Disabilities in a Nutshell—A Primer for Faculty

Bellevue College is required by law to provide equal access to qualified individuals with disabilities. Academic adjustments are made to ease the impact of a disability on a task demand. Bellevue College can be legally liable if the institution does not provide equal access. On overview of the legal and policy issues impacting disability accommodations can be found on our Policies and Guidelines page.

Accommodations Procedures

The following procedure exists to ensure accurate and consistent student accommodations. Instructors should be familiar with the procedure.

  1. Student discloses their disability to DRC by submitting an Intake form.
  2. A disability file is initiated.
  3. Student submits documentation of disability to DRC. Documentation must be completed by a qualified professional with the credentials to assess their disability and provide guidelines for appropriate accommodations.
  4. Student meets with the Director or Coordinator to discuss accommodations and to develop an Access Plan.
  5. DRC generates an Instructor Introduction Letter that outlines the student's accommodations. The student must request the introduction letter for each academic quarter.
  6. The student takes the letter to those instructors in whose classes he/she would like to utilize academic adjustments. The instructors and student will discuss the adjustments and determine the best application in a specific course. The student and instructor will coordinate as needed with DRC.

If there are any questions, the instructor should consult with DRC.

Instructor Responsibilities

  1. Announce to your classes the school's intention to provide assistance for any students with disabilities, either by verbal announcement or by a notice on the syllabus.
  2. Refer student's to the Disability Resource Center when he or she discloses a disability.
  3. Implement pre-determined, in-class adjustments as outlined in a students Academic Adjustments Letter when the student presents it to you.
  4. Contact DRC when uncertain about directions or implementation of adjustments.

Commonly Used Accommodations

Extended Testing

Extended testing is designed to reduce the impact of a disability by allowing additional time for symbol recognition and decoding, cognitive processing, or to reduce the situational stress of a testing event. Extended testing can be provided in-class or in an alternative location. Tests can also be scheduled 48 hours in advance in DRC.

Distraction Reduced Testing

Distraction reduced testing is designed to reduce the impact of a disability by reducing extraneous stimuli that compete with cognitive processing or cue a stress-related reaction. Testing is offered in an environment with reduced noise, light, and activity. Testing rooms within DRC include noise occluders, ear plugs, and white noise machines for this specific purpose.

Readers and/or Scribes for Tests

Readers and/or Scribes are helpful in reducing the impact of a disability by providing alternative forms of information assimilation and expression. Readers and scribes augment the symbol recognition and decoding skills of students with visual impairments, cognitive processing disabilities, and physical disabilities impacting the hands. When used during testing, readers and scribes are not allowed to interpret, add to, or subtract from the material being tested. They read or write verbatim what is presented to them. Readers and scribes are coordinated through DRC.

Use of a Spelling Device or Word Processor for In class Written Work or Tests

Spelling support is designed to reduce the impact of a disability by correctly sequencing information or improving memory recall of symbolic information. Word processors are helpful for longer essays. Word processors are

Note Takers for Lectures

Note takers reduce the impact of a disability by providing support in the symbol recognition and decoding process inherent in the note taking process, to eliminate or decrease the latency in short-term cognitive processing, to decrease the physical fatigue of extended on task activities, or to augment a student's notes when issues of distractibility are prevalent. Volunteers are requested by faculty to the students within their class. DRC will hire note takers in special circumstances.

Tape Recording of Lectures

Taping of lectures reduces the impact of a disability by providing a mechanism to review verbally presented material when short-term memory, cognitive processing, or visual impairments exist.

Materials in Accessible Format

Materials in accessible format (enlarged, Braille, electronic or audio) reduces the impact of a disability by providing access to written material for individuals with visual, physical, or cognitive processing difficulties. Overheads, Power point slides, and limited-access classroom presentation materials are especially challenging. DRC can assist with designing accessible materials to meet individual students needs. Additionally the DRC can help with the development of accessible web-based content.

What To Expect In The Classroom

If you as a faculty member "suspect" that you have a student who has a disability, proceed with caution when speaking to the student. Do not ask outright if she/he has a disability. Rather, base your communication on work demonstrated in your classroom. Keep communication and concerns directed toward academic progress in your class. Note what you observe and ask them questions about their experiences in high school and even earlier history. If they disclose to you that they have had longstanding areas of challenges in school and have even had services, then probe deeper. What kind of services? Did they have an IEP or 504 plan? If they say yes, or disclose that they had of their own volition, they have just disclosed that they have disabilities. Then you can make that important referral to the DRC office for services. There we can discuss what how they might benefit from accommodations at the college level.

Learning, Cognitive, and Attentional Disabilities

The scope of learning, cognitive, and attentional disabilities is broad. Each student is unique in his/her needs and accommodations. Accommodations are allocated in many forms, depending upon the recommendations of a qualified professional. A student's I Academic Adjustments Notification letter will outline academic adjustments appropriate to the need. Students are encouraged to discuss their learning styles and accommodations with faculty so that faculty can more effectively collaborate with the students to create a positive learning environment.

Reading and Verbal Processing Disabilities

Many students with learning disabilities cannot simultaneously listen to a lecture, process it and take adequate notes. Students with visual, hearing, motor, or processing disabilities may not be physically able to take notes. "Notetakers" are classmates who take notes on behalf of the student with a disability. Two-part NCR paper is available for note takers through DRC. A student or a DRC staff member will ask you for assistance in identifying a good scribe for one of your courses.

Visual Disabilities

Students with visual disabilities may need enlarged print or accessible versions of overheads, handouts, tests, etc. They may also use adaptive technology available through DRC. Because of the extra time needed to scan and convert materials to accessible formats (such as electronic text, well formed web documents, audio or Braille) advanced notification and submission of reading material is most helpful to the student. DRC can help in this procedure.

Hearing Disabilities

Students who have hearing impairments often depend upon the visual presentation of information. They may also need to sit in the front of the class to better hear. Occasionally, a student may ask that an instructor wear an adaptive device that transmits his or her voice to a private listening earpiece. Additionally, students may tape-record lectures or request copies of lecture notes. If possible, the instructor should supplement oral presentations with relevant visual information. Written handouts, blackboard usage and overhead materials are particularly useful. Copies of lecture notes are ideal. To encourage participation in lectures, students who have hearing impairments need to be aware of material before each lecture. A simple handout covering important points is very helpful.

Signs Of Learning Disabilities

Some disabilities may be hidden or, not noticeable in normal student and instructor interactions, and may have gone undiagnosed prior to college enrollment. Most students with disabilities will display a cluster of behaviors, but not all behaviors typical of a disability. Instructors that identify a student with the below behaviors are recommended to meet with the student and discuss their options, including a referral to DRC.

Reading Skills

  • Poor word recognition and/or analysis
  • Slow reading rate
  • Problems with comprehension
  • Difficulty retaining information that has been read
  • Confusion of similar words or word sounds
  • Word-find difficulties

Writing Skills

  • Poorly formed or illegible handwriting
  • Preference for printing rather than cursive
  • Using a combination of upper- and lower-case letters as well as cursive and print
  • Difficulty with organization of ideas

Mathematical Skills

  • Difficulty with fundamental operations and an incomplete mastery of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division
  • Reversing numbers
  • Problems keeping columns
  • Confusing operational symbols and similar numbers
  • Problems with abstract concepts
  • Problems with mentally computing calculations

Language Skills

  • Difficulty expressing ideas out loud
  • Difficulty remembering or understanding oral instruction
  • Difficulty concentrating on lectures during a class period
  • Difficulty listening and taking notes at the same time
  • Vocabulary weaknesses
  • Difficulty with foreign languages
  • Misinterpreting subtleties of language

Study Skills

  • Time management difficulties
  • Difficulty completing open-ended, unstructured, or last-minute assignments
  • Difficulty selecting relevant from irrelevant details
  • Difficulty organizing time and materials to prepare for tests
  • Appearing somewhat disorganized
  • Anxiety, anger, or depression because of extra difficulty in coping with school or social situations