Instructor Reference Guide

Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 Guidelines

The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 states that no qualified student shall, on the basis of disability be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which the university (or any other public facility) sponsors or operates. Benefits and services to individuals with disabilities must be in the most integrated setting appropriate to the person’s needs and be equally as effective or equivalent to those provided by others. Colleges and universities receiving federal financial assistance must not discriminate in the recruitment, admission, or treatment of students. Students with documented disabilities (documentation is confidentially filed with the Department of Testing & Disability Services) may request modifications, accommodations, or auxiliary aids which will enable them to participate in and benefit from all postsecondary educational programs and activities. Under the provisions of the ADA, as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, universities and colleges may not:

  1. Limit the number of students with disabilities admitted.
  2. Make pre-admission inquiries as to whether or not an applicant is disabled.
  3. Use admissions tests or criteria that inadequately measure the academic qualifications of disabled students because special provisions were not made for them.
  4. Exclude a qualified student with a disability from any course of study.
  5. Limit eligibility to a student with a disability for financial assistance or otherwise discriminate in administering scholarships, fellowships, internships, or assistantships on the basis of disability.
  6. Counsel a student with a disability toward a more restrictive career.
  7. Measure student achievement using modes that adversely discriminate against a student with a disability.
  8. Establish rules and policies that may adversely affect students with disabilities.

While this reference guide provides a series of suggested steps instructors may wish to implement in order to facilitate learning for students with disabilities, perhaps the most important advice would be for instructors to encourage students with disabilities to discuss their needs during the initial days of classes. An instructor’s request to confer with these particular students should be included on the syllabus provided at the first class meeting. A suggested statement for the syllabus is “Students needing testing accommodations or classroom accommodations based on a disability are encouraged to discuss the need with me as soon as possible.”

Student Responsibilities

The student must submit documentation of their disability to the Office of Disability Services, Wyly Tower 318, and register with the office by completing an online application. Students who have been approved for accommodations must login to Disability Services’ database and send accommodation letters to instructors each quarter. Faculty should make classroom accommodations in accordance with current notifications from The Department of Testing and Disability Services (TDS). If there are questions concerning the determined accommodations, the instructor should contact TDS for clarification. Performance objectives should be the same for all students with disabilities, although the manner in which those objectives are attained might be somewhat different. Faculty should listen to the students as to what modifications could be appropriate and then determine if the students’ suggestions could be utilized. TDS may ask faculty to provide materials, including tests, in a special format (such as a Word document instead of a hard copy) depending on a student’s accommodations.

Students who receive testing accommodations (extra time, etc.) are required to send their accommodation letters to instructors via the TDS database. Instructors are emailed a testing contract to be completed in the presence of the student. The contract should be completed at the beginning of the quarter, not right before the test. The contract is a short series of questions that will tell TDS where the student will test (in class or with TDS), what materials are allowed on the test, how the test will be returned to the instructor, etc. TDS cannot approve exam requests until the testing contract has been completed.

Students with Orthopedic or Mobility Impairments

Some common disorders that occur in this category include cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, and spinal cord injury (quadriplegia, paraplegia). Any of these impairments are manifested in various ranges of mobility loss, thus requiring a myriad of suggestions for assisting individuals with these disabilities:

Suggestions for Communicating with the Student:

  1. If the student is inclined, allow him or her to speak freely about his or her disability, promoting better integration for the student as a member of the class.
  2. During an extended conversation with a person in a wheelchair, try to sit to achieve eye-to-eye contact.
  3. Do not demean or patronize a person in a wheelchair by communicating solely with his or her scribe or by not allowing the person to speak for themself.

Considerations in the Classroom:

  1. Some students need adaptive seating in class, especially in computer laboratories. Note that some computer labs are already accessible.
  2. Consult with a student to ensure that the classroom layout is accessible and free of obstructions for wheelchair use.
  3. Find an alternative classroom setting if the existing location is inaccessible.
  4. Allow the student ample time to consult with his or her aide/scribe so that the aide is familiar with classroom and testing procedures.

Students with Visual Impairments

Due to varying degrees of visual impairment, instructors must be able to adapt their classes for accessibility pertaining to these students.

Suggestions for Communicating with the Student:

  1. Identify both your entrance and your exit from the room. Also notify the student as to your identity when you initiate a conversation or lecture.
  2. Do not change the tone of your voice or your vocabulary when speaking to a visually impaired student. Do not patronize.
  3. If the student asks you to guide him or her to a seat, offer your elbow rather than grasping the student’s. This offers him or her some control and a sense of attainment.
  4. Remember that non-verbal cues are often difficult or impossible for some students to observe. Verbally highlighting key points could be beneficial.

Considerations for the Classroom:

  1. Some students may secure a scribe or reader to aid in taking notes during lectures. Other choices by students might include tape recording lectures, taking braille notes, writing large print notes, utilizing a laptop computer or securing notes from other students.
  2. Please allow students with weak vision to choose their own seating in the classroom so that they may obtain a clear picture of visually presented material. Enlarged copies of handouts and exams and other information may be requested and should be provided.
  3. Remember that visually presented class materials, such as overheads, slides, and chalkboard information may be difficult for some students to read. Provide the student with an advance copy of the material and/or read aloud information contained on such aids.
  4. Discuss out-of-class activities, such as trips to laboratories or field trips, in advance. Also, fully explain the layout of the regular classroom or any of these different facilities so that a visually impaired or blind student can navigate his or her way through the area.
  5. Perhaps this suggestion is the most important: Advisors should be encouraging visually impaired students to secure the title, author, and edition of textbooks to be used in classes well in advance so that the students, if needed, can request these books in an alternate format through TDS. For classes requiring the reading of other books, the instructor should provide such information to students at the beginning of the course.

Students with Learning Disabilities

The American Council on Learning Disabilities defines specific learning disabilities as follows: “Specific learning disability is a chronic condition of presumed neurological origin which selectively interferes with the development, integration, and/or demonstration of verbal and nonverbal abilities. Specific learning disability (SLD) exists as a distinct handicapping condition in the presence of average to superior intelligence, adequate sensory and motor systems, and adequate learning opportunities. The condition varies in manifestations and in degree of severity.”

Suggestions for Communication with the Student:

  1. LD is an invisible disability. Oftentimes, students with learning disabilities are hesitant to disclose their difficulties. A teacher could orally encourage any students who need testing or classroom accommodations to discuss their concerns during conference hours.
  2. Students with learning disabilities who are not registered with TDS should be encouraged to contact our office.

Considerations for the Classroom:

  1. The most common accommodation for students with learning disabilities is extended time for test taking.  
  2. For students with writing or spelling disabilities, the use of a computer or consideration for spelling errors for in-class assignments may be accommodations granted by TDS.
  3. Students who have learning disabilities that affect their visual processing or reading comprehension capabilities benefit greatly from recorded class materials.
  4. In-class note-takers are often helpful; in fact, sometimes another classmate might be requested to aid the situation.

Students with Hearing Impairments

Depending on a student’s degree of hearing loss, ranging from a mild disability to total deafness, his or her speech may be affected as well. There are some people who are hard of hearing who elect to use sign language as their primary means of communicating; however, others choose lip reading and hearing aids to facilitate communication. These are accommodations and suggestions which might help in the classroom:

Suggestions for Communicating with the Student:

  1. Be sure to face hearing impaired students to whom you are addressing your lecture. Exaggerated lip movements might only hinder their understanding.
  2. Remember that body language can also aid in their understanding your message.
  3. Sometimes a written lecture is more effective. Instructors might consider offering a written copy of their notes for each meeting.
  4. If the hearing impaired student is using an interpreter aid in his note taking, teachers should direct their comments to the student, not the interpreter.
  5. If a student’s speech is difficult to understand, asking the student to repeat his or her comment or question is permissible.

Considerations for the Classroom:

  1. Face the class when lecturing. An instructor speaking to the chalkboard creates a difficult learning experience for the hearing impaired student.
  2. Reiterate comments or questions which have been offered by other students in the class so that the hearing impaired will not be at a disadvantage.
  3. Some students may benefit from a transmitter system in which the instructor wears a small transmitter and a small lapel microphone while the student wears a receiver to amplify the instructor’s voice.
  4. Treat an interpreter or scribe’s presence as a commonplace situation in the classroom. Even though an interpreter or scribe’s presence may be fascinating initially, students become acclimated and are often no longer distracted by their presence.
  5. Any written supplement to oral instruction is beneficial.
  6. Remember that when presenting films or slide presentations in a darkened classroom, lip reading then becomes difficult if not impossible. Again, written notes or outlines are advantageous.

Students with Psychological Disabilities

Students with psychological disabilities can also register with TDS. Various academic accommodations can be implemented to aid these students. These accommodations will be outlined in the email you receive from Disability Services. All students are encouraged to meet with their instructors to discuss these accommodations.

Suggestions for Communicating with the Student:

  1. If a student exhibits disruptive behavior in the classroom, speak to him privately after class.
  2. Do not hesitate to contact Louisiana Tech’s Counseling Services Office (318.257.2488) in Keeny Hall for suggestions and ideas in integrating the student, especially in situations in which you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

Students with Other Disabilities

The largest percentage of students with disabilities fall into none of the previously addressed categories. These other disabilities may include the following:

  • Temporary disabilities
  • Epilepsy
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Chronic pain
  • Cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Asthma
  • AIDS
  • Recovering alcoholic/addict
  • Closed head injury

Naturally, the severity of the condition would impact each student differently in the academic setting. For instance, the amount of medication which is prescribed can alter a student’s memory retention, alertness, concentration, and attention span. Students who are recovering from temporary conditions may not even be aware that they can request special supportive services. Sometimes, if students are aware that there is help available, this encouragement by both administration and faculty could prevent much frustration.

Suggestions for Communicating with the Student:

  1. Inform the student of the counseling services available and of the services provided by TDS.
  2. Encourage the student to seek help, especially during recovery periods.
  3. Do not hesitate to request suggestions or help from counseling services or TDS if the need arises.

Considerations for the Classroom:

  1. Consider being flexible in your attendance policy if absences are medically documented and unavoidable.
  2. It is the student’s responsibility to initiate arrangements for missed class meetings, not the instructor’s.
  3. A student should be held accountable if he or she needs to leave a classroom unexpectedly or hurriedly. In other words, the student needs to seek time to make up the work missed.