CAS - Langugage lab

Fostering an Inclusive Classroom

The population of higher education students is becoming increasingly diverse with respect to race, ethnicity, learning styles, age, disability and other characteristics. Everyone who qualifies to take courses at Miami should be able to do so, and instructors should expect all students, regardless of disability, to perform and complete all essential components of their course. This can be accomplished through universal design (UD), which is defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” (Burgstahler, 2015). UD lessens the need for accommodations for students with disabilities; however, it is also important that faculty know how to respond to accommodation requests (which is discussed below).

Syllabus Statement

One of the key steps to take is to ensure that your syllabus outlines all expectations and requirements from the beginning of the semester including all assignments, required books and readings, research projects, project due dates, exam/quiz dates, etc.

Instructors are not expected to accommodate disabilities that they are not made aware of in advance but it is also important to keep in mind that students may be timid to self-disclose their need for accommodations. It is strongly recommended that faculty put a statement on their syllabus that invites students to talk with them about needed accommodations. The recommended statement is below:

"If you are a student with a disability and feel that you may need a reasonable accommodation to fulfill the essential functions of the course that are listed in this syllabus, you are strongly encouraged to contact Student Disability Services (SDS) at (513) 529-1541 (V/TTY) to discuss accommodations and available support resources."

This is a general statement. Instructors are welcome (and encouraged) to state that they support inclusion, foster an equitable classroom experience, etc. This message is simple but goes a long way in making students with disabilities feel welcome and comfortable in the classroom (and at Miami).

Communication Tips

There are no strict rules relating to people with disabilities, however, below are some hints for communication:

  • Ask a person with a disability if he or she needs help before providing assistance.
  • Talk directly to the person with a disability, not through the person’s companion or interpreter.
  • Refer to a person’s disability only if it is relevant in the conversation. If so, mention the person first and then the disability. “A man who is deaf” is better than “a deaf man” because it prioritizes the person.
  • Avoid negative descriptions of a person’s disability (e.g., “a person who uses a wheelchair” rather than “a person who is confined to a wheelchair”).
  • Do not interact with a person’s guide dog or service dog unless you have received permission to do so.
  • When teaching students with visual impairments: Be descriptive, such as “The computer is about three feet to your left,” rather than “the computer is over there.” Speak all of the content presented on a PowerPoint or other visuals.
  • When teaching students with learning disabilities, offer directions or instructions both orally and in writing.
  • For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, face people so that they can see your lips. Speak at a normal volume. When using an interpreter, speak directly to the person who is deaf.
  • Never make assumptions about the abilities of a person with disabilities to complete the required components of a course with or without accommodation (e.g., “I just do not see how you can do this.”). Not only is the landscape of assistive technologies constantly changing, but also in many cases you may not have the expertise and experience to know how a student’s disability can be accommodated. That is why SDS must always be involved.
  • Provide outlines or other scaffolding tools for students.
  • Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered PowerPoint or visual displays.
  • Speak aloud all visual content presented.
  • Make sure course materials are available in accessible electronic formats (see information below).
  • Repeat students’ questions before answering them.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Create options for electronic discussions.

Other General Tips

  • Provide outlines or other scaffolding tools for students.
  • Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered PowerPoint or visual displays.
  • Speak aloud all visual content presented.
  • Make sure course materials are available in accessible electronic formats (see information below).
  • Repeat students’ questions before answering them.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Create options for electronic discussions.