NOTIFICATION OF STUDENT ACCOMMODATIONS
Why am I notified about some students at the beginning of the semester, and others at the middle or end of the semester? Wouldn't it be better if I knew what their needs were before they started having problems?
After being notified that a student needs accommodations, reviewing the DASS Accommodation Letter, and talking with my student, I believe the requested accommodation may not be reasonable. How do I proceed?
STUDENTS WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD)
STUDENTS WHO ARE DEAF OR HARD OF HEARING
BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED STUDENTS
STUDENTS WITH EPILEPSY AND SEIZURE DISORDERS
A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual.
Major Life Activities The phrase major life activities refers to normal functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Physical Impairment: A physical impairment includes any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following bodily systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory and speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine.
Mental Impairment: A mental impairment includes any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
Learning Disabilities: A learning disability is a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders occur in persons of average to very superior intelligence. Basically, someone with a learning disability will exhibit a significant difference between their intellectual capabilities and what they can produce.
The accommodations depend on the nature of the disability. Based on the specific diagnosis and the student’s strengths and weaknesses, an individualized educational plan is developed, outlining the most appropriate accommodations. Although extended time on tests is the most common accommodation due to difficulty processing information, it is not the only option. Other accommodations may include: audio version of textbooks, readers, note taking assistance, recording lectures, use of laptop computers, use of word processors or spell-checker, or sign language interpreters. Test modifications may include: extended time, alternate test format, or oral exams. Faculty consultation is an essential part of this process. Creative and cooperative efforts are required to provide students with an equitable education while maintaining academic integrity.
SMU's approved syllabus statements for Disability Accommodations are listed below. The first statement is for all faculty except Law School faculty; the Law School faculty syllabus statement is unique, and listed separately. Feel free to copy and paste the applicable statement directly into your syllabus. On the syllabus statement for all faculty except Law School faculty, we have chosen not to list a specific individual's name as a contact in order to keep syllabus information accurate and up to date.
Professors sometimes add requirements to the approved statement; some are appropriate, but some are not and should be avoided. An example of an acceptable addition is to encourage the student to meet with you in your office when submitting the DASS accommodation letter. Inappropriate additions include a firm deadline to deliver accommodation letters (such as in the first two weeks of school). If you are not sure whether the statement you wish to add is appropriate, we are here for any consultation. Please contact the DASS office at 214-768-1470, or by email at DASS@smu.edu.
*Syllabus statement for All Undergraduate and Graduate Faculty EXCEPT Law School:
Disability Accommodations: Students needing academic accommodations for a disability must first register with Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS). Students can call 214-768-1470 or visit http://www.smu.edu/Provost/SASP/DASS to begin the process. Once approved and registered, students will submit a DASS Accommodation Letter to faculty through the electronic portal DASS Link and then communicate directly with each instructor to make appropriate arrangements. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive and require advance notice to implement.
*Syllabus statement for Law School Faculty:
Disability Accommodations: Students needing academic accommodations for a disability must first register with Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS). Students can call 214-768-1470 or visit http://www.smu.edu/Provost/SASP/DASS to begin the process. Once approved and registered, the student's Letter of Accommodation will be provided to Assistant Dean Steve Yeager by DASS in order to put accommodations in place in the Law School.
Tulane University has an initiative that gives excellent tips, as well as the rationale behind those strategies, on how to create an inclusive syllabus that reaches the reader. https://accessiblesyllabus.tulane.edu/
Start by checking DASS Link for the needs of the students already enrolled in your class. For instance, you may be alerted that someone has a mobility impairment and needs an appropriate place to sit. They may need a specific type of table or a reserved seat in an area of the classroom that is easy to get to. Beyond that, read some of the FAQs on this page. There are a lot of things to consider and great ideas here. Pay close attention to the sections on Classroom Accommodations, Students who are Deaf, deaf, or Hard of Hearing, and Blind and Visually Impaired Students. Contact DASS for more ideas on making your class accessible to all learners!
Using DASS Link, our digital communication and data management system, we create Letters of Accommodation (LOA) for each student affiliated with DASS. The letters list the student's name, SMU ID, and authorized accommodations. Students request their letters from DASS, we review the request, and upon approval, the letters are made available to you in your DASS Link account. These can be viewed online or printed, and are also stored within DASS Link. When opened and read, faculty are expected to digitally sign receipt of the LOA. DASS students are expected to discuss with you how their accommodations will be implemented in your class. DASS stresses this requirement in our suggested syllabus statement in order to ensure that students take this important step.
Why am I notified about some students at the beginning of the semester, and others at the middle or end of the semester? Wouldn't it be better if I knew what their needs were before they started having problems?
Students who have disclosed their disability are encouraged to notify their professors during the first two weeks of classes. Some students may want to begin their education at SMU without the stigma or label of having a disability; therefore they may try to forego requesting accommodations until the last possible moment. Some students who are newly diagnosed may present their documentation to us during the semester. The student must advocate for himself or herself, thus timing may vary. We strongly recommend that faculty members require students to give them seven (7) days notification for any accommodation in order for you to make appropriate arrangements. Please avoid adding additional statements to the syllabus statement, such as "students must deliver their letter within the first two weeks of school". This is not realistic for some, and students do have a choice as to when they decide to self-identify. They should, however, give their professors reasonable notice of a request for accommodations.
It can be confounding to some instructors as to why a student would NOT deliver their DASS letter at the beginning of the semester, or at all. We do leave this up to the discretion of the student, and for some, they are either attempting to "go it alone" or hoping to "not need" the accommodations in the particular course. Some may be embarrassed to ask for accommodations, possibly after having a bad experience in the past. Some may simply forget. Some students will utilize accommodations in one course but not the other. Why is this? While the student's disability is present in every class, the course design may dictate what means of access, if any, the student may need. For example, if a student is deaf and taking a face-to-face course, ASL would be necessary to provide access. If that same student is taking an online course with no videos and all text provided electronically, that same student may not need any accommodation in that setting. Same student. Different courses. Different access outcomes. Disabilities and their impact can be complex and the ways students manage and cope with those conditions may lead to different approaches for different courses. We defer to the student to identify him or herself, and once that occurs, we are obligated to put reasonable accommodations in place from that point, moving forward.
Sometimes students circumvent the DASS system and, therfore, have not been verified by our office. Faculty are free to work with their students in any way they see fit, but are not under any obligation to provide disability accommodations without a letter of accommodation from DASS. Students may provide their professor with a report from their doctor stating a diagnosis, but faculty should not feel compelled to review this documentation and make a decision on what accommodations would be appropriate. Professionals in the the DASS office are the most appropriate people to review documentation and determine the current educational impact. Approving informal accommodations can also set a precedence that the student may come to expect with other professors. Please refer the student to DASS to properly request accommodations. Also, check out "When Faculty are TOO Accommodating", an article written by Jane Jarrow, long-time disability service provider in higher ed.
If you suspect that a student has a disability, talk with the student about your observations. Since this is an extremely sensitive topic to some students, it is best to speak to the student in a private setting. Focus on the student’s performance and why you are concerned. Describe the behavior or evidence you have seen, rather than labeling it or classifying it as a disability. Ask the student if she has ever received support services in high school and then recommend that she meet with a DASS staff member to help her identify the problem areas and recommend strategies for success.
After being notified that a student needs accommodations, reviewing the DASS Accommodation Letter, and talking with the student, I believe the requested accommodation may not be reasonable. How do I proceed?
If an instructor believes an accommodation may fundamentally alter the essential elements of the course curriculum, it is always best to discuss this directly with the DASS Coordinator listed on the letter. In rare cases, an alternative may need to be considered, but that would come after a discussion about the needs of the student, curriculum, and what is reasonable in the particular course. DASS recommends an instructor never single-handedly deny an accommodation without consultation.
Students with disabilities have different conditions with varying symptoms, severities, and treatment side-effects. Even students with the same diagnostic label may struggle with learning and the college environment in different ways; therefore, students with disabilities may have different needs in different classes. Students with disabilities take into account their disability-related needs in conjunction with many other factors, such as the format of assessments, the delivery of lectures, absence and make-up exam policies, the length of the class, and the time of day of the class, and then they decide whether or not to disclose their accommodations to each instructor. A student's choosing to disclose accommodation needs to one instructor and not to another means that they're self-advocating by thinking through their needs on a class-by-class basis, just as we at DASS instruct them, and in no way means that they don't need the accommodations that DASS has vetted and authorized.
This is an issue that unnerves many faculty members. "What can I say, and to whom?" We've put together some tips as well as what not to do, in the hopes of clearing up any confusion.
The confidential nature of disability-related information has been an over-arching principle of nondiscrimination since the establishment of Section 503 and 504. Disability-related information is considered to be medical information and to be treated in the same confidential manner, with the same need-to-know restrictions. This means you must avoid discussing this information with anyone unless it is absolutely necessary.
Federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) mandates that both the university and individual faculty members must provide appropriate exam accommodations to students with disabilities.
Exam accommodations are determined after carefully reviewing documentation of a disability and the effects of the disability in a test taking situation. Exam accommodations minimize the disability and “level the playing field.” They do not to give the student with a disability an advantage. Faculty should express any concerns regarding exam accommodations to a DASS staff member who can verify the appropriateness of the requested accommodation and provide assistance to both the student and faculty member.
Nothing! As a matter of fact, confidentiality is of extreme importance, so you should refrain from discussing any information regarding a student's disability in the presence of other students and/or faculty without the students consent.
Both. The DASS staff has been given the responsibility of determining appropriate exam accommodations (based on documentation and individual situations), but both DASS and faculty jointly provide the accommodations. Faculty can verify student requests through DASS. Faculty must comply with the law by either providing the appropriate accommodations themselves, or if this is not possible, utilizing DASS as a back-up for proctoring.
We expect students to meet with each of their instructors to discuss their testing accommodations well before the date of the test. We suggest they bring a copy of their current class schedule to this meeting so that the instructor and the student can more easily determine the best course of action. If faculty members determines that they, their TAs, or another departmental representative are not able to provide the testing accommodations, then the student should be referred to schedule the test at DASS.
Students schedule their tests at DASS using our online interface, DASS Link. This system generates an email alerting the instructor to the request and instructing them to log on to DASS Link to approve or deny the testing request. Instructors will also use DASS Link to communicate special instructions for DASS proctors and to upload electronic copies of the exam. For details, please see the DASS Link student instructions and DASS Link faculty instructions. It is the student's responsibility to notify DASS at least 7 days prior to the exam and arrange test proctoring with us; DASS must have sufficient time to schedule the proctor and set up the testing room. DASS proctors are available to administer most exams. Note, it is an added cost to the university every time DASS must hire a proctor.
Faculty will receive two email reminders to upload the exam to DASS Link. DASS accepts exams on DASS Link up to 2 days before the exam date, after which the exams must be hand-delivered to DASS no later than 24 hours before the exam. We ask professors to arrange for the return of completed tests, as well. The two options include: having DASS return the exam by fax or scan/email if the test is 10 pages or less and 4 or fewer students are taking the exam; or picking up the test from DASS in person. Students may not return their tests. Because of the labor involved in scanning exams, we prefer professors to drop off and pick up the hard copy exam.
DASS does have limitations. We only test M-F, 9-5, and do not provide proctored testing for tests that are administered on a computer (e.g., Canvas, Excel, etc.) unless it is part of the student's disability accommodation, such as needing a word-processor for a writing-intensive exam. We do offer test proctoring during finals, but require students to schedule with DASS by an advertised deadline earlier than the standard 7 days, usually 2 weeks before finals begin.
For more details, please review Test Proctoring.
NO. Faculty may choose to accommodate the student within their facility. In fact, we encourage students to attempt to take the test with the professor so that they may ask questions that may arise during the test and get appropriate answers. It is the student's responsibility to make arrangements with the faculty member prior to the exam date. As long as the student's required accommodations are met, it is not necessary for the student to take the exam at DASS. DASS will work with the student and faculty member to accommodate students within the DASS facility when necessary.
For students who simply have extended time, the instructor can set the time in Canvas for 1.5x or 2.0x the standard length. If you need assistance setting the extended time please view OIT's Canvas Help page or contact the OIT Help Desk (email@example.com). Unfortunately, DASS is not able to proctor exams administered within Canvas and will direct the student back to their instructor and department to manage those accommodations with Canvas. However, a simple solution can be to print a hard copy of the test, and DASS can then administer this test within our usual procedures. The same suggestions apply to students taking tests on ExamSoft or otherwise requiring the use of a computer for test administration (which is separate from the accommodation of laptop use for exams).
Putting easily distracted students (e.g., those with ADHD or anxiety disorders) in a controlled, small-group testing environment lessens distractions and lowers anxiety. We have such a testing environment here at DASS, but you can create one as well. A closed space without foot traffic is ideal, such as an office, carrel, conference room, or small classroom. Phones, printers, copiers, computers, and the like should be turned off. Placing a sign on the testing room door asking people to keep voices down and not to knock helps considerably. The accommodation does not require the student to test alone (separately), but do keep the group testing numbers small and ensure that students have plenty of space between them. Avoid interrupting the test to move a student to another testing space; such a disruption runs counter to the idea of a reduced distraction environment. Note that a reduced distraction testing space does not mean distraction-free; no such place exists on SMU’s campus, nor is such a strict level of control required.
If you use Canvas or ExamSoft, students with this accommodation still need a reduced distraction location to take the test. DASS can proctor the exam if it is reformatted to a paper version; otherwise, you should plan to test the student using the reduced distraction testing area tips above. Contact OIT (firstname.lastname@example.org) for instructions on how to import/export a test in Canvas and ExamSoft, or review the OIT website for help with Canvas at https://www.smu.edu/OIT/Services/Canvas.
A reader is a staff member, faculty member or proctor who reads tests aloud to students with visual impairments or possibly learning disabilities. A scribe is a proctor who types or writes exactly what the student says as responses to test questions. Reader or Scribe is an infrequently approved or used accommodation, but can be appropriate for students who have significant learning disabilities or visual impairments, or even mobility issues. We strongly encourage the student to have his or her professor read or scribe as the course content/vocabulary may be difficult for a proctor to read or spell correctly.
Yes, it is appropriate to alter the content as needed, if you have legitimate concerns about the security of the exam (such as the answers have already been shared with the class). A more accurate description of the school's obligation when, for reasons unrelated to a student's disability, it cannot give the same exam as a late exam is that the school must give an exam of no greater difficulty in a format that is no more difficult than the earlier exam, and the professor must not apply a more demanding grading system to that exam. However, DASS would recommend you do not routinely give different exams to students with disabilities, as a rule. Giving different exams simply because the student happens to have sought and received an accommodation is inappropriate because that would be treating the student differently simply because they have a disability.
It is not appropriate to ask a student to miss, arrive late to, or leave early from another class in order to take an assessment with extended time.
When you initially discuss testing and testing accommodations with students, they should discuss any potential time conflicts with you. DASS advises students to share their class schedules with you during these meetings. Please inform students if you have scheduling conflicts, as well. Once all scheduling conflicts are identified, you and the student can address them and create a plan to implement testing accommodations, ideally well in advance of testing days.
The most common resolution is to have the student start the test early, so that they finish the extended time exam before their next class begins. If a student has a class before and after the exam, then the exam will need to be administered at a different time, allowing the student to utilize their full extended time. Some faculty allow students to take their tests with other sections of the same class or make arrangements within the department for testing on a different day or at a different time. When all options have been exhausted, faculty may consider having the student test at DASS, with appropriate notice.
Students with extended time for tests and quizzes should still be afforded the extra time for pop quizzes, as long as it does not fundamental alter the essential elements of the curriculum. Consider these options: give the DASS student warning of the quiz so he can take the quiz in your office before or after the class or start early or stay late in the classroom. Or, with advance notice, the student could schedule to take it at the DASS office with a proctor. If you are not comfortable giving advance notice, take on the responsibility of scheduling the space and proctor for the student and direct him to that location on the day of the pop quiz. Examine the purpose of the pop quiz. is it to show mastery or is it an attendance tracking technique. Is there an alternative assignment the student could do to meet the objective? Call DASS for more discussion on solutions, given your particular circumstances and challenges and your student's accommodations.
In this scenario, the term "reasonable" is key and used intentionally to give each instructor the freedom to determine how much time they need to implement testing accommodations. When given short notice, faculty members are not obligated to provide testing accommodations; however, they are obligated to first carefully consider each request on a case-by-case basis in light of their resources (e.g., the test format, a quiet testing space, their availability, an Office Assistant, a TA or student employee, etc.). Due to the need for a deliberative process, we encourage faculty members to avoid setting arbitrary deadlines for notification of accommodations.
We at DASS encourage students to give instructors at least a week's notice before needing an accommodation. Unfortunately, this timeframe isn't always possible. If a student comes to you at any point before a test and requests accommodations by presenting a current accommodation letter, please review the need(s) and how you might be able to provide it or not. Take into account that some accommodations may require significantly more advance notice and resources than others to implement (reader/scribe vs. extended time). If you have the resources or the ability to find the resources to put the accommodation in place, we encourage you to do so. If it is not possible, say so, but we strongly advise you to consult with your department chair and with us at DASS if you are considering a denial of any accommodation. This ensures an "interactive process" has taken place. Be prepared to answer the question, "why was the accommodation not put in place?"— inconvenience is different than a true administrative burden. Outside agencies that monitor compliance, such as the Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights, do not support denying an accommodation simply to teach a student a lesson. DASS is available to help you through the problem-solving, if needed.
The note taking assistance accommodation can take multiple forms, depending on the student’s needs and class format. The options for note taking accommodations include:
- Ability to audio record class and review sessions - Recording of lectures can be accomplished by a digital recording device, laptop, or LiveScribe pen. DASS has not approved video recording for any student, due to their disability, so note the specifics in the accommodation letters. Students may find they need to sit up front to improve the recording quality.
- Ability to use a laptop for note taking - The student may use a laptop to take notes during lectures. DASS recommends that faculty use laptop contracts if classroom policies prohibit laptops.
- Access to Peer Notes - If audio recording and/or the use of a laptop for note taking are not sufficient due to the student’s disability or the course content (math, for example), a copy of peer notes may be necessary. Peer notes are taken by a volunteer note taker in the class. Faculty solicit these note takers by making an announcement in class, on the course's Canvas page, and/or by email. A suggested script is included in the accommodation letter to assist faculty with locating peer note takers. Faculty may also be asked to facilitate the transfer of notes to the DASS student; however, in most cases, the DASS student sets up an anonymous e-mail account, and the peer note taker scans and sends the notes to the DASS student each day. If the DASS student does not wish to remain anonymous, the note taker and DASS student coordinate the transfer of notes. DASS recommends identifying at least two volunteer note takers early in the semester for each class where they are needed.
For DASS students who need note taking assistance, laptops and audio recordings are more independent options; in addition, these methods are not prone to logistical delays that can be created by peer notes. For this reason, you may receive accommodation letters which list more than one option in order to ensure the DASS student is receiving equal access to class information in case peer notes are not forthcoming. When notes are not forthcoming from a peer note taker, DASS students are instructed to inform their faculty first to ask for assistance. If the gap in access is not easily and quickly fixed, we suggest DASS students and instructors reach out to our office for assistance in brainstorming solutions.
Students acknowledge in their intake appointments that any notes obtained by peers or recordings are not to be shared with others or online, and that notes are not available for classes they do not attend.
Please note, the delivery of notes or outlines before a class meets is not generally considered a reasonable accommodation.
The current trend of faculty members limiting or prohibiting electronic devices in the classroom is understandable, given the increasingly disruptive habits of students accessing non-class related material during class. However, for students who need to take notes on their laptops as a disability-related accommodation, the issue becomes sticky. We recommend against professors making a statement such as “No one may use laptops except those with disabilities.” This essentially requires a student with a disability to identify himself to others just by using his laptop. You want to avoid putting students in this position. If you are considering prohibiting laptops, one professor used the following wording in her syllabus:
"The use of Laptops/Netbooks/iPads, etc. is strictly prohibited for use during all
class sessions...Failure to follow this technology policy without prior approval of
the Instructor can result in dismissal from that class session."
This professor then met with students individually and discussed their issue. If there was a documented need for laptop usage, she allowed it and had them sign an agreement that laid out the expected behavior (use only for class related purposes, wireless internet will be turned off, will sit on an aisle or front row in order to be less distracting to other students). She can then enforce her classroom policy, while still providing the appropriate accommodation. If someone asks why others are allowed to use laptops, she simply says that they made special arrangements with her, with no details given.
We recommend that you always include a statement in your syllabus that says "Please be aware that this class may be audio recorded at times and all uses of said audio recording should be limited to academic purposes for this class only. Permission is required from the instructor." Never identify the DASS student and the approroved accommodation to other students. We encourage you to contact DASS if you have concerns about the DASS student's usage of the audio recordings.
We encourage faculty to think through each assignment/course activity and ask themselves, what is the purpose, what information do the students need to get from this, how will it be conducted, is communication with others required, does the student have to go anywhere - either physically or virtually (other websites, etc)? Which senses do the students need to use - sight, hearing, touch, etc? What are the possible barriers? How could it be modified, if needed? For students with visual impairments (and sometimes other disabilities), all online material needs to be compatible with common screen readers, such as JAWS. If you show video, it may need to be captioned so a student who is deaf or hard of hearing can understand the auditory component, or have descriptive audio added so that a student who is blind or visually impaired can understand all of the unspoken elements.
We recommend reading this article from Inside Higher Education, as well as visiting the "Using Technology to Enhance teaching and Learning" webpage of SMU's Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE).
Please contact our office for additional support, as it is our University's responsibility to make all of our programs accessible to students with disabilities.
Infrequently, students with a disability may have a condition that could intermittently affect their ability to attend class. After careful deliberation and discussion, DASS may approve the accommodation which encourages faculty to be flexible in their attendance policy, when possible. However, students are given very explicit instruction on how to discuss this type of accommodation BEFORE any absences take place.
DASS attaches Student Responsibilities, the Guidelines for Implementing Flexible Attendance Accommodations, and a Flexible Attendance Agreement to the students' electronic letter of accommodation, which will be available for you to view in your DASS Link account. We advise students to print these documents and bring them to a meeting with you where you'll discuss this and any other accommodations. These documents guide professors and students on establishing clear expectations surrounding this accommodation. This includes determining what is a reasonable absence due to a disability, how the students will communicate with the professors, how the students will make up the work, etc.
People with ASD (Formerly known as Autism and Asperger's Disorder) lack the social understanding that comes more intuitively to the average person. They have difficulty interpreting social cues from others, such as facial expressions and tone of voice, and can be unusually literal in the way they interpret communications. Engaging in a reciprocal conversation can be challenging for them, as they find it hard to start and maintain a two-way conversation; they may unintentionally monopolize discussions. They are often highly intelligent, and may have an unusually intense interest in a particular subject. Structure and routine are found to be helpful to individuals with ASD. A couple of informative links for faculty are: http://www.researchautism.org/resources/AspergerDVDSeries.asp and http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/confronting-aspergers-in-the-classroom/.
Also, The Yale School of Medicine video below, "College Students on the Autism Spectrum," is quite informative.
Students with hearing loss experience challenges in a variety of ways due to barriers in their environment. Videos may be inaccessible if no captions are included. When creating a video, consult the SMU Video Captioning Guidelines. To add and edit captions using Panopto, see OIT's blog post here. When using Zoom for lectures or office hours, be sure to enable the Zoom setting for automated closed captions to display to your students by going to your Settings>>Advanced Settings, and enabling captions.
Unless they are newly blind, most college students will already have developed a range of techniques for accessing visual materials. Increasingly, blind and visually impaired people are making use of adaptive technology. They make use of devices such as talking calculators, computer programs with speech-output such as JAWS or Kurzweil, and adapted electronic writing tablets with speech-output which make taking notes easier. Some students may also use a note-taker in class, usually a fellow student who takes particularly detailed notes or types their notes on a laptop. In same cases, a reader may retype or scan handwritten notes so the student can utilize screen-reading software and listen to the notes through a computer.
Each student is different and there is a wide variety of accommodations that may need to be arranged; one individual may use a cane or a guide dog, while another may need enlarged-print copies of course materials and have to sit at the front of the classroom in order to see the professor. For this reason, blind and visually impaired students are encouraged to submit medical documentation to DASS as early as possible and to remain in close contact with the office so that their individual needs can be assessed. Once this has occurred, the appropriate reasonable accommodations will be made and notification will be provided to you by the student.
If you utilize many handouts in your class, it would be extremely helpful to keep in touch with the student about getting the materials in advance so they can use technology to adapt the handouts. Keep in mind that if a blind student comes to class and the instructor has decided spontaneously to give a handout, that student will not have access to the information during class. When dealing with posting materials on websites, it would be best to have multiple versions of the files that are being used to ensure the highest level of accessibility. Blind students will most likely be using screen reading software that can access the website, but the program might not be able to read the material posted depending on the file type. If the student couldn't access the file, emailing a MS Word file to the student could help.
Students with VI and blindness should still be able to access powerpoint slides and excel tables, but will have to learn how to maneuver through these programs with their screenreader. For PPT's it is best to avoid shapes and SmartArt. Typically screenreaders read things in the order they were placed on the slide, so adding a new column of text but putting it on the far left will not necessarily mean the student using a screenreader will hear it first. Also, all images in a PowerPoint presentation that convey meaning need to be accompanied by alternate text, so that their purpose is communicated to people using assistive technology. Using color can be effective if the contrast between colors is high, and you aren't using color to convey meaning. Microsoft has a full tutorial about making PPT's accessible.
Be sure to offer your syllabus and other documents in a Word document, which is easy for screen readers to read out loud. Before distributing pdf files to the class, review OIT's new video on making PDF's accessible to screen and e-text-reading software.
Most blind and visually impaired students have their own strategies for learning, but professors can help in many ways. It is extremely helpful if the professor provides a reading list and course packet several weeks before the semester begins in order for them to convert the readings into an accessible form. Similarly, if there are going to be any classroom handouts or last minute additions to the coursework, a student who relies on technology will need some time to prepare. For situations such as tests, field trips, and study abroad, the student and professor may need to make special arrangements, and these should be discussed with the DASS on a case-by-case basis. Courses with an extremely visual component, such as film studies or art history, are not immediately out of the question for a student with a visual impairment, as there are many ways to appreciate the visual arts and to learn about their history. In fact, a blind or visually impaired student may open up our perspective on subjects such as art appreciation, film-making, etc. Additionally, instructors who have blind or visually impaired students in their classes are encouraged to consult with DASS regarding implementation of accommodations whenever there is uncertainty about an accommodation, or other more general questions. Students can also be very helpful in determining how best to make something accessible because frequently, they have a high level of knowledge about their condition. Accommodations typically work best when DASS, students, and faculty work in concert to ensure access to all academic materials.
If the student wishes to discuss seizure protocol with you, please do so. SMU does not expect or recommend professors determine the severity of seizure or provide medical care; however, some seizures will present as trembling, rapid blinking, and/or unresponsiveness for a minute or two. This would not likely require you to call SMU PD or 911.
Please contact SMU PD or 911. We also suggest that you:
- Remain calm
- Look at a clock to note the approximate time of onset; EMS professionals may need this information.
- Manage the class by clearing the area around the student or dismissing the class.