There are many teaching strategies you can use to ensure effective and productive learning environments and experiences for all students, including those with disabilities. Accessible Education[i] is the process of designing courses and developing a teaching style to meet the needs of people who have a variety of backgrounds, abilities and learning styles. Just as there is no single way to teach, people learn in a variety of ways; using different instructional methods will help meet the needs of the greatest number of learners[ii].
Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, you have a responsibility to learn about accessibility for persons with disabilities and how it relates to the development and delivery of accessible programs and courses.
The following are some practical tips for teaching students with deaf-blindness.
A person who has deaf-blindness has a greater or lesser extent of hearing and vision loss. This results in difficulties accessing information.
Persons with deaf-blindness use different communication methods. Persons with deaf-blindness may be accompanied by an intervenor, a professional who is trained in tactile sign language. This sign language involves touching the hands of the client using a two-handed, manual alphabet, also known as finger spelling.
Other persons with deaf-blindness may use American Sign Langauge (ASL) or Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ), or they may require small window interpreting (signing within a restricted range of vision). Some persons with deaf-blindness have some sight or hearing, and others have neither. Persons with deaf-blindness will probably let you know how to communicate with them. If you are unsure, ask.
Avoid making assumptions about a person’s disability or capabilities; many persons with disabilities talk about being frustrated with people assuming what they can or cannot do. Remember that although persons with disabilities might have specific needs, every individual is different.
If possible, online tests should be tested for accessibility. Ensure that a student can navigate them using an assistive technology, such as a screen reader to read aloud the information on the screen, or using screen-enhancement software that allows the user to magnify the computer screen or change the contrast.
As an educator, you have a responsibility to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Requests for accommodation are made on an individual basis by students through the Office for Students with Disabilities and require medical and/or formal documentation.
The following are common academic accommodations that may be required for students with deaf-blindness. This list is not exhaustive and is not intended to replace the official request for academic accommodations as communicated by the Office for Students with Disabilities.
Remember that students with disabilities do not have to disclose their disability to their professors or anyone else in the academic environment in order to receive accommodations. Unless a student chooses to disclose to you the nature of his or her disability, you will only receive information on the accommodations the student is entitled to receive. It is important to familiarize yourself with the accommodation and the accessibility resources and protocols at your university to ensure you are following recommended practices.