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Diversity and Disability

"Approximately 10 percent of the student population enrolled in post-secondary education has some kind of disability. College students with disabilities are the most recent marginalized group to move toward equal opportunity in education. They are following in the path of low-income persons, racial and ethnic minorities, and women."

Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities:
A Primer for Policymakers, June 2004

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act require we accommodate and provide equal access to students with disabilities on our campus, certain myths concerning the abilities of students with disabilities continues to exist. Academic goals for a person with disabilities should not imply lower academic standards. Additionally, persons with the same disability may have different needs and levels of difficulty with similar course materials. Most accommodations in the classroom are inexpensive, require minimum time, and do not have an impact on academic standards. Each student with a disability should be approached as an individual, and should have input regarding how mutually satisfactory solutions and accommodations can be developed. Moreover, you must remember that providing accommodations to individuals with disabilities is not unfair to other students. Rather, it is the means by which that individual with a disability is provided equal access to all the programs, services, and activities provided by the University.

Awareness Tips

  • When discussing a student's disability and accommodation needs, talk only about needs that are relevant to the successful completion of course work.

  • Often, the most difficult aspect of living with a disability is the negative attitudes of others. It is important for faculty and staff to be aware of this situation when working with a student with a disability. Some students may feel uncomfortable discussing or even disclosing their disability.

  • Remember that an individual with a disability is like anyone else, except for the specific limitations of the disability.

  • Be yourself when you meet an individual with a disability, and talk about the same things as you would with anyone else.

  • Don't make assumptions about the skills or deficiencies of an individual with a disability.

  • Talk directly to an individual with a disability, not to someone accompanying him/her.

  • You may either offer assistance to the individual or provide help only when requested. Do not assume that a person with a disability needs your help, and do not provide help before it is requested.

  • Be patient. Let the individual set his/her own pace in walking or talking.

  • Don't be over-protective or over-solicitous, and don't offer pity or charity.

  • Don't separate an individual with a disability from his/her wheelchair or crutches unless she/he asks you to do so. She/he may want them within reach.

  • Don't assume that an individual with a disability has other limitations; i.e. don't raise your voice when speaking to a person who is visually impaired.

  • When referring to individuals with disabilities "put people first," not their disability. This puts the focus on the individual, not their functional limitation. (Students with disabilities, student with a hearing impairment, woman with arthritis, etc. is preferred. Handicapped students, deaf girl, crippled woman, etc. is considered unacceptable terminology.)

  • The term handicap is not a synonym for disability. Handicap can be used when citing laws and situations but should not be used to describe a disability. (Accessible parking is preferred to handicapped parking.)

  • An individual's disability should not be disclosed to someone who does not have "a need to know." Information regarding a disability is confidential.

  • Do not ask a question you would not want to answer yourself.