Disabilities and Accommodations

SPECIFIC DISABILITY CATEGORIES

HEARING DISABILITIES

Hearing disabilities may range in severity form a mild loss of hearing to total deafness.  Communication is the major challenge facing persons with hearing impairments, and students with hearing impairments vary widely in their communication skills. The causes and degrees of hearing loss vary greatly.  Deafness does not affect intelligence or ability, but it may affect English language skills if they have always been deaf. 

Most students with hearing impairments use a combination of communication methods, the most frequent being a combination of lip-reading and residual hearing which is often amplified hearing aids.  It is important to note, however, that lip-reading is only a partial solution, since experts estimate that only about 30 to 40 percent of spoken English is distinguishable on the lips even by the best lip-readers.

Most people with hearing disabilities have normal speech organs, and many have learned to speak through speech therapy.  However, it is difficult for some to gauge the tone and volume of their speech because they may have never heard normal speech and may not be able to hear themselves speak.  Initially they may be difficult to understand but understanding improves as one becomes familiar with the person's speech pattern.

Signed English is another method of manual communication, which is an exact translation of the English language into sign.  While it has some definite advantages in terms of the language aspects, it is more laborious to use.

Some students with hearing impairments will also communicate in writing when other methods like lip-reading and sign language cannot be used effectively. Instructors should write notes when necessary to effectively communicate with a student.

Most students with hearing impairments will also communicate in writing when other methods like lip-reading and sign language cannot be used effectively.  Instructors should write notes when necessary to effectively communicate with a student.

Attract the attention of students with hearing impairments before speaking.  A tap on the shoulder, a wave or some other visual signal may be used.  Face the person while talking and try to avoid lecturing while writing on the board.  Pacing around the room makes it difficult for one with a hearing impairment to understand the speaker.  Seat students with hearing impairments, so they have an unobstructed view of the instructor.  Try to repeat comments and questions asked by other students who are not in the range of vision of the student.

Extensive use of visual media is very beneficial to students with hearing impairments.  It is helpful if they have a brief course outline, a syllabus and a list of learning objectives ahead of time.  An overhead projector is a very effective tool to help those with hearing impairments follow the flow of the lecture, and it does not require the instructor turn his or her back to the class.  It is helpful to provide a script or script outline for slides, film or videotaped materials.

It is critical that important information be conveyed clearly to students with hearing impairments.  Notice of class cancellations, relocations, assignments, and tests should be put in writing on the board to ensure understanding.

Some Common Accommodations Include:

  • Sign Language Interpreters
  • Transcribers/Captionists
  • Assistive Listening Devices
  • Access to Notes
  • Preferential Seating

VISUAL DISABILITIES

Visual disabilities may be congenital or result from a variety of causes, including injury, eye disease, and brain trauma, or they may be secondary to other medical conditions such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.  One is considered visually handicapped when visual acuity is no better than 20/70 with best correction and legally blind when visual acuity is no better than 20/200 with best correction or when vision is limited to a narrow field of less than 20 degrees.

The major challenge facing college students with visual disabilities is the overwhelming amount of printed material with which they are confronted.  The increasing use of films, videotapes, overhead projectors, and closed circuit television adds to the volume of visual material to which they must gain access.

Most students who are blind use a combination of methods including readers, recorded books and lectures, and Braille materials.  Students may use tactile or raised line drawings of diagram, charts and illustrations; relief maps; and three-dimensional models of physical organs, shapes and microscopic organisms.  There are also adaptive devices such as scanners that convert printed text to voice output, computer Braille and talking computers, calculators, and dictionaries.

When teaching a student with visual disability, it is helpful to verbalize as much information as possible and to provide tactile experiences whenever possible.  "This and that" phrases are meaningless to a person who cannot see the “this” or “that’ to which you are directing students.

Students without vision will need test accommodations.  They have their individual preferences for taking tests, but most will involve an alternative format test.  Depending on the students' skills with Braille and computers, there are a variety of possibilities for test taking including entering their responses into a computer, dictating to a writer, recording their responses on tape or taking the test orally with the instructor.

Please do not leave messages of class relocations or cancellations in writing on the door or chalkboard.  Students with a visual disability will need a verbal message.

Some Common Accommodations Include:

  • Enlarged Print Materials & Exams/Alternate Format Materials & Exams
  • Enlarged Print Books/Alternate Format Books
  • Audio Record Lectures
  • Academic Assistant (for labs and other similar courses/experiences)
  • Extended Time Testing
  • Preferential Seating
  • Scribe or Use of Assistive Technology for Exams

MOBILITY IMPAIRMENTS

Mobility impairments are broadly defined as any disability which restricts a person's independent movement.  Mobility impairments range in severity and may or may not require assistive devices for access.  Some mobility impairments are caused by conditions present at birth.  These conditions may be consistent over time, or may be degenerative.  Other mobility impairments are the result of illness or physical injury. They include but are not limited to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, Guillain-Barre syndrome and polio, as well as conditions such as cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries and often result in impairment to the individual's motor skills.

Some Common Accommodations Include:

  • Access to Notes
  • Scribe
  • Books in Alternate Format
  • Extended Time Testing
  • Academic Assistant
  • Alternate classroom locations or modifications to those presently used to provide for accessibility to the learning space
  • Adjustable height desk or table
  • Use of a tape recorder

EPILEPSY

Epilepsy is a symptom of a number of disorders of the central nervous system consisting of recurrent seizures which result from uncontrolled electrical discharges in the brain.

Through proper medication, seizures are completely controlled in about 50 percent of individuals afflicted with epilepsy and are partially controlled in about 30 percent of all other cases.  In the event a seizure should occur in the classroom, the following actions are recommended by the Epilepsy Foundation:

  1. Keep calm.  You cannot stop a seizure. Do not restrain the individual or try to revive him/her.
  1. Clear the area around the student of hard, sharp, or hot objects which could injure the student.  Place a rolled-up soft object under the student's head (coat, sweater).
  1. Do not force anything between the teeth.
  1. Turn the individual's head to one side for release of saliva and make sure his/her breathing is not obstructed.  Loosen tight clothing, but do not interfere with his/her movements.
  1. Do not be concerned if the student seems to stop breathing temporarily.  Do be concerned if the individual seems to pass from one seizure to another without gaining consciousness.  Please call 911 if the seizure lasts more than 10 minutes.

After seizure activity, if the individual is confused or drowsy, he/she will need rest or sleep.  The student should be excused from class and someone should accompany him/her home.

CHRONIC HEALTH DISORDERS & HIDDEN DISABILITIES

While some of the previously discussed disabilities are obvious by looking at a person, there are many types of invisible disabilities.  Some of the most prevalent hidden disabilities include diabetes and other endocrine or metabolic disabilities, psychiatric disorders, traumatic head injury, sickle cell anemia, cardiac conditions, renal disease requiring dialysis, cancer, hemophilia, lupus, and AIDS.  Some of these conditions can have as much or more impact on one's academic functioning than a visible severe disability.

The effects of prescribed medications for some hidden disabilities can cause variations in the student's performance, making it necessary to allow time extensions for assignments or makeup tests. It is the student's responsibility to make these needs known and to provide medical verification when appropriate.

Complications from some disabilities fluctuate from time to time, causing students to be absent.  Some conditions are more symptomatic during certain kinds of weather conditions.  Some disease processes go through periods of remission and then become more active.  If the student must be absent for an extended period of time, it may be advisable to cooperate with a late drop approval or a grade of "incomplete."  It is the student's responsibility to initiate action to make up assignments or arrange for an incomplete, drop, or withdrawal.

Infrequently, a student may need some type of immediate intervention in the classroom for complications of hidden disabilities, the most likely being seizures, insulin reactions, and coronary attack. In the unlikely event of such an occurrence, call 911.  Please also notify the ADA Coordinator that such an event has occurred for follow-up purposes with that student and even the class.

PSYCHOLOGICAL DISABILITIES

Psychological Disabilities include a variety of disorders, from phobias to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to personality disorders.  Some of the common psychological disorders are Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Anxiety Disorders.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is becoming more prevalent amongst returning veterans. 

Some Common Accommodations Include:

  • Modification in Attendance Policy
  • Permission to Leave Class
  • Extended Time Testing

ASPERGER’S SYNDROME

(Colleen Kane, Gateway Community College)

Asperger’s Syndrome is a spectrum disorder, meaning that there is a wide range of possible manifestations and implications within the diagnosis.  In general, however, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome commonly have difficulty in general with social interaction.  Asperger’s Syndrome commonly affects an individual’s ability to read and interpret communication constructs such as body language, social cues, non-literal language, and vocal tone.  This can cause difficulty in social relationships, although individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome do desire positive social relationships.  Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome also commonly develop pre-occupations with a particular area of interest or topic, or develop repetitive behaviors or routines.  In general, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome have cognitive abilities comparable to individuals without Asperger’s Syndrome.   Of course, due to the nature of Asperger’s Syndrome, every person presents the disability differently.

Some Common Accommodations include:

  • Distraction Reduced Testing
  • Access to Notes
  • Extended Time Tests

ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD)

ADHD is a neurological condition that affects learning and behavior. Students may be easily distracted, impulsive, and hyperactive. This disorder may affect the student's concentration, memory, distractibility, ability to control fidgeting, organizational focus, and decision- making. Though the common view is that ADHD always includes hyperactivity, it often does not.  In fact, there are at least 6 different types of ADHD, some of which do not include it at all.

Some Common Accommodations include:

  • Extended Time Testing
  • Distraction-Reduced Testing
  • Books in Alternate Format
  • Access to notes

COLLEGE STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

A learning disability (LD) is:

  • A permanent disorder which affects the manner in which individuals with normal or above-average intelligence take in, retain, and express information. Like interference on the radio or a fuzzy TV picture, incoming and outgoing information may become scrambled as it travels between the eye, ear, or skin, and the brain.
  • Commonly recognized in LD adults as deficits in one or more of the following areas:  reading comprehension, spelling, written expression, math computation, and problem solving.  Less frequent, but no less troublesome, are problems in organizational skills, time management, and social skills.  Many LD adults may also have language-based and/or perceptual problems.
  • Often inconsistent.  It may present problems on Mondays but not on Tuesdays.  It may cause problems throughout grade school, seem to disappear during high school, and then resurface again in college.  It may manifest itself in only one specific academic area, such as math or foreign language.
  • Frustrating.  Persons with learning disabilities often have to deal not only with functional limitations, but also with the frustration of having to "prove" that their invisible disabilities are a handicap.

Characteristics of LD College Students:

Reading Skills:

  • Slow reading rate and/or difficulty in modifying reading rate accordance with material difficulty.
  • Poor comprehension and retention.
  • Difficulty identifying important points and themes.
  • Poor mastery of phonics, confusion of similar words, difficulty in integrating new vocabulary.

Written Language Skills:

  • Difficulty with sentence structure (e.g., incomplete sentences, run-ons, poor use in grammar, missing inflectional endings).
  • Frequent spelling errors.
  • Inability to copy correctly from a book or the blackboard.
  • Writing slowly and often arduously.
  • Poor penmanship (e.g., poorly formed letters, incorrect use of capitalization, trouble with spacing, overly large handwriting).

Oral Language Skills:

  • Inability to concentrate on and comprehend oral language.
  • Difficulty in orally expressing concepts that they seem to understand.
  • Difficulty using grammatically correct language skills.
  • Difficulty telling a story in proper sequence.

Mathematical Skills:

  • Difficulty mastering basic mathematical facts (e.g., multiplication tables).
  • Reversing of numbers (123 to 321 or 2231)
  • Confusing operational symbols.
  • Inability to understand and retain abstract concepts.
  • Difficulty copying problems incorrectly from one line to another.
  • Difficulty comprehending work problems.

Organizational and Study Skills:

  • Time management difficulties.
  • Difficulty starting and completing tasks.
  • Repeated inability, on a day-to-day basis, to recall what has been taught.
  • Lack of overall organization in written notes and compositions.