Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment
It is suggested that faculty help normalize the accommodation process and create an inclusive learning environment by announcing during the first class meeting that all students with documented disabilities are invited to meet during office hours to discuss accommodation needs and implementation. This confidential discussion should lead to an understanding between the faculty member and student as to how the academic adjustments will fit into the curriculum.
Universal Design of Instruction
Information adapted from DO-IT at the University of Washington
Universal Design (UD) means that rather than designing your facility and services for the average user, you design them for people with a broad range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics -- people with a variety of ages, reading abilities, learning styles, languages, cultures, etc. Universal Design of Instruction (UDI) is the process of designing curricula that enable all students to gain knowledge and skills for learning. UDI provides supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all. Instructors should remain mindful of UD and adopt practices that respect diversity and inclusiveness, including:
Promoting an inclusive class climate
Encourage the sharing of multiple perspectives by demonstrating and demanding mutual respect. Employ teaching methods and materials that are motivating and relevant to students with diverse characteristics. Instructors should make every effort to be approachable and available to students by welcoming questions outside of class and during regular office hours.
Ensuring physical access, usability, and safety
Assure that activities, materials, and equipment are physically accessible to and usable by all students and that all potential student characteristics are addressed in safety considerations. Instructors should consider arranging instructional spaces to maximize inclusion and comfort, while also remaining mindful of student safety.
Employing a variety of delivery methods
Consider using multiple, accessible instructional methods, such as lectures, collaborative learning options, hands-on activities, internet-based communications, educational software, fieldwork, etc. Utilize visual aids that are large, bold, and uncluttered; provide instructions both orally and in printed form. Provide feedback (or arrange for peer feedback) so that work can be improved.
Incorporating accessible information resources and instructional materials
Assure that course materials, notes, and other information resources are flexible and accessible to all students. By preparing a syllabus and selecting texts early, students have the option to begin reading materials early or coordinate their conversion into an alternative format.
Regularly assess student progress using multiple, accessible methods and tools. Creating a straightforward grading rubric with clear statements of course expectations, assignment descriptions, and deadlines will minimize students misinterpretations. Design tests to reflect the same manner in which you teach (i.e. assure that a test measures what students have learned, not their ability to adapt to a new style of presentation).
For additional on how to modify your course to better reflect the principles of Universal Design, we encourage you to call the DSS office at (973) 313-6003.