Teaching Students with Disabilities

There are many steps that faculty can take to create a more accessible classroom environment.  These steps are considered universal design for learning and in addition to eliminating some accommodation needs, they will also improve course learning for students with diverse learning styles.  For example, many students use media captioning who are not deaf or hard of hearing, including students for whom English is a second language.  

DRC has created an online course to assist faculty with implementing accommodations for students with disabilities.  We encourage all faculty and instructors to view the online course, Accommodating Students with Disabilities in the UC Santa Cruz Classroom, as well as guidelines to refer students to the DRC and the DRC Process.

Setting a foundation

The following are some tips to create a syllabus that sets a foundation for an accessible course.

  • Have syllabus and list of required texts, as well as any audio clips, finalized by Phase I registration
  • Be aware of and share campus resources for academic support in the syllabus
  • Provide a statement in the class syllabus affirming the need for class members to respect one another and the diversity of the classroom community
  • Encourage all students to discuss any individual learning needs with the instructor
  • Include a statement encouraging students who need disability assistance to connect with DRC and share contact information

Other practices that enhance full inclusion for students with disabilities in the classroom.  

There are ways to design courses to make them more accessible to students with disabilities and reduce the accommodations that are needed to fully participate in a class. When the class is more accessible for students with disabilities, it will be more accessible for students without disabilities, too! Consider taking the following steps:

  • Utilize texts available in multiple formats
  • Plan ahead to caption all audio clips, videos, and movies
  • Record all lectures with Zoom or Course Capture and make recordings available to students.  
  • Provide detailed PowerPoints of lectures before class
  • Allow use of head-sets and/or dark glasses and/or earplugs etc. to reduce distractions during quizzes/exams
  • Eliminate timed tests in favor of other assessment methods
  • Eliminate in-class exams in favor of in-class projects and activities and out-of-class projects and assessments.
  • Use varied instructional methods (lecture with a visual outline, facilitate group activities, tell stories, show videos, or structure web board-based discussions, allow for student-constructed knowledge including fishbowl activities and writing workshops) to provide different ways of learning and experiencing knowledge.
  • Provide a grading rubric that clearly lays out expectations for exam performance, papers, projects, and participation
  • Allow students to use a laptop or tablet in class for note taking
  • Allow students to use a laptop or tablet while taking in-class exams.
  • In small class settings, use of a circular or horseshoe seating arrangement to allow students to see and face speakers during discussion, and also include some seats on the periphery, for students who may not be comfortable front and center for the entire class
  • Create breaks in instruction or change-ups in activities that allow students to engage in physical activity.
  • Foster communication among students in and out of class by structuring study groups, discussion groups, e-mail lists, or chat rooms.
Last modified: May 30, 2024