FAQ: College Students who have Health Impairments

(Used with permission from DO IT:Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking & Technology doit@u.washington.edu University of Washington)

Q. FIELDWORK: How can a student with a health impairment manage fieldwork requirements?

A. Accommodations, if needed, can be negotiated between the instructor, the Disability Services Office, and the student. Selecting a site that is close to the student's home to minimize the transportation requirements may be helpful. The student could also be given priority in fieldwork selection to help accommodate his needs. Extending the length of the fieldwork to allow participation on a part-time basis could also be considered.

Q. CLASS DISCUSSIONS: How can a student with a health impairment maintain participation in classroom discussions when he is frequently absent?

A. There are several electronic options to consider. On-line discussions can facilitate communication between students. Consider having students post their work on the Web and allow peer review and discussion of papers, assignments, and lab results. A few "ground rules" and participation requirements can be set to keep the discussion relevant and active. In addition, e-mail exchanges with professionals, students on other campuses, and community members can extend learning beyond your campus. See the Group work/discussion section of The Faculty Room for more information.

Q. NOTETAKING SERVICES: What can I do to assist students with disabilities who are eligible for notetaking services but reluctant to request and recruit a fellow classmate for copies of notes?

A. Consider providing the course syllabus, instructor notes, and objectives on an accessible Web site. Include a statement in your syllabus encouraging students with disabilities who need academic adjustments to contact the student disability resource center. Encourage students to meet with you to implement appropriate accommodations.

If a student requests your assistance in locating a notetaker, offer to make a general announcement in class. Have interested student(s) meet with you after class or during office hours to make arrangements. Avoid specific references to the student with a disability. Rather, emphasize the campus commitment to provide equal access and accommodations for qualified students in support of learning. It is advisable to also request a notetaker through Disability Services since they may have already recruited notetakers for other students in the class.

Q. ABSENCES: How do I accommodate a student whose disability causes her to miss classes?

A. Determine to what extent class absences may fundamentally interfere with the student meeting your course objectives. In other words, consider if it is essential that all, most, or some classes be attended. The impact of absences may depend upon the nature of the course; for example, a science lab or an upper-division sociology course with regular group work may have a greater impact than missing classes in a lecture-only course. Consult with your campus Disability Services Office about notetaking services, exam accommodations and if available, on-campus access assistance such as parking and/or transportation for students with disabilities (to reduce potential fatigue factors). It is important to note that you must not lower your academic expectations; ultimately once reasonable accommodations are made, the student is responsible for gaining the knowledge and skills required in the class.

Q. FIELDWORK: My course involves fieldwork experiences that require community travel that may pose some challenges for a student with a mobility impairment. How can I prepare?

A. When selecting a fieldwork site, you should consider transportation needs as well as accessibility. Select sites that are accessible to all students. Prior knowledge of the site will help you respond more quickly if a complication arises. If you are arranging (e.g., organizing car pools) transportation to the fieldwork site for other students, then you must also provide it for the student with a mobility impairment. If a wheelchair user enrolls in your class, discuss potential barriers and solutions. Some students who normally use power wheelchairs may be able to use a manual wheelchair for fieldwork, which may make accessible transportation easier to arrange. The campus Disability Services Office may also have suggestions as well as transportation options for you to explore. If access to a field experience cannot be provided due to unavoidable barriers, you will need to develop alternative experiences or assignments. See Fieldwork for more information about making fieldwork activities accessible to students with disabilities.