Faculty have a challenging role balancing curriculum expectations, while at the same time fulfilling required accommodation needs of DSP students. Challenges most often occur with how the curriculum is being presented, as well as how curriculum competency is being measured. On this site, we provide a few tips, as well as links and resources helpful with this balancing act.
Providing an accessible learning environment begins with the syllabi development. Faculty oftentimes experience frustrations when they have built the perfect syllabi, only to learn that a policy or process in the syllabi is found to be inaccessible or unreasonable to a DSP student who has enrolled in the class. Developing an accessible syllabi that builds in a measure of flexibility so that faculty are prepared for when a DSP student presents a Letter of Accommodation (LOA) requiring changes in how curriculum is provided and/or assessed takes a great deal of preparation. However, the payoff for this type of prep work is a more accessible curriculum that won’t require as much last minute adjustment should a DSP student require specific accommodations not already anticipated.
Faculty are encouraged to think about accommodations as being required to mitigate learning barriers that students with disabilities experience. For example, students who are deaf or hard of hearing, are penalized and marginalized when in a class where the curriculum relies heavily on lectures and videos, unless the videos are captioned, access to the lecture notes are provided in written formats, and a DSP real time captioner is scheduled. By planning ahead to have all required class videos captioned in advance of the semester, with outlines and key points available via written format on bCourse, then access for students who require these accommodations will have been made available for those who require them in a timely manner.
Required accommodations do not provide "unfair" advantages to students, but do provide a more even playing field. For example, students with auditory processing delays, slower motor functions and other disabilities may require more time for completing an exam than students without those same disabilities. Extra time on exams, one of the more commonly required accommodations, is not a substitute for the students' need to demonstrate competency in the curriculum.
A few examples where syllabi flexibility may be required:
- Classroom media which may require captioning/alternative media
- Changes in physical locations, or physical expectations (in a lab for example) for physical access
- Attendance policy flexibility for disability-related absences
- Exam accommodations which may require extended time, lower distraction and/or other requirements
- Note taking assistance which may involve use of an audio note-taking system, as well as copies of powerpoints and lecture notes