Faculty Resources

Contact Us

La Plata Campus
Ternita Kassim
Phone: 301-539-4720

Leonardtown Campus
Megan Rabie
Phone: 240-725-5420

Prince Frederick Campus
Renata Zgorski
Phone: 443-550-6009
Fax: 443-550-6100

It can be difficult to know what to do when you have a student with a disability in your class. You may wonder, "Should I treat the student differently from others? How do I make my class more accessible? What is accessibility in the first place?" There are many resources available to help instructors in all aspects of accessibility. This page provides some support for faculty when they come across a student with a disability in their class. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Disability Support Services. We are here for every member of the College community, not just students with disabilities!

Legal-ese Explained

Eligibility ADA/Section 504 vs. Entitlement IDEA

Some of our traditional age students with disabilities may be accustomed to IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), which covers grades K-12. College students are not covered under IDEA. It is important to understand the distinction in the laws. IDEA is a law that entitles the individual to a free public education in the least restrictive environment possible, with emphasis on success for the student. This may be accomplished through a modified curriculum, one-on-one instruction, explaining test questions, and assistance when testing. It must be emphasized that college students are not covered under IDEA. The College is not responsible for providing accommodations to ensure student success; reasonable accommodations are provided to ensure equal access.

ADA and Section 504 are civil rights, anti-discrimination laws that provide students with disabilities the access they need in order to participate in courses and programs that are offered by the college. Students must be eligible under the law and must be “otherwise qualified,” meaning that they must meet the technical and academic standards of the program or course with or without reasonable accommodation in order to be eligible.


Confidentiality is required with discussing or working with a student with disabilities. Do not announce to the class which students have or need accommodations, and do not ask a student with an accommodations plan about the specifics of his/her disability. It is up to the student to whom and how much detail they want to divulge regarding his/her disability.

Accommodations Plans

An accommodations plan from Disability Support Services (DSS) is needed for a student to be eligible for services. Please do not provide accommodations based on a disability to a student who did not provide you with an accommodations plan from DSS. Accommodations are determined by appropriate disability documentation presented to DSS.

Providing an accommodation without an accommodations plan and/or providing an accommodation that is not stated in the accommodations plan violates the college procedures and places both the faculty and the College at legal risk. Only provide accommodations listed on the approved accommodations plan to a student with a disability unless it is an accommodation that you would provide to the entire class.

Reasonable and Unreasonable Accommodations

Reasonable accommodations provide students with the access they need to participate in their educational pursuit. Unreasonable accommodations provide the student with either an unfair advantage or create a fundamental alteration in the course or program.

As a faculty/instructor, you are the one who determines what constitutes a fundamental alteration in your course or provides an unfair advantage for the student in the classroom. Fundamental alterations to a course are not considered reasonable accommodations under ADA/Section 504. Should a request for an accommodation create a fundamental alteration to your course or create an unfair advantage, please feel free to contact Disability Support Services.

Requests for extended time, use of adaptive or assistive technology, scribe and/or reader (scribes and readers are trained individuals provided by the College), and testing in the testing center are all reasonable accommodations for test taking, which may be stated in a student’s accommodations plan. A take-home test is not a reasonable accommodation, unless this option is provided to the entire class.

For all students, accurate notes are essential to success. DSS sometimes requests notes from several sources to assist eligible students with a documented disability. A peer note-taker who the faculty solicits from the classroom, access to faculty notes, as well as the use of a tape recorder are appropriate for the student if stated in the student’s accommodations plan. This approach enables the student to have access to notes in a timely manner. It also reduces complaints that notes are not accessible.

At times, because of his/her disability, a student may request substitution of a course. The student with be required to go through the course substitution process that is outlined in the course substitution policy. Each department chair should have a copy of this policy.

Syllabus Statement

Faculty should include a section in their syllabi about access to accommodations provided by Disability Support Services. Feel free to copy the paragraph below, or include a similar statement.

Diversity and Disability Statement: Our institution values diversity and inclusion; we are committed to a climate of mutual respect and full participation. Our goal is to create learning environments that are usable, equitable, inclusive and welcoming. If there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or accurate assessment or achievement, please notify the instructor as soon as possible. Students with disabilities are also encouraged to contact Disability Support Services (DSS) in the Student Success Center at 301-934-7614 (La Plata), 301-934-7855 (Leonardtown), or 443-550-6009 (Prince Frederick) as soon as possible to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in the course, including accommodations. In addition, you can visit the DSS website for more information. ADA accommodations cannot be provided without documentation through DSS.

Exam and Testing Center Procedures

For information on giving exams in the Testing Center please visit the Testing Center website.

If your class meets at a time outside of the hours of operation of the Testing Center, students may have to make arrangements to take exams outside of class time. If you have any questions, contact DSS or the Testing Center.

Adapting myLearning

What is accessibility?

Accessibility refers to creating information, services, and environments that can be used by people with disabilities, including those with visual, hearing, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. Products and environments that incorporate the principles of universal design can be used by all people including those with disabilities. There are many options when designing your myLearning course by applying the principles of universal design that will benefit all students.

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology includes a range of devices that may be used by people with disabilities. These assistive devices need to be taken into consideration when designing accessible web-based and digital materials. Commonly used assistive devices include:

  • Screen readers: Software that interprets what is being displayed on the computer screen and translates it to speech or Braille. Examples include JAWS and Window-Eyes for the PC, and VoiceOver for the Mac. Your myLearning site and the materials you upload to it should be designed to allow screen readers to “see” and interpret what appears on the screen. If you are using JAWS, we recommend that you use Internet Explorer as your browser. myLearning has created a tutorial for using screen readers with myLearning.
  • Speech to text software: Converts spoken word to text. Examples include Dragon Naturally Speaking and MacSpeech Dictate.
  • Alternative input devices: Devices such as joysticks or trackballs may be used by individuals who have difficulty manipulating a keyboard or mouse. Specific JAWS Keyboard commands may also be helpful for students who have difficulty using a mouse. For more information regarding Assistive Technology please click here

How can I make my myLearning course accessible?

To create an accessible myLearning site, it is important to consider both the design of the site itself and the format of materials, such as audio, video, images, and documents, which you post to the site. The principles of universal design can help guide your myLearning site creation. These principles suggest conveying information in as many ways as possible to accommodate a range of users. Below are some ideas to consider when designing your myLearning site:

  • Include descriptive text for all non-textual elements. This text, also known as alt text, allows screen readers to provide students with visual impairments with a description of the visual features. myLearning’s visual text box editor can be used to add these descriptions.
  • Use descriptive names for files you upload so that screen readers can easily identify them.
  • When designing the left navigation menu in your course site, maintain a high contrast between the text and the background color.
  • Use sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana) throughout your myLearning site. Use a dark color font that is easy to read on a white background. While black and white offers the highest contrast, students with low vision may have other color preferences. Be sure to ask them. Avoid using colored fonts to enhance meaning. Keep the format simple and avoid patterns in the background, e.g. power point slides with extraneous graphics, borders, etc.
  • If you use myLearning to give timed exams, you may need to create a second copy of the exam for students who need extra time, since it is not possible to change test settings for one individual while others are taking the exam. This alternative copy of the test can be made available only to specific students by using the adaptive release function of myLearning.
  • Files such as PDF or Word documents should be created with accessibility in mind. Keep in mind that scanned documents will not be readable by screen readers unless OCR (optical character recognition) is used. The Technology Resource Center can help you create accessible scanned documents. Visual features such as graphs, charts, and diagrams should be created using alternative text.
  • Audio files and video files that contain speech or music with lyrics should be accompanied by a text equivalent, either a transcript or captions.

Additional Resources

The Georgia Tech Research on Accessible Distance Education (GRADE) has many valuable suggestions for creating accessible materials for students with different types of disabilities:

If you are a faculty member with questions about making digital course content accessible to students with disabilities, please contact Disability Support Services.

Pop Quizzes

Accommodating quizzes can be a challenging situation because the requirement to provide extended time, assistive technology or other reasonable accommodation applies to all “in-class assignments, quizzes and examinations.” This includes pop quizzes, short quizzes, in-class writing assignments, listening quizzes and any other in-class assessment. If a student will be graded or otherwise assessed on work done in class, then appropriate reasonable accommodations must be provided. Pop quizzes are inappropriate for some including those who have a processing deficit and may need more time than one or two days to process and articulate information learned.

We have worked successfully with faculty to find ways to retain the integrity of the assessment process and ensure the student receives reasonable accommodations. Commonly, faculty have arranged with the exam room staff for the student to begin the quiz or pop quiz before the class begins and have time to finish it and bring it to class at the prescribed end-time for the rest of the class.

Below are some suggestions, considerations and cautions regarding accommodating the in-class assessment. These have been gathered from our staff and disability services providers at other post-secondary institutions.

Suggestions for ensuring quiz administered during class time is accommodated:

  • Set a regular date for quizzes so student and instructor can plan for accommodation needs, including testing at the Testing Center due to need for assistive technology, document conversion, use of scribe or audio format of quiz, etc.
  • Give at the end of class and have student take the quiz at the Testing Center or in a different room if an appropriate environment.
  • Give at the beginning of class and have student come early to Testing Center to take the quiz or take the quiz in a different room if it is an appropriate environment.

Other suggestions:

  • Base the course grade for the student or the class on an average of other tests/assignments and do not count pop quizzes.
  • Offer a substitute assignment to the student.
  • Schedule a time with the student to have a discussion about the content of the quiz or reading (depending on the purpose of the quiz).

Considering the purpose of the quiz:

First, many faculty have found it helpful to review the purpose of the assessment to determine either how best to accommodate students or whether to change the format of the assessment.  Faculty may want to provide the students with time to practice and perform course material or they may want to assess the following:

  • How well the students have read and understood the reading.
  • Whether students are internalizing the readings.
  • Whether students are able to apply principals to practical application situations.

Second, it can be helpful to think about a) whether it is more important to assess how well students know, articulate and apply the information to be assessed or b) that students provide this information in a short response time.

Third, is there an alternate way to do the assessment for the entire class?

Suggestions for alternate ways to assess:

Informing students in the beginning of class and in the syllabus that there will be pop quizzes or assignments throughout the semester will allow students to adjust how they learn information so they can be better prepared.

  • Hand out or email "pop quiz" questions at the end of class for the next assigned reading to be turned in prior to the next class.
  • Send "pop quiz" questions by email prior to class and ask the students to have the questions complete by the beginning of class.
  • Use myLearning for quizzes; assign quizzes to be taken at specific times and for a specific length of time. Time for students with disabilities who have extended time on exams as an accommodation must be adjusted within myLearning.
  • Create more involved or complex quizzes and have them be take-home, for everyone.
  • Distribute "pop quiz" questions during class and have small group discussion and report back to the class.
  • Put pop quiz-type questions on the syllabus reading list; have them due on specified dates (this also serves as a reminder to professors to review certain theories or principles)
  • In the syllabus, offer each student an option of taking traditional pop quizzes or producing some sort of writing to hand in.
  • One day, do a class quiz on PowerPoint presentation, discussing the answers with the whole class.
  • Do a quick take-home another time.

Please make sure that it is accessible. Look for a link to "accessibility" on your website. If it is not accessible, you can create a backup plan for making sure students are able to access the content of your course. DSS staff will be happy to help you develop a plan.

Cautions when making accommodations:

  • Appropriate environment for taking tests. If students have a reasonable accommodation of a reduced distraction environment, they must take the exam in an appropriate environment. This could be at the Testing Center or another room in the building. It should not be in a hallway or a departmental office as there is a great likelihood for interference or other distractions. If it is in someone’s private office, the phone ringer and other distracting features should be turned off. Some students might be distracted by items on desks and walls or by bookshelves.
  • Class time. Students should not miss any class time because they are receiving an accommodation. Their use of an accommodation should be arranged so that they can attend the rest of class after the quiz. Also, they should not be required to leave early from or be late to another class. If conflicts of time exist, arrangements can be made to have the assessment administered at a different time.
  • Test content. The information tested should be the same for the student receiving an accommodation as it is for the rest of the students.
  • Timing of quiz. Refrain from giving quizzes in the middle of class time, especially if the quiz is on material just presented in class. This creates scheduling conflicts.

(Adapted from Westfield State University Disability Services

Etiquette Tips for Interacting for People with Disabilities

When you interact with people with disabilities, treat them just as you would any other person – with respect and dignity. Look the student in the eye and speak directly to him/her, not to his or her companion, interpreter, or attendant. People with disabilities are generally used to coping with their disability but appreciate your help if needed. If students have trouble seeing or hearing or moving easily, remember that it is their eyes or ears or muscles that do not work as well as yours – beyond that, they have the same needs, wants, hopes, and desires as you do.

General Etiquette Tips

  • When interacting with people who have disabilities:
  • See the person who has a disability as a person – like anyone else.
  • Understand that, although a disease may cause a disability, the disability is not the disease itself and cannot be contagious.
  • Appreciate what the person can do. Remember that difficulties may stem more from society’s attitudes and environmental barriers than from the disability.
  • Be neither patronizing nor reverential. Understand that the life of a person who has a disability can be interesting and fulfilling.
  • Ask persons with visible disabilities if they need assistance before you help them, and have them explain what you can do to assist. Consider that your help may not be needed or wanted.
  • Treat adults as adults. Call the person by his or her first name only when extending that familiarity to all others present. Speak directly to the person, not his or her companion, interpreter or attendant.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person with a disability to get things said or done.
  • Use person-first language when talking about a person with a disability: Instead of “a deaf woman," say “a woman who is deaf."

Persons Who Use Wheelchairs

Persons who use wheelchairs, crutches, canes, and walkers may have a disability caused by a disease, an accident, or another condition. Use of the chair may be temporary or a life-long necessity. Using a wheelchair is a means of freedom that allows the user to move about independently. Please keep these tips in mind:

  • Do not hang or lean on a person’s wheelchair. It’s part of his/her personal body space.
  • Do not demean or patronize the person by patting on the head.
  • If the conversation lasts more than a few minutes, sit down or kneel to get face to face.
  • Give clear directions, including any physical obstacles and alternative routes to someone using a chair.
  • Do not discourage children from asking questions about the wheelchair. Open communication helps dispel myths and misconceptions.
  • Be aware of the wheelchair user’s capabilities. Some users can walk with assistance but use a chair to save energy and time.
  • Do not pet assist dogs in harnesses. These dogs are working and distractions confuse them.

Persons with Hearing Impairments

Hearing losses can range from mild to severe and can influence the way a person communicates or responds to sounds and to the speech of others.

  • If necessary, get the person’s attention with a wave of the hand, a tap on the shoulder, or another visual signal.
  • Speak clearly and slowly but without exaggeration. Do not shout or over-enunciate.
  • Use pantomime, body language and facial expressions to help communicate.
  • Be flexible in your language. Change the words around or rephrase your statements if you aren’t being understood. Short sentences are easier to understand.
  • Allow for a clear view of your face – the person may be lip-reading. Do not speak directly into the ear.
  • Avoid standing in front of light source, such as a window or bright light. The glare and shadows created on the face make it difficult for the person to lip-read.
  • Try to maintain eye contact. If an interpreter is present, continue talking directly to the student; she/he will turn to the interpreter as needed.
  • Do not be embarrassed about communicating via paper and pen/pencil. Getting the message across is more important than the medium used.
  • Provide new vocabulary in advance. It is difficult, if not impossible, to lip-read and read the finger spelling of unfamiliar vocabulary. If new vocabulary cannot be presented in advance, write the terms on paper, chalkboard, or an overhead projector.
  • Many people with hearing impairments learned English as a second language and may have some English-language challenges.
  • If you plan on showing films or videos, please inquire as to the availability of a captioned or close captioned version from DSS.
  • The student is the best resource on his/her particular needs. Ask the student if you have questions or need information.

Persons with Visual Impairments

Losses of vision vary in degree. Persons with visual impairment cannot all be identified by the use of a white cane, sunglasses, or seeing-eye dog.

  • When greeting a person with severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and any others who may be with you. Say, for example, “On my right is John Jones.” There is no need to raise your voice when speaking.
  • Use the person’s name when starting a conversation as a clue to whom you are talking. Let the person know when you need to leave.
  • When offering a handshake, say, “Shall we shake hands?” If the person extends a hand first, be sure to take it or to explain why you can’t.
  • Ask the person if he/she wants help in getting about. When providing assistance, allow the person to take your arm, bent at the elbow. Do not take their arm.
  • When offering seating, place the person’s hand on the back or arm of the seat.
  • In handling money, or other papers, identify each piece as you place it in the person’s hand.
  • Do not pet or distract a working seeing-eye dog.

Persons with Speech or Language Impairments

Speech difficulties can range from having trouble correctly producing sounds, putting thoughts into words, or understanding complete sentences. They can be the result of a head injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, or learning disabilities.

  • Give whole, unhurried attention to the person who has difficulty speaking.
  • Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting.
  • Rather than speaking for the person, allow extra time and give help when needed.
  • When necessary, ask questions that require short answers or a nod or shake of the head.
  • If you have difficulty understanding, don’t pretend. Repeat as much as you do understand; the person’s reactions will guide you.
  • Look for a communication aid such as a picture or symbol chart or a voice synthesizer that a person may have. Allow him/her to show how to use the device.

Persons with Disabilities Related to Mental Disorders

For many students, medication can cause thought-processing difficulty, and their processing may be slower than usual. Sensitivity about in-class assignments, particularly oral presentations, is important.

(Adapted from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Disability Support Services)

Behavioral Issues

All students, including students with disabilities, are expected to adhere to the Student Code of Conduct.

Inappropriate behavior from a student with a disability should be addressed in the same manner as their non-disabled peers. In instances where the behavior is part of the manifestation of the disability (such as a student with Asperger’s syndrome or Tourette’s syndrome), the faculty will be notified of this. However, should the behavior rise to the level of disrupting the class, then this needs to be addressed.

Mississippi State University has a good FAQ webpage about dealing with behavior problems in the classroom:


Authorized Persons in the Classroom

Only individuals enrolled in the class and authorized individuals (i.e. sign language interpreters, trained scribe/reader) are allowed in the classroom. The College is responsible for providing sign language interpreters and readers/scribes for students with disabilities. Students are not permitted to choose their own scribe, reader, or interpreter or to have an unauthorized family member or friend act in this capacity. In rare cases, due to a medical disability, a student may need minor medical assistance in the classroom, which is provided by an attendant, usually a nurse. In this case, it is determined before the beginning of class and in consultation with the faculty a schedule is developed to reduce distraction and disruption in the class.

Emergency Evacuation

Any student or employee who may need assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation must register with Disability Support Services. The following is taken from the College of Southern Maryland Emergency Action Plan:

Persons who use wheelchairs, are mobility impaired, or have other limitations that may hinder their evacuation from buildings should predetermine their safest course of action considering their particular circumstances and the areas in which they are likely to be located.

Employees who believe that they will require assistance during an emergency due to a disability may notify the Employee Benefits Specialist of their need. Students or visitors who believe that they will require assistance during an emergency due to a disability may notify the ADA Coordinator of their need. The earlier the college is aware of special needs, the better able the college may be to respond to those needs. Notification is completely voluntary. Any information provided will be used for the limited purpose of assisting with potential evacuations. The information may be disclosed to the Emergency Action Coordinator(s) for the area or areas in which you normally work and with other persons as may be appropriate for the purpose of assisting you during an evacuation.

Some wheelchairs have movable or weak parts, which are not built to withstand the stress of being lifted. If you use a wheelchair, please predetermine whether your wheelchair contains such parts. If it does, you should advise anyone assisting you during an evacuation of that fact.

The ADA Coordinator will make available information about evacuation of persons with disabilities to students and visitors who register for services from each campus.

Web Resources

University of California Berkeley – Teaching Students with Disabilities
   Tips for teaching students with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, chronic illness or pain, deaf or hard of hearing, learning disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, limited manual dexterity, mobility impairments, psychological disabilities, speech impairments, and visual disabilities

Western Michigan University – College Students with Disabilities: A Resource Guide for Faculty & Staff
   Overview of working with students with disabilities

Allegheny College Student Disability Services – Tips and Resources
   Information for faculty on disabilities and how to work with students with disabilities

Harford Community College – Information for Faculty
   Information on Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) and creating accessible Word and PDF documents

National Science Teachers Association – Science for Students with Disabilities
   Strategies for teaching students with motor disabilities in the sciences, including laboratory settings

Westminster College - Faculty Tips for Students Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
   Tips for working with students with autism spectrum disorder

Accommodating Students with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Tips for Campus Faculty and Staff
   Tips for working with students with PTSD, specifically veterans

University of Washington DO-IT: The Faculty Room
   Information on how to make your classroom and materials universally accessible

National Center on Disability and Access to Education – Cheat Sheets
   Instructions on how to make Microsoft Office documents accessible for people with disabilities

CATEA Grade Project: Fact Sheets on Accessible Distance Education
   Information on how to make your classes’ Web resources more accessible to students with various disabilities