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.
There are many types of physical disabilities, including mobility-related disabilities, health and medical disabilities, and disabilities that result from brain injuries. Sometimes physical disabilities are obvious; however, it is not always possible to identify someone with a physical disability or a medical- or health-related disability.
Some physical disabilities require the use of an assistive device (for example, a wheelchair or walker). However, those with arthritis or multiple sclerosis, for instance, may not show any visible signs of disability. Physical disabilities may affect someone’s ability to stand, walk, sit or move around. Some physical disabilities are episodic; they can flare up, and then go through periods of remission. Some persons with physical disabilities may be accompanied by a personal support person.
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 screen-enhancement software that allows the user to magnify the computer screen or change the contrast.
The following are some practical tips for teaching students with physical disabilities.
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 physical disabilities. 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.