilities – this is the principle behind Universal Design for Learning. An accessible classroom creates learning opportunities for everyone, from the instructor who explores new waste of conveying knowledge to the many students who for a variety of reasons do not disclose a disability, to nondisabled students who benefit from instruction and information in multiple modalities. Good approaches that has to do to to require accommodation what works for them, and will be willing to explore ways that these needs can dovetail with what you will want all students to learn your class. Here are a few concrete things to do to make your classes more accessible and to enhance the learning environment for all students:

1. Create a welcoming, respectful atmosphere for students with disabilities.

Make an announcement during the first class that the student disability center (SDC) is the campus resource of us a students who have, or think they may have, disability. Encourage students to talk to during office hours about their needs and ask for suggestions; if approached as a teaching opportunity rather than a legal obligation, are likely to learn something that could help the entire class. Sample statement for course syllabus:

"talk with me as early in the quarter as possible to explain your needs and discuss any concerns. Solutions that benefit one student can help the whole class, so please let me know any questions or suggestions. Contact a student disability center for more information and request accommodations: (530) 752 – 3184 (voice); sdc@ucdavis.edu (email); https://sdc.ucdavis.edu/ (website)."

2. Present information orally as well as visually

As you write on the board, say everything out loud, providing direction and context. If you write "V= 4/3 π r³" say "V equals 4/3 pi times r cubed." If there may be confusion, say "r is the radius" or "lower case r". Avoid pointing and saying "up here" or "down there". Statement of fraction, square root, exponent, or equation starts and ends. Verbally flag topic changes (e.g., "Let's move to the next topic, the War of 1812.") Such strategies help students with visual, learning, or other disabilities (& distract multi-taskers) and underscore what's important to everyone. 

3. Read aloud all slides/PowerPoint presentations, have class members describe critical slides, or provide accessible electronic copies and advances students with disabilities.

Reading aloud or having students describe the slides provides information for those who can't see it, will create more opportunities for interaction with the class, and will give you a better sense of how your information is being received. Also describe any pictures, graphics, charts, etc., even when you provide them in advance. This enhances the learning experience for everyone because they can attain information by several means: seeing, reading, describing, and/or hearing the material, which helps ensure that they understand it.

4. Order textbooks early, from publishers that provide accessible versions of digital/audio format.

Unfortunately, most e-books are not digital and thus are in accessible to students with print reading Disabilities because they can't be read by screen readers. Submit textbook orders at least six weeks before the term begins – converting to other formats takes up the 4 to 6 weeks (editing must be by a person, and can't be done by a computer!). If used DVDs, YouTube or other audiovisual materials, contact IET Academic Technology Services at 530-752-2133 to find out how to access the captions using classroom equipment. If no captions/subtitles are available, contact the SDC as soon as possible for assistance with captioning.

5. Repeat student questions and comments before you answer or respond.

This will help all students in class, including those with hearing impairments or other disabilities, and those recording lectures. It also gives you a chance to catch up breath and prepare your answer.

6. When speaking, face the class to facilitate speech reading, captioning, and sign language interpreting.

Avoid speaking with your back to the class while writing on the board (use an electronic tablet & projector or document camera instead so that you can write and face the class). Always use a microphone with a large class, and ask students to tell you if you're talking too quickly. If a student who is deaf or hard of hearing uses an FM system, clip the microphone to your collar near your mouth it works effectively. Don't assume that no response to the question "can everyone hear me?" means that everyone can.

7. Make handouts/reading materials available on the course SmartSite at least 24 hours before referring to/discussing them in lecture.

If you don't want to post them for whole class (e.g., because of attendance concerns), contact the SDC for help. When distributing paper copies of class handouts, have them available in 18 point font versions and large copies of graphs and other figures. Provide digital files are clean, first-generation paper copies to facilitate scanning/conversion to accessible formats. All documents should be accessible text files (DOC, RTF, TXT, or searchable PDF) so the content it is accessible (see information below).

8. Check with students require accommodations about where they would be most comfortable sitting

In the classroom, discreetly assist them in gaining priority access to these places. Also, I digestible stations may be installed in computer classrooms (check with the SDC).

9. Encourage students to use office hours (group and individual), and email/smart site or other online Q&A tools for questions.

Many students with ADHD, psychological or learning disabilities benefit greatly from more individualized time and specific responses to their questions. Include references in your syllabus to other sources of academic support, such as the Student Academic Success Center, Tutoring & Academic Advising Centers in the Residence Halls, and any tutoring or academic advising provided by your department. Encourage students to form study groups and to do sample homework problems and groups.

10. If possible, avoid pop quizzes and ensure that clickers are accessible.

Pop quizzes can be useful for testing comprehension encouraging attendance, but they are generally inaccessible to students with ADHD, learning disabilities, dramatic brain injury, and some psychological disorders. Use of clickers may also pose accessibility problems. For more information see "The Accommodation Dilemma of Pop Quizzes," and "Learning Technology: Clickers"

Additional Resources:

To see what it’s like to navigate a typical university webpage with a screen reader, try this simulation: WebAIM Screenreader simulations

Quick Reference for Web Accessibility (WebAIM)

How to Create an Accessible PDF (WebAIM)

Create Accessible PDF's using Word (UCOP)

Test equipment/software at UC Davis Center for Accessible Technology (CAT), Room 163 Shields Library

For more information about universal disign for learning principles, see:

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Applications of Universal Design