Disabled Students Program: UC Berkeley

Mission of the Disabled Students' Program
Responsibilities of the Disabled Students' Program
Responsibilities of the Instructor
Responsibilities of the Student
General Suggestions on Teaching Students with Disabilities
Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Teaching Students with Chronic Illness or Pain
Teaching Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities
Teaching Students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Teaching Students with Limited Manual Dexterity
Teaching Students with Mobility Impairments
Teaching Students with Psychological Disabilities
Teaching Students with Speech Impairments
Teaching Students with Visual Disabilities
How DSP Can Assist Instructors at UC Berkeley


Mission of the Disabled Students' Program

The mission of the Disabled Students' Program (DSP) is to ensure that all students with disabilities have equal access to educational opportunities at UC Berkeley, so they can participate, freely and actively, in all facets of University life.

DSP serves students with disabilities of all kinds, including mobility, visual, or hearing impairments; speech impairments; chronic illnesses such as AIDS, diabetes, and lupus; seizure disorders; head injuries; painful conditions such as back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome; psychological disabilities such as bipolar disorder and severe anxiety or depression; attention deficit disorder; and learning disabilities. Students with temporary disabilities (for example, broken limbs) may request services for the period during which they are disabled.

A note about our usage of the words "disabled" and "disability": In law, University policies, and common parlance, terms like "disabled" and "disability" have a variety of meanings, many of which are contextual. The use of "disabled" and "disability" in this document and in the name "Disabled Students' Program" does not imply any determination related to civil rights or other legal definitions, and does not imply that students served by DSP have "disabilities" as defined by any particular law. Rather, DSP serves students who meet the following criteria:

  1. The students have documented physical, medical, and/or psychological conditions; and
  2. Professionals have verified that the students need individualized services (similar to those described below), the absence of which would cause severe disadvantages for the students.

For information on University policies regarding students with disabilities, and federal and state laws affecting people with disabilities, contact Ward Newmeyer, UC Berkeley's ADA/504 Compliance Officer, 643-5116, newmeyer@uclink4. "The Berkeley Campus Policy for Accommodating the Academic Needs of Students with Disabilities" can be read on the website of the Academic Compliance Office: chance.berkeley.edu/compliance. "The University of California Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations, and Students" can be read at ucop.edu/ucophome/uwnews/aospol/toc.html; Section 140 of these policies, "Guidelines Applying to Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability," is at ucop.edu/ucophome/uwnews/aospol/toc140.html.

Responsibilities of the Disabled Students' Program

When students request services from the Disabled Students' Program, DSP Specialists have the responsibility for determining whether the students have disabilities impeding educational access. In making this determination, Specialists conduct a comprehensive assessment and evaluation process that is consistent with established University of California system practices. The assessment and evaluation process includes interviews with the student as well as review of documentation provided by physicians and other clinicians (for example, clinical psychologists, audiologists, and optometrists).

When students are determined to have disabilities impeding educational access, DSP Specialists plan a program of services for them. Some students require program modifications: for example, a reduced course load. Some students require auxiliary services: for example, notetakers or laboratory assistants. Many students require academic adjustments, or modifications in instructional methods: for example, Brailled textbooks and class handouts, extended time for examinations, or substitution of an essay for an oral presentation. In combination, program modifications, auxiliary services, and academic adjustments are often referred to as "academic accommodations" in University and common parlance.

When a DSP Specialist determines that a student has a disability-related need for academic accommodations while enrolled in a particular course, the Specialist writes to the instructor of that course, describing the necessary academic accommodations that may involve the instructor or department. Accommodations are not intended to give students with disabilities an unfair advantage, but to remove barriers that prevent students with disabilities from learning and from demonstrating what they have learned. DSP requests only those accommodations for which a student has a disability-related academic need. Accommodations vary from student to student; people with different disabilities may have different academic problems, and sometimes two people with the same disability will be affected in diverse ways.

Responsibilities of the Instructor

When students give you Letters of Accommodation from DSP, you are responsible for providing the accommodations listed; but you are not required to compromise the academic quality of your course by giving passing grades to students who have failed to demonstrate the required level of understanding or performance competency. Once you have provided accommodations, you should grade the work of disabled students as you would grade the work of any others. When students have received accommodations, there is no need to "give them a break" by being unduly lenient. To grade students more harshly because they have had the "advantage" of extra exam time or other instructional modifications would nullify the effect of the accommodations.

Students have a right to privacy in disability matters, and their confidentiality must be maintained. You should file their Letters of Accommodation in a safe place, and you should refrain from discussing their disabilities and necessary accommodations in the hearing of fellow students or others who have no educational "need to know."

If you receive a Letter of Accommodation and have difficulty providing the accommodations listed, or if you disagree with the accommodations, please contact the Specialist who signed the letter. If you and DSP reach an impasse in your discussion about an accommodation, you should contact the campus ADA/504 Compliance Officer within five University working days of being notified about the accommodation. The ADA/504 Compliance Officer may set aside the accommodation or may decline to do so. In the latter case, the ADA/504 Compliance Officer may refer you to the Academic Accommodations Policy Board, which will review the matter and advise the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, whose decision will be final.

Responsibilities of the Student

Students have the responsibility for requesting DSP services and providing documentation of conditions that may warrant academic accommodations. Once DSP has definitely determined that students have a disability-related need for academic accommodations, the students are given Letters of Accommodation, addressed to their instructors, which describe the needed accommodations.

Occasionally a student may request accommodations without presenting you with a Letter of Accommodation from DSP. To protect yourself, the student, and the University, you should insist that the student contact DSP to request an appropriate Letter of Accommodation addressed to you.

Students eligible for DSP services normally receive Letters of Accommodation no more than one week after requesting them. DSP Specialists strongly emphasize that students should give you their Letters of Accommodation immediately after receiving them, thus permitting you sufficient time to make necessary arrangements. If you feel that you do not have sufficient time, please contact DSP as soon as possible.

Sometimes it is mid-semester or later before students are diagnosed with disabilities and authorized for DSP services. In this event, of course, students cannot provide you with Letters of Accommodation early in the semester, even though you have invited them to do so in your syllabus

General Suggestions on Teaching Students with Disabilities

Get more disability information. Since students are usually the experts on their own disabilities, ask them if you need more information about how they learn best. You can also contact the student's assigned Disability Specialist at DSP. The DSP website has valuable information on local and national disability resources; see the "Contributed Links" section.

Make your course "disability-friendly." It is helpful to announce at the beginning of the semester, "Students who have Letters of Accommodations from the Disabled Students' Program, please see me during my office hours." You should put a few paragraphs into your course syllabus welcoming students with disabilities and inviting them to visit you for a discussion of their disability-related academic needs. These paragraphs might read as follows:

If you need disability-related accommodations in this class, if you have emergency medical information you wish to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform me immediately. Please see me privately after class or at my office.

The Disabled Students' Program (DSP) is the campus office responsible for verifying that students have disability-related needs for academic accommodations and for planning appropriate accommodations, in cooperation with the students themselves and their instructors. Students who need academic accommodations should request them from DSP: 230 César Chávez Student Center, 642-0518 (voice) and 642-6376 (TTY).

Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

[From "Faculty Guide for Working with Students with Asperger Syndrome", an appendix in Students with Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel, by Lorraine E. Wolf, Jane Thierfeld Brown, and G. Ruth Kukiela Bork]

Asperger Syndrome is a developmental disorder that is characterized by deficits in social skills, communication, and unusual repetitive behaviors. It is sometimes referred to as "high-functioning autism." The core feature appears to be the individual's inability to understand the thoughts, feelings and motivations of other people and to use this understanding to regulate his or her own behaviors.

The following characteristics are typical in an individual with Asperger Syndrome. Due to the diversity and complexity of this disability, you may not see all of these characteristics in a given student. It is important to understand these characteristics, because they can result in behaviors that are easy to misinterpret. Often behaviors that seem odd or unusual or even rude are in fact unintentional symptoms of AS.

General Characteristics

Functional Impact

Communication and Social Skills

Some Tips

Writing

Some Tips

Example: (Student arrives at your office at 1:40). "We have 20 minutes to work togeether. At 2:00, I'm going to ask you to take my suggestions home and start making changes to your paper. Come to my office tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 and show me what you've done."

Some Considerations

Student may have sophisticated and impressive vocabulary and excellent rote memory but may have difficulty with high-level thinking and comprehension skills. They can give the impression that they understand, when in reality they may be repeating what they have heard or read. Many individuals with Aspergers Syndrome are visual learners. Pictures and graphs may be helpful to them.

Instructional Tips

Teaching Students with Chronic Illness or Pain

Some students have medical conditions that are "non-apparent" (not easy to see), but cause serious problems in an educational setting. Students can be disabled by chronic illnesses such as asthma, arthritis, diabetes, cardiopulmonary disease, cancer, chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome, and seizure disorders. They can also be disabled by medical conditions that cause intense and continual pain: for example, repetitive stress injury, post-surgery, and back problems.

Symptoms of all these conditions can be unpredictable and fluctuating. Students with chronic illness or pain may have limited energy and difficulty walking, standing, or sitting for a long time. Their pain, or the side-effects of medications, may cause them to become dizzy or confused, making it hard for them to pay attention in classes, complete out-of-class assignments, do library research, and stay focused during exams.

The following suggestions may help you to work effectively with students who have disabling medical conditions:

Teaching Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

For obvious reasons, students who are deaf or hard of hearing face enormous obstacles in an academic setting. It is essential that instructors maintain effective communication with these students, though instructors may sometimes feel awkward working with sign language interpreters or resorting to visual communication techniques (body language, gestures, and facial expressions).

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing are not all alike. Some are extremely adept at reading lips and others are not; some communicate orally and others use sign language, gestures, writing, or a combination of these methods. In class, students who are deaf may have sign language interpreters, or they may rely on real-time captioners (people who immediately type whatever is said so that the spoken utterance can be read on a computer screen). Students who have some usable hearing may use a device to amplify sounds: in class they may rely on hearing aids alone, or they may use an "assistive listening device." When students are using assistive listening devices, instructors may be asked to wear cordless lapel microtransmitters.

Following are suggestions for improving the academic situation of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities have normal or better intelligence, but they also have severe "information-processing deficits" that make them perform significantly worse in one or more academic areas (reading, writing, math) than might be expected, given their intelligence and performance in other academic areas. Though all learning disabilities are different, students with learning disabilities report some common problems, including slow and inefficient reading; slow essay-writing, with problems in organization and the mechanics of writing; and frequent errors in math calculation.

The following suggestions may be helpful in working with students who have learning disabilities, and also those who have head injuries.

Teaching Students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a persistent pattern of frequent and severe inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsiveness. People with ADHD have many problems in academic settings. Some of these problems are similar to the problems of people with learning disabilities: slow and inefficient reading, slow essay-writing, and frequent errors in math calculation and the mechanics of writing. Other problems are especially characteristic of ADHD; students ADHD often have serious problems with time-management, task-completion, organization, and memory.

For suggestions on working effectively with students who have ADHD, please review our section on learning disabilities (above), as well as the following.

Teaching Students with Limited Manual Dexterity

Students may have limited manual dexterity as a result of illness or injury. In this age of the computer, increasing numbers of students are developing carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes them to suffer severe pain when they take notes or write exams. Following are some suggestions on working with students who have limited manual dexterity.

Teaching Students with Mobility Impairments

Mobility impairments can have many causes: for example, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injury. Students with mobility impairments have varying physical limitations and deal with their limitations in different ways; they may use crutches, braces, or a wheelchair.

Below are some suggestions on working with students who have mobility impairments.

Teaching Students with Psychological Disabilities

Some students have psychological disabilities such as depression, bipolar disorder, or severe anxiety. Psychological disabilities complicate many areas of life, including education.

Every case is different, but there are some commonalties in the academic experiences of students with psychological disabilities. These students report difficulties with focusing, concentrating, and completing work in a timely fashion. Reading, writing, and math may require extra effort and more time. Ability to function effectively may vary from day to day; in response to stress, students may experience an increase in symptoms. Medications help with some symptoms of psychological disability, but medication side-effects (for example, drowsiness or headaches) can contribute to a student's academic problems.

We suggest that you review our suggestions (above) about learning disabilities and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; a number of these suggestions will also be appropriate for students with psychological disabilities. Following are some suggestions specifically addressed to the needs of students who have psychological disabilities.

Teaching Students with Speech Impairments

Speech impairments can have many causes: dysfluencies such as stuttering, neurological conditions such as Tourette's Syndrome, surgical removal of the larynx, stroke, traumatic head injury, and degenerative illness. Students with speech impairments may communicate in various ways. Some students speak with their own voices, but slowly and with some lack of clarity; other students write notes, point to communication boards, use electronic speech-synthesizers, or communicate through assistants who interpret their speech to other people. Following are some suggestions on working with students who have speech impairments.

Teaching Students with Visual Disabilities

Like students who are deaf or hard of hearing, students with visual disabilities are at a great disadvantage academically. Though they can hear lectures and discussions, students with visual disabilities are often frustrated by class syllabi, textbooks, chalkboard diagrams, overhead projections, films, maps, videos, printed exams, Scantron answer sheets, laboratory demonstrations, and Internet websites designed to be navigated by clicking on images.

Students with visual disabilities vary considerably. Some have no vision, others are able to see large shapes, and still others can read standard print if magnified. Depending on their disabilities, they use a variety of accommodations, equipment, and compensatory strategies. For example, many students with visual disabilities need extra time for exams and projects, and many use readers or amanuenses for exams.

Most students with visual disabilities take advantage of assistive technology. Computers can enlarge print; convert printed material to Braille; read the text on a computer screen aloud; or scan books, articles, and other printed materials and then read their text. Some students also use audiotape recorders, portable note-taking devices, or talking calculators.

Following are some suggestions on instructing students with visual disabilities.

How DSP Can Assist Instructors at UC Berkeley

The staff of the Disabled Students' Program are happy to assist you by providing information on specific disabilities and the needs of students who have them. At your invitation we can attend meetings of instructors and GSI's to discuss academic issues of postsecondary students with disabilities and effective instructional methods for these students.

Please telephone us at (510) 642-0518, visit us at 230 César Chávez Student Center, or consult our website, where you will find a special Frequently Asked Questions section for UC Berkeley instructors, as well as information on DSP services and staff.

Publication of Teaching Students with Disabilities was made possible by a TRIO Student Support Services Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

We wish to thank the following for their assistance: Ward Newmeyer, the UC Berkeley ADA/504 Compliance Officer; Stephen K. Tollefson of the Office of Educational Development; the Academic Senate of UC Berkeley; and all members of the Disabled Students' Program staff.

We also wish to thank the Office for Disability Services at The Ohio State University. Their informative and readable handbook, also titled Teaching Students with Disabilities, suggested ideas and approaches which we have used in our own handbook.

Call (510) 642-0518 to obtain Teaching Students with Disabilities in alternative formats.

Written by Caroline Summer