Creating Inclusive Classrooms

Disability Resources encourages faculty to think about ways that course design can impact accessibility and utilize principles of universal design to increase access for all students.

While providing accommodations is legally required and can be helpful in creating access to students with disabilities, not every student with a disability will request accommodations through Disability Resources. A student may not feel comfortable disclosing the existence of a disability, or cannot obtain appropriate documentation. Universal Design is based on the concept that we should move from the reactive individual-centered accommodation model to proactive inclusive design and practices, which benefits everyone.

The following are just a few examples of universal design strategies that can help reduce or eliminate the need for commonly requested accommodations:

  • Provide extended time for timed tests and exams to all students
  • Allow for students to use computers for all in-class writing
  • Tell students that they are free to take a break in class if they need or want to for any reason
  • Post PowerPoint slides and class notes on a course website before class (and if not before, then after)
  • Only use audio material that is captioned
  • Utilize a collaborate note-sharing process (for example, as described in Rachel Smith and Tara Buchannan's article below, students can be assigned to note-taking groups at random intervals. Students in each group can be asked to decide who would be the primary note-taker. After class, group members can collaborate to create a final draft of the notes and post it on the CMS discussion board. Students can be encouraged to comment on the notes as one form of class participation)
  • In group discussions, repeat the key points of all comments or questions for the rest of the class
  • Ensure all online course materials are web accessible

There are many resources for faculty looking to make their classrooms more inclusive. Below are some places to start: