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 visual disabilities.
The term visual disability indicates an individual with some degree of low vision. Some people can see the outlines of objects, and others can see the direction of light. Few people identify as being blind. Not everyone with a visual disability uses a service animal or a white cane; as a result, it may not be immediately apparent that a person has a visual disability.
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 visual 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 the nature of the disability to you, 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.