The following information may prove useful for faculty who have disability-related concerns.
Emergencies such as fire and tornadoes occasionally occur as well as emergency drills. Instructors and staff should develop a plan of action if they are aware that they have a student with mobility, visual or hearing impairment in their classroom. Ultimately, the person with a disability is responsible for his/her own safety in an emergency situation, but it is important that classroom instructors play a role in student evacuation. If you need assistance in developing a plan, Director of Risk Management (478) 471-2506. The following are some suggestions:
Students with Mobility Impairments
In case of fire or tornadoes, individuals with mobility impairments should be directed to an area of refuge. This can include near a stairway or a classroom adjacent to a stairway with a fire rated door and/walls or to an internal room away from windows (in case of tornadoes). Note the location of the stairway or adjacent room (i.e. NW corner, 2nd floor).The student should not block the stairway. This can result in harm to the student and others as people evacuate via the stairway.
- The instructor should alert emergency personnel of the location and need for evacuation of the person with a disability.
- Assist the student with the mobility impairment in accessing the area of refuge, and let him/her know you will be contacting appropriate rescue personnel.
- If you have a cell phone and the student does not, leave the cell phone with the student.
- In most instances, do not attempt to carry the person in the wheelchair. You can injure yourself or the student.
Elevator Breakdowns and Repair
With such a large number of buildings on campus, elevator breakdowns are a relatively common occurrence and can be extremely inconvenient or even life threatening to a person who uses a wheelchair. When an elevator ceases to operate, contact Plant Operations in Macon at (478) 471-5373 immediately. If a person who uses a wheelchair is stuck on an upper level floor and also uses a respirator to breathe, time is of the essence. Consult with the person in question to determine the amount of oxygen remaining in the respirator and assess their desire for emergency rescue.
If there is a breakdown of the main elevator and there is a freight elevator, assist the student in finding the freight elevator. Students sometimes need assistance getting on and off a freight elevator. If you become aware of long-term repair issues with an elevator and you have a student taking a class in an upper level classroom, contact
Disability Services about getting the class changed to another site.
Students with Visual Impairments
Students with visual impairments should already be familiar with their surroundings after mobility and orientation training. They may not, however, be aware of emergency exits.
- In case of emergencies, alert the student to the nature of the situation. Offer assistance to the student and guide him/her to the nearest emergency exit and out of and away from the building to safety. Some types of emergencies require safety within a building. Depending upon the nature of the emergency, during crises periods, there may be a lot of commotion and noise. A student who is blind may not be able to orient him/herself as well as in calmer times. Your assistance is critical to their safety.
- A good way of offering assistance to a person who is blind is to use what is known as the sighted guide technique. You do this by offering this person an elbow. The person holds on to your elbow, and you proceed ahead.
- As you walk, alert the student to where he/she is and inform him/her of any obstacles, debris, doorways, or narrow passages.
- Once guided to safety, orient the student to his/her surroundings and determine if further assistance is needed.
Students with Hearing Impairments
Students who are deaf or hard of hearing may not hear alarms or other audible warnings. Instructors should inform the student of an emergency. There are two ways to get the person’s attention:
- Write a note for the student alerting him/her to the emergency and instructing him/her where to go.
- Turn the light switch off and on to gain attention.
- Tap his/her shoulder.
In most instances, there will be an interpreter/transcriber in the classroom to explain the emergency to the student. Provide any assistance a student might need during the evacuation process.
Students with disabilities vary considerably: even those with the same disability.
- Some students with visual impairments have no vision; others are able to see large forms; others can see print if magnified; and still others have tunnel vision with no peripheral vision or the reverse.
- Some students with visual impairments use Braille, and some have little or no knowledge of Braille.
- Students who are deaf are often expected to use sign language; however, some students who are deaf do not use sign language.
- Some students with learning disabilities have difficulty with reading and writing but excel in math. Others can read and write well and perform math problems well, but their pace is below that of an average student.
Since students with disabilities vary so much, when they come to you to discuss accommodations, ask them about instructional strategies that might be helpful to them.
Students do not have to tell you the nature of their disability.
As you probably already know, most of the students that come to you requesting accommodations have invisible disabilities. Some will choose to tell you, but many may choose not to discuss the specifics of their disability. What they have been instructed to do is to self advocate and make requests for accommodations. Some will want to discuss their disability and not request accommodations. Accommodations may not be needed in every class. Please note that although a disability is invisible, those who provide you with a proctor sheet or a letter verifying a disability, or a letter from Counseling Services requesting assistance recruiting a note taker, have a diagnosed disability.
Disability Services has documentation that verifies the disability.
Students with disabilities vary in their academic success.
You need to expect that some students with disabilities using accommodations will get A’s on every test whereas some may fail every test. Just because a student gets A’s doesn’t mean that student doesn’t need accommodations.
There are often special considerations when instructing students with disabilities. The following instructional considerations involve good teaching practices that may be helpful to all students in the class.
Practice universal design for learning:
Universal design for learning is an approach to designing course instruction, materials, evaluation, activities, and content in such a way that all persons can participate in the educational process without adaptation or retrofitting. Using this concept as a design for instruction, accommodations would likely not be necessary because options for learning and evaluation are available to anyone participating in a class. This approach to teaching and learning is an ideal, but incorporating some aspect of this instructional approach may be feasible as well has helpful to students.
Make sure web-enhanced instruction is accessible:
If any of your classroom instruction is on the web, check with the Technology Support Center at (478) 471-2023 to make sure that your instruction is accessible.
Collaborate and take responsibility in your role in providing accommodations.
Provide opportunities to meet with students, fill out proctor sheets, assist in getting note takers, inform
Disability Services of textbooks when requested, provide Disability Services with exams when students need to take exams, and consult.
Be responsive to the needs of students with specific disabilities.
- Don’t turn your back to a student who is deaf or hard of hearing. S/he may be reading your lips.
- If you have a student who is blind, refrain from vague language such as “look at this” and “examine that.” Use words to describe what you and others see.
- Assist with preferential seating when necessary, and provide students who are blind with orientation to the classroom describing the physical layout of the room including any obstacles, furniture, lecture position, location of steps, or any low-hanging objects.
- Assist with making arrangements for a room change if the room is inaccessible and you have a student who needs an elevator in order to gain access to the classroom. Do not suggest for the student to drop the class. Students must have access to all classes.
- Students with disabilities may have additional helpful suggestions. Most are knowledgeable about their disability, the strategies and accommodations that work for them, and the assistive technology that they use.
Learning support strategies are helpful to students with learning disabilities, ADHD, head injuries, or other cognitive disorders.
- Particularly helpful are strategies and aids that provide structure. Some examples are a comprehensive syllabus that clearly delineates expectations and due dates; study aids such as study questions, study guides, opportunities for questions and answers; and review sessions to help the student who needs a lot of repetition.
- Be receptive to students meeting with you for clarification during office hours.
- Also, students may ask for assistance in identifying a “study buddy,” another student who is willing to meet regularly to review notes, explain complex materials and provide two-way quizzes.
Be sensitive to disability-related classroom etiquette.
- If a student has a guide dog, understand that this is a working animal. They must be allowed in the classroom, but do not feed or pet a guide dog.
- Interpreters are in the classroom only to facilitate communication and must not be asked to do other things like run errands, proctor an exam etc. Speak to the student who is deaf and not the interpreter. The interpreter will voice student questions.
Never discuss disability-related arrangements in front of the class unless it’s a situation where there is no chance that the student with a disability will be identified.