"Our students have many disabilities. Some are obvious such as being in a wheelchair or being deaf or blind. Many others are hidden, for example cancer, a mental illness, a learning disability. Some of our students will become ill or disabled during their time in your class or they are or will need to care for a family member or friend who is disabled or ill. My experience is that with a few accommodations, these students can do very well, even in a graduate program." - Richard H. Beinecke, Associate Professor, Suffolk University Department of Public Management and Coordinator, MPA Disability Concentration.
Contact the Office of Disability Services at any time for help or suggestions: email@example.com or 617-994-6820.
These resources are taken from a talk given by Beinecke.
Your attitude is key: Stigma that you recognize or do not recognize in yourself is quickly obvious to these students and can easily get in the way of good learning.
People first: Students with disabilities are people first. A disability is just a part of who they are and is probably not the main thing that defines them. Use people first language such as a "student with a mental illness", a "person with CP", "students with disabilities", NOT "disabled students", "the learning disabled", "the mentally ill". Encourage all of your students to do the same and to recognize the difference.
Treat these students as you would anyone else: They still must do your class assignments and tests, do their reading, and be graded by the same criteria that you do others. They must take responsibility for coming to school and meeting the requirements that go with an undergraduate or graduate education.
Collaborate with your students: Early in the semester meet with students individually to discuss their needs. They usually know best from their experience what is needed.
Put language in your syllabus that makes it clear that you want to support students with disabilities and what procedures they should follow to be sure that their needs are addressed.
We suggest you use the following statement:
“If you anticipate issues related to the format or requirements of this course, please meet with me. I would like us to discuss ways to ensure your full participation in the course. If you determine that formal, disability-related accommodations are necessary, it is very important that you be registered with the Office of Disability Services (located in 73 Tremont St., 7th floor, 617-994-6820) and notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations. We can then plan how best to coordinate your accommodations.”
Universal Course Design
When considering the learning styles of all of your students you will quickly recognize that no two students learn alike regardless of whether or not they have a disability. By diversifying your instruction you can effectively engage a wider array of learners, including those with disabilities.
Diversifying your instruction is also common referred to the Universal Course Design (UCD) approach. UCD is constructing college courses -- including course curriculum, instruction, assessment and the environment -- to be usable by all students, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for accommodations. Learn more about UCD:
For assistance with any of these strategies, contact Kirsten Behling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do's and Don'ts
Dos Don’ts Make class syllabus available to students during registration period so that students might get texts in electronic format. Do not announce to the class that a student has a disability. Speak to the student privately. Begin class with a review of the previous lecture and an overview of topics to be covered that day. At the conclusion of the lecture, summarize key points. Do not ask the student for documentation other than the Disability Verification Letter from the Office of Disability Services. Highlight major concepts and terminology both orally and visually. If the student has an interpreter, do not speak only to the interpreter. Speak directly to the student. Speak directly to students; use gestures and natural expressions to convey further meaning. Be concise and avoid double negatives. Do not use a grading standard that is any different from the rest of the class. Offer alternative ways to participate in your course (writing down thoughts, speaking in class, emailing you after class). Do not give students with disabilities an advantage or disadvantage over the rest of the class; the idea of the law is to give equal access or equal opportunity provided through reasonable accommodations. Make available handouts in alternative formats if needed (i.e.: 18 pt. font instead of 12 pt.). Do not assume a student cannot do something. Ask them if they can see the board or if they would like help with a task. Provide timelines for long-range assignments. Use excessive auditory and visual aids. Encourage students to seek assistance during your office hours and to use campus support services. Give sample test questions; explain what constitutes a good answer and why. Give assignments both orally and in written form; be available for clarification.
Teaching Hybrid Courses
Suffolk University offers online and hybrid courses for its students. Online and hybrid learning is a wonderful way for students to engage with course material at their own pace with classroom guidance from an instructor.
When designing an online or hybrid course it is important to keep in mind the importance of providing equal access to your course materials to all of your students. The following documents have been created to help you plan, develop and implement your materials in a fully accessible manner.
The Office of Disability Services also encourages you to contact us for one-on-one support and guidance as you work to ensure that your course is accessible to all. Please send us an email at: email@example.com or give us a call at: 617-99-6820 to schedule a time to meet.
Planning an accessible course
Check list for creating accessible hybrids
Creating accessible Word documents
Creating accessible PowerPoint documents
Creating accessible Excel documents
Creating accessible PDF documents
Creating accessible videos
Checking the accessibility of a website