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Student Disability Services at Lehman College

Faculty Resources and FAQs

Testing Accommodation Procedures

The Office of Student Disability Services strongly encourages faculty to provide testing accommodations to students who qualify; our staff is available to support and assist you in the administration of exams on behalf of our students. Our Testing Center, located in room 238 Shuster Hall, is equipped with three computers containing assistive and general technology for students who require it. A proctor, reader, or scribe can also be made available by our office.

Students who are eligible for testing accommodations during a test or a quiz, such as extended time, use of assistive technology, or a distraction-free room, should notify you at the beginning of the semester. Some professors request that SDS administers extended-time exams; other professors may choose to oversee exams themselves, with the required accommodations in place.

Students must follow the SDS testing accommodations policy to receive this service. An eligible student will be furnished with an accommodation letter, which they should present to you at the beginning of the semester, stating that they are entitled to receive testing accommodations. (It is the student’s responsibility to notify their professors and request alternative testing from them.)

If the exam is to be proctored by SDS, faculty should follow these steps:

Complete their portion of the Testing Accommodation Request form presented by the student, at least one week prior to the examination. This form is then submitted to Doreen Patrick, our CUNY Office Assistant, who logs it and schedules the exam. You must indicate the amount of time the class will have to complete the exam and provide clear instructions for SDS staff (e.g., open-book exam, no notes allowed, dictionary/calculator permitted, etc.)

Fax, e-mail, hand deliver, or inter-office mail the exam to the SDS office in room 238 Shuster Hall. (Once the student has completed the exam, unless otherwise specified, the proctor will hand deliver the exam to the department.)

Academic Integrity

Students taking exams in the Testing Center in room 238 Shuster Hall are not permitted to have backpacks, cell phones, or other personal items with them during exam time. If a student receiving a testing accommodation is caught cheating, the exam will be confiscated and the faculty member will be notified.

Assisting Students in Obtaining Notetakers

The Office of Student Disability Services recruits and pays staff notetakers an hourly wage for our eligible students. Students with disabilities may also recruit a peer notetaker—a fellow student in their same class—to take notes on the student’s behalf. Peer notetakers receive a stipend of $100 for their service and are honored at a reception at the end of the semester. From time to time, students who are eligible for notetaking services, whether their disabilities are invisible or apparent, will want to remain anonymous to their class. They might, therefore, ask their professors to make an announcement requesting a peer notetaker, similar to the one that follows:

There is a student in our class who requires a notetaker. You will receive a $100 stipend and be invited to attend a reception at the end of the semester in appreciation of your assistance. If you are interested, please raise your hand and say your name so that the student can meet you outside of our room after class to introduce themselves.

Disability Access Statement for Course Syllabi

At the college level, students with disabilities must self-identify in order to receive accommodations. (Prior to college, the school district is responsible for identifying and evaluating students.) The Office of Student Disability Services asks that all faculty include the disability access statement below, as well as announce it to the class on the first day. In this way, faculty can help facilitate success for students by increasing awareness of a vital campus resource.

Lehman College is committed to providing access to all programs and curricula to all students. Students with disabilities who may need classroom accommodations are encouraged to register with the Office of Student Disability Services. For more information, please contact the Office of Student Disability Services, Shuster Hall, Room 238, at 718-960-8441.

Instructional and Communication Strategies

The Office of Student Disability Services works with students and faculty to help implement reasonable accommodations for a wide range of disabilities. Common categories include chronic medical conditions; deafness/hearing impairment; learning disabilities; mobility and hand-function disabilities; neurological conditions; psychological/psychiatric disabilities; speech disabilities; and visual impairment/blindness. Some disabilities may be apparent, while others are altogether invisible. Keeping in mind that accommodations should be individualized and tailored, what follows here is an overview of the aforementioned disabilities and related instructional and communication strategies as indicated in the fourth edition of Reasonable Accommodations, A Faculty Guide for Teaching Students with Disabilities, prepared by the CUNY Office of Student Affairs.

General Considerations

Specific suggestions for teaching students with disabilities will be offered in the sections devoted to each disability, but here are some general considerations:

Identifying students with disabilities: Determining that a student has a disability may not always be a simple process. Visible disabilities are noticeable through casual observation, like an immediately recognizable physical impairment for example, or the use of a cane, a wheelchair or crutches.

Other students have what are known as hidden disabilities, such as cardiac conditions, learning disabilities, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and psychiatric or seizure disorders, all of which are usually not apparent. Finally, there are students with multiple disabilities.

The faculty member should include the Disability Access Statement in their course syllabus and make an announcement in class at the beginning of the term inviting students with disabilities to schedule appointments with the SDS office. If you suspect that a student has a disability, discuss the issue privately with the student. You may find such an approach awkward, at least initially, but the end result will be extremely beneficial if the student's condition is made known at the very outset. However a disability is identified, it should be verified and discussed with the coordinator/director.

Dividing the responsibilities: To the extent manageable, students with disabilities bear the primary responsibility, not only for identifying their disabilities, but for requesting the necessary adjustments to the learning environment for reading and taking notes. For testing arrangements and the use of department resources, the cooperation of the faculty member is vital.

Faculty-student relationships: Dialogue between the student and instructor is essential early in the term, and follow-up meetings are recommended. Faculty should not feel apprehensive about discussing students' needs as they relate to the course. There is no reason to avoid using terms that refer to the disability, such as "blind," "see," or "walk." Care should be taken, however, to avoid generalizing a particular limitation to other aspects of a student's functioning. Often, for example, people in wheelchairs are spoken to very loudly, as if they were deaf. Students with disabilities may have had some experience with the kind of concerns you bring to the relationship. The students' own suggestions, based on experience with the disability and with school work, are invaluable in accommodating disabilities in college.

Attendance and promptness: Students using wheelchairs or other assistive devices may encounter obstacles or barriers in getting to class on time. Others may have periodic or irregular curtailments of functioning, either from their disability or from medication. Some flexibility in applying attendance and promptness rules to such students would be helpful.

Classroom adjustments: A wide range of students with disabilities may be assisted in the classroom by making book lists available prior to the beginning of the term, by thoughtful seating arrangements, by speaking directly toward the class, and by writing key lecture points and assignments on the chalkboard.

Functional problems: In addition to the adjustments that will be discussed in detail for each category of disability, some understanding is required with respect to more subtle and unexpected manifestations of disability.

Chronic weakness and fatigue characterize some disabilities and medical conditions. Drowsiness, fatigue, impairments of memory, or slowness may result from prescribed medications. Such curtailments of functioning and interferences with students’ ability to perform should be distinguished from the apathetic behavior it may resemble.

Notetaking: Students who cannot take notes or have difficulty taking notes adequately would be helped by allowing them to tape record lectures, by permitting them to bring a notetaker to class (arranged for by the coordinator/director), by assisting them in borrowing notes from classmates, or by making an outline of lecture materials available to them.

Testing and evaluation: Depending on the disability, the student may require the administration of exams orally; the use of computers; readers and/or scribes; extended time for exams; modification of testing formats; or, in some cases, make-up or take-home exams. For out-of-class assignments, the extension of deadlines may be justified. The objective of such arrangements is always to accommodate the student’s learning differences, not to dilute scholastic requirements. The same standards should be applied to students with disabilities as to all other students in evaluation and assigning grades.

Chronic Medical Conditions

There are many other medical conditions that may interfere with students' academic functioning. Some of their symptoms, like limited mobility or vision, and the types of intervention required, may resemble those covered elsewhere in this manual. The general principles set forth in the General Considerations section apply, particularly the need to identify the disability and to discuss with die student both its manifestations and the required considerations.

Below are brief descriptions of some of the more common conditions, along with recommended accommodations.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by a virus that destroys the body's immune system. This condition leaves the person vulnerable to infections and cancers that can be avoided when the immune system is working normally. The virus is transmitted primarily through sexual contact or needle sharing with intravenous drug users. It is not transmitted through casual contact.

Manifestations of AIDS are varied, depending on the particular infections or diseases the individual develops. Extreme fatigue is a common symptom. Classroom adaptations will likewise vary. Students with AIDS may be afraid to reveal their condition because of the social stigma, fear, and or misunderstanding surrounding this illness. It is therefore exceptionally important that the strictest confidentiality be observed.

For general classroom considerations, please refer to the General Considerations section.


Because cancer can occur in almost any organ system of the body, the symptoms and particular disabling effects will vary greatly from one person to another. Some people experience visual problems, lack of balance and coordination, joint pains, backaches, headaches, abdominal pains, drowsiness, lethargy, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, weakness, bleeding, or anemia.

The primary treatments for cancer are radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery, which may engender additional effects. Treatment can cause violent nausea, drowsiness and/or fatigue, affecting academic functioning.

For general instructional accommodations, please refer to the General Considerations section.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system, characterized by a decline of muscle control. Symptoms may be mild to severe in degree: blurred vision, legal blindness, tremors, weakness or numbness in limbs, unsteady gait, paralysis, slurred speech, and difficulty with concentration. Because the onset of the disease usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40, students are likely to be having difficulty adjusting to their condition.

The course of multiple sclerosis is highly unpredictable. Periodic remissions are common and may last from a few days to several months, as the disease continues to progress. It is not unusual to have striking inconsistencies in performance.

For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to section(s) on Speech Disabilities, Visual Impairment/Blindness, and/or Mobility and Hand-function Disabilities.

Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of hereditary, progressive disorders that most often strike the young, producing degeneration of voluntary muscles of the trunk and lower extremities. The atrophy of the muscles results in chronic weakness and fatigue and may cause respiratory or cardiac problems. Walking, if possible, is slow and appears uncoordinated. Manipulation of materials in class may be difficult. For appropriate accommodations refer to General Considerations and the section on Mobility and Hand-function Disabilities.

COPD Asthma

Many students suffer from chronic breathing problems, the most common of which is bronchial asthma. Asthma is characterized by attacks of shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing, sometimes triggered by stress, either physical or mental. Fatigue and difficulty climbing stairs may also be major problems, depending on the severity of the attacks. Frequent absence from class may occur and hospitalization may be required when prescribed medications fail to relieve the symptoms. For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to section on Mobility and Hand-function Disabilities and the General Considerations section.

Seizure Disorders

Students with epilepsy and other seizure disorders are extremely reluctant to divulge their condition because they fear being misunderstood or stigmatized. Misconceptions about these disorders—that they are forms of mental illness, contagious and untreatable, for example, have arisen because their ultimate causes remain uncertain. There is evidence that hereditary factors may be involved and that brain injuries and tumors, occurring at any age, may give rise to seizures. What is known is that seizures result from imbalances in the electrical activity of the brain. There are three distinct types of seizures:

  • Petit mal means "little seizure" and is characterized by eye blinking or staring. It begins abruptly with a sudden dimming of consciousness and may last only a few seconds. Whatever the person is doing is suspended for a moment but resumed again as soon as the seizure is over. Often because of its briefness, the seizure may go unnoticed by the individual as well as by others.
  • Psychomotor seizures range from mild to severe and may include staring, mental confusion, uncoordinated and random movement, incoherent speech, and behavior outbursts, followed by immediate recovery. They may last from two minutes to a half hour. The person may have no recollection of what happened, but may experience fatigue.
  • Grand mal seizures may be moderate to severe and may be characterized by generalized contractions of muscles, twitching and limb jerking. A few minutes of such movements may be followed by unconsciousness, sleep, or extreme fatigue.
  • Students with seizure disorders are often under preventive medication, which may cause drowsiness and temporary memory problems. Such medication makes it unlikely that a seizure will occur in class. In the event of a grand mal seizure, follow this procedure:
  • Keep calm. Although its manifestations may be intense they are generally not painful to the individual.
  • Remove nearby objects that may injure the student during the seizure.
  • Help lower the person to the floor arid place cushioning under his/her head.
  • Turn the head to the side, so that breathing is not obstructed.
  • Loosen tight clothing.
  • Do not force anything between the teeth.
  • Do not try to restrain bodily movement.
  • Call the medical office or other appropriate authority or ask someone else to do so.
  • After a seizure, faculty should deal forthrightly with the concerns of the class in an effort to forestall whatever negative attitudes may develop toward the disabled student.

Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disease primarily affecting African Americans. It reduces the blood supply to vital organs and the oxygen supply to the blood cells, making adequate classroom ventilation an important concern.

Because many vital organs are affected, the student may also suffer from eye disease, heart condition, lung problems and acute abdominal pain. At times limbs or joints may be affected. The disease is characterized by severe crisis periods with extreme pain, which may necessitate hospitalization and/or absence from class. Completing academic assignments during these periods may not be possible.

For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to the section(s) on Visual Impairment/Blindness and Mobility and Hand-function Impairments, as well as the General Considerations section.

Substance Abuse Recovery

Substance abuse is a condition of physiological and or psychological dependence on any of a variety of chemicals, such as illegal drugs, some prescription drugs and alcohol. Individuals who are recovering from drug or alcohol abuse or who are in treatment programs to assist their recovery are covered by federal antidiscrimination legislation and are eligible for college services for students with disabilities. These students may experience such psychological problems as depression, anxiety or very low self esteem. They may exhibit poor behavioral control and. if they are using medication as part of their treatment, they may experience undesirable side effects. The needs of students with substance abuse issues vary.

Refer students showing symptoms of substance abuse to the appropriate college facility, counseling services or psychological center, or disabled student services. In cases of inappropriate classroom behavior, discuss it with the student in a private setting. Use appropriate campus disciplinary channels when necessary. Refer to the General Considerations section and the section on Psychological Impairments for additional classroom considerations.

Deafness/Hearing Impairment


Approximately 28 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Approximately 2 million are profoundly deaf. Those with a severe or profound hearing loss that has existed since before they learned language will obviously have the most trouble with spoken language, as they have never heard it before. More than 20,000 students who self-identified as hard of hearing or deaf enrolled in academic year 1992-1993 in postsecondary education.

The first language of profoundly deaf persons and many other Americans may be American Sign Language (ASL). They must learn English as a second language or even a third language.

Strategies for Success

People who are and hard-of-hearing use a variety of devices and techniques to augment their aural capacity, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, listening devices such as infrared, FM or audio loops, or computer-assisted real ­time transcription (CART), and lip-reading. However, depending on the nature of the impairment, hearing aids and cochlear implants may not help. And no matter the skill with which it is done, lip-reading only aids in understanding 30 to 40 percent of spoken English.

To maximize their college experience, students who are deaf and hard of hearing often utilize interpreting, captioning and/or notetaking services for their classes, and extended time on exams. These services, mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, are usually coordinated through the office of disability services on campus. In order for these services to be truly effective, however, they require some cooperation from professors. In general, students and professors work out their own arrangements for things like test-taking, and the office of disability services only gets involved when an agreement cannot be reached. Equally vital for the success of students with a hearing loss are professors who are sensitive and responsive to their needs so that they can fully participate in the educational experience.

Best practices for teaching students who are deaf

The interpreter sits or stands near you so that you and the interpreter are within the deaf student's range of vision.

Allow the student to sit where s lie can most easily see you, the interpreter and the board or screen.

Provide copies of the syllabus, power point presentations, or other handouts for the interpreter, notetaker or captionist as far in advance as possible. This will insure that your interpreter has time to prepare so that they can provide the best services for you and your students with the least inconvenience.

Make sure any films you show are captioned or subtitled. Don't speak and demonstrate at the same time. Just as you cannot hold a conversation and memorize a piece of music at the same time, a person using a visual language like ASL cannot take in verbal instructions and watch a demonstration at the same time.

It is certainly a phenomenon to talk to someone through someone else, but if you follow some simple guidelines, your interactions with your deaf students can go quite smoothly. Talk directly to the student. Yes, it is the interpreter who is hearing what you are saying and it is the interpreter the student will most often look at, but it is the student with whom you are communicating. If you direct your words to the student and listen to what they're saying as if it were their own mouth, you'll find that you and the student—as well as the interpreter—will have much more fruitful interactions.

  • Best practices for teaching students who are hard of hearing
  • Lecture from the front of the room, not pacing around.
  • Do not speak while writing on the blackboard.
  • Point out who is speaking in group discussions.
  • Repeat or rephrase questions/comments from the class before responding.
  • Warning Signs of Hearing Loss
  • Giving inappropriate responses.
  • Speaking in an unusually loud or soft voice.
  • Not hearing when someone speaks from behind.
  • Appearing to pay attention but not actively participating in class discussions.
  • Asking for repeats often.
  • Responding with smiles and nods but no further comments.

Learning Disabilities

A learning disability (LD) is any of a diverse group of conditions, of presumed neurological origin, which cause significant difficulties in auditory, visual, and or spatial perception. Included are disorders that impair such functions as reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia), and mathematical calculation (dyscalculia). Each category exhibits a wide variation of behavioral patterns.

A learning disability may exist in the presence of average to superior intelligence and adequate sensory and motor systems, as evidenced by the extraordinary achievements of people with LD.

In fact, the marked discrepancy between intellectual capacity and achievement is what characterizes a learning disability. A learning disability is most often diagnosed using a battery of aptitude and academic achievement tests. This documentation is required not only to establish the need for disability services but to determine the kind of services that are required. Students who are believed to have a learning disability and have not been previously or reliably identified should be referred to your campus coordinator/director of student disability services for an appropriate referral.

While a learning disability cannot be "cured," it can be circumvented through instructional intervention and compensatory strategies. In general, a variety of instructional modes enhances learning for LD students by allowing them to master material that may be inaccessible in one particular form. In other words, using multiple instructional techniques increases the likelihood that students with LD will understand.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a medical term that is not synonymous with learning disabilities. Students with ADHD may or may not have specific accompanying learning disabilities. The effects of ADHD involve executive functioning including, but not limited to, trouble with attention, organization, and impulse control. ADHD can impact academic functioning in many ways and with varying severity but it is not considered a learning disability, per se. Many people conflate ADHD with LD because of its impact on the learning process and because it is often (but not always) accompanied by a learning disability.

Best practices for teaching students with learning disabilities
In teaching students with LD, it is important to identify the nature of the disability in order to determine the kind of strategies that might accommodate a particular student. Drawing upon the student's own experience offers valuable clues to the types of adaptation that work.

Once the nature of the disability is identified for students with LD, these strategies may help:

  • Auditory processing: Some students may experience difficulty integrating information presented orally, hindering their ability to follow the sequence and organization of a lecture.
  • Provide students with a course syllabus at the start of the semester.
  • Outline class presentations and write new terms and key points on the chalkboard.
  • Repeat and summarize segments of each presentation and review it in its entirety.
  • In dealing with abstract concepts, paraphrase them in specific terms, and illustrate them with concrete examples, personal experiences, hands-on models, and such visual structures as charts and graphs.
  • Reading may be slow and deliberate, making comprehension a difficulty for students with LD, particularly when dealing with large quantities of material. For such students, comprehension and speed are expedited dramatically with the addition of auditory input.
  • Make required book lists available prior to the first day of class to allow students to begin their reading early or to obtain text in audio format.
  • Provide students with chapter outlines or study guides that cue them to key points in their readings.
  • Read aloud material that is written on the chalkboard or that is given in handouts or transparencies.
  • Memory or sequencing difficulties may impede the students' execution of complicated directions.
  • Keep oral instructions concise and reinforce them with brief cue words.
  • Repeat or reword complicated directions.
  • Notetaking: Some students with LD need alternative ways to take notes because they have difficulty writing and assimilating, remembering, and organizing the material while listening to lectures.
  • Allow notetakers to accompany the student to class.
  • Permit audio recording and or make your notes available for material not found in texts or other accessible sources.
  • Assist students, if necessary, in arranging to borrow classmates' notes.
  • Participation: It is helpful to determine the students' abilities to participate in classroom activities. While many students with LD are highly articulate, some have severe difficulty in talking, responding, or reading in front of groups.
  • Specialized limitations: Some students with LD may have poor coordination or trouble judging distance or differentiating between left and right. Devices such as demonstrations from students' right-left frame of reference and the use of color codes or supplementary symbols may overcome the perceptual problem.
  • The science laboratory can be especially overwhelming for students with LD. New equipment, exact measurement, and multi-step procedures may demand precisely those skills that are hardest for them to acquire.
  • An individual orientation to the laboratory and equipment can minimize students' anxiety.
  • The labeling of equipment, tools, and materials is helpful.
  • The students' use of cue cards or labels designating the steps of a procedure may expedite the mastering of a sequence.
  • Specialized adaptive equipment may help with exact measurements.
  • Behavior: Because of perceptual deficiencies, some students with LD are slow to grasp social cues and respond appropriately. They may lack social skills, or they may have difficulty sustaining focused attention. If such a problem results in classroom interruptions or other disruptions, it is advisable to discuss the matter privately with the student or with the coordinator/director.
  • Evaluation: A learning disability may affect the method by which students should be evaluated. If so, some of the following arrangements may be necessary:
  • Allow students to take examinations in a separate, quiet room with a proctor. Students with LD are especially sensitive to distractions.
  • Grant time extensions on exams and written assignments when there are significant demands on reading and writing skills.
  • Avoid needlessly complicated language in exam questions, and clearly separate them in their spacing on the exam sheet. For students with LD perceptual deficits who have difficulty in transferring answers, avoid using answer sheets, especially computer forms.
  • Try not to test on material just presented, since more time is generally required to assimilate new knowledge.
  • Permit the use of a dictionary, computer spell checker, and proofreader, and, in mathematics and science, a calculator. In mathematics, students may understand the concept, but may make errors by misaligning numbers or confusing arithmetical facts.
  • When necessary, allow students to use a reader, scribe, audio recorder or computer.
  • Consider alternative test designs. Some students with LD may find essay formats difficult, and may have trouble with matching tests.
  • Consider alternative or supplementary assignments that may serve evaluation purposes, like recorded interviews, slide presentations, photographic essays, or hand-made models.

Professors who are aware of learning differences in their students can help these students utilize their hidden talents in the following areas:

  • By understanding that learning styles differ for every student.
  • By creating a learning environment that supports and emphasizes different learning
  • By employing teaching methods and supporting varying learning styles.
  • Knowing the correct time to intervene when learning becomes difficult.

In general, effective study groups, both inside and outside the classroom, help students with LD communicate with others. It allows them to share notes, build social support, and get organized.

For additional guidance or detailed faculty training on LD issues, please contact the CUNY LD Project at The City College of New York (212-650-5913).

Mobility and Hand-function Disabilities

A wide range of conditions may limit mobility and or hand function. Among the most common permanent disorders are such musculoskeletal disabilities as partial or total paralysis, amputation or severe injury, arthritis, active sickle cell disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy. Additionally, respiratory and cardiac diseases can be debilitating and may consequently affect mobility. Any of these conditions may also impair the strength, speed, endurance, coordination, and dexterity that are necessary for fluid mobility. While the degree of disability varies, students may have difficulty getting to or from class, performing in class, and managing out-of-class assignments and tests.

Best practices for teaching students with mobility and hand-function disabilities

The following information provides guidance for faculty and staff, as well as short lists of best practices for working with students with mobility and hand-function disabilities.

Getting to and from class: Physical access to classrooms is a major concern of students with mobility disabilities. Those who use wheelchairs, braces, crutches, canes, or prostheses, or who fatigue easily, find it difficult moving about—especially within the time constraints imposed by class schedules.

Occasional lateness may be unavoidable. Tardiness or absence may be caused by transportation problems, inclement weather, or elevator or wheelchair breakdown. Getting from class may pose similar problems, especially in cases of emergency.

Consider the accessibility factor before or early in the semester and discuss it with student, and, if necessary, with the coordinator/director.

Be prepared to arrange for a change of classroom or building if no other solution is possible.

Familiarize yourself with the college's emergency evacuation plan and assure that it is manageable for students with disabilities.

In class: Some courses and classrooms present obstacles to the full participation of students with mobility disabilities. In considering seating and classroom arrangement, integrating students into the class may require planning. Relegating these students to a doorway, a side aisle or the back of the room should be avoided. Even such apparently insurmountable barriers as fixed seating may be overcome by arranging for a chair to be unbolted and removed to make room for a wheelchair. Laboratory stations too high for wheelchair users to reach or transfer to, or with insufficient under-counter knee clearance, may be modified or they may be replaced by portable stations.

Otherwise, the assistance of an aide to follow the student's lab instructions may be necessary. Students with hand-function disabilities may have similar difficulties in the laboratory and in the classroom doing in-class writing assignments and taking written tests. For such students:

  • Permit the use of a note-taker and/or tape recorder.
  • Team the student with a laboratory partner or assistant.
  • Allow in-class written assignments to be completed out of class with the use of a scribe, if necessary.
  • Conduct oral or taped tests, or allow extended time.
  • Out-of-class assignments: For students with mobility and or hand function disabilities, the use of the library for research assignments may present obstacles.

Arrangements for assistance with library personnel may have to be made for access to resources and equipment, or for manipulating the pages of publications. Because the completion of required work may thus be delayed, the extension of deadlines and the employment of grades of "incomplete" may be appropriate on occasion, but not a rule of thumb.

Off-campus assignments and field work may pose similar problems of access to resources. Instructors should consider such expedients as advance notice to students who rely on accessible transportation services, the extension of dead-lines and alternative assignments.

Neurological Conditions

Asperger's Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders include High Functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. These conditions are thought to be neurobiological and developmental disabilities affecting many aspects of functionality. Specific functional limitations are unique in nature and vary from person to person.

Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) are characterized by average to superior intelligence while at the same time experiencing severe and pervasive deficits in social interaction. Some common limitations are difficulties with social reciprocity and friendships; social awkwardness; imaginative impairments and repetitive adherence, including concrete and literal uses of language; a preference for routines; language impairments, including pronoun reversal; echolalia; late or no development of language; physical impairments, including fine or gross motor difficulties; hyper- or hyposensitivity of the various senses; learning impairments, including difficulty with organization; sequencing; distractibility; and slow processing.

While many individuals with AS report that they keenly desire social relationships, the combination of repeated social failures and intelligence sufficient to appreciate these difficulties increases the risk for developing depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns (Tantam, 1998; 2000). Academically some of the key issues that students have in a learning environment are as follows:

  • Motivation: Competitive motives are absent in the student with AS. He lacks both pride and shame and has no desire to stand out.
  • Imitation: Although he may be able to copy what others do, he finds it hard to adjust these copied movements to his own frame of reference.
  • Perception: There is a possibility of inconsistent or unexpected response to sensory input.
  • Attention: The student's focus of attention is often narrow and/or obsessive. Stimulus characteristics may be combined with idiosyncrasies.
  • Memory: The student's memory is likely to be episodic, i.e., events are not stored in the context in which they occurred. Lists of facts may be stored in this way without a meaningful framework to link them.
  • Problem Solving: The student tries to learn set responses for set situations. He may learn a set of strategies, but not be aware that he possesses them, and therefore would have difficulty to select on appropriate strategy for a new situation. Some of the accommodations for students with Asperger's would include the following:
  • Academic visual supports
  • Computer use for in-class assignments and in-class tests
  • Extended time on tests
  • Reduced distraction testing room
  • Notetakers
  • Priority seating
  • Audio recorder


Consequences of ADD/ADHD at the college level include procrastination, poor organization and time management resulting in academic underachievement, poor self-esteem, and difficulty keeping current with assignments and reading. Problems also arise in personal relationships and mood stability. Distractibility and difficulty focusing can lead to problems with reading comprehension, notetaking, and completing assignments and tests in a timely fashion. Impediments to success at the college level include issues that are both academic and/or personal.

Academic issues may include:

  • Poor organization and time management skills
  • Reading problems resulting from difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • Poor notetaking or writing skills

Personal issues may include:

  • High frustration levels or poor self-esteem
  • Inappropriate social skills or too much time socializing
  • Confusion about goals and the future
  • Lack of perseverance or procrastination
  • Lack of sleep and difficulty getting up in the morning

A common pitfall for students with ADHD is the feeling that they are instantly cured upon graduating from high school and no longer require supports and/or treatment at the college level. Unrealistic expectations may also lead a student with ADHD who has been successful in high school to take on too heavy a load at college, failing to take into consideration the multiple demands upon his or her time. Poor time management may lead to a "crash-and-burn" syndrome, with the student staying up all night and sleeping all day after studying or partying, or both.

Sample ADD/ADHD Accommodations for the Classroom

  • For the lecture setting:
  • Tape recorders or micro tape players
  • Notetakers
  • Hard copies of notes provided by the instruction or other student
  • Laptop computer for notetaking
  • Calculators (some have voice synthesizers)
  • Classroom without a lot of distractions (such as noise, decorations, interruptions, etc.)
  • Request that the directions be clear and concise (possibly in written form, on the blackboard or on paper)
  • Detailed syllabus to give ample time to complete reading and writing assignments

For test-taking:

  • Quiet environment
  • Extended time
  • Administering tests on the computer
  • Using a tape recorder to record the answers
  • Oral examinations
  • Index cards, blank paper, and/or ruler (help keeps place)

Organizational skills:

  • Break projects into weekly and then daily goals.
  • Use daily checklist of what needs to be done that day. (It might help if you prepare the night before.)
  • Use watch alarm or timer as a reminder for meetings and classes.
  • Electronic organizers or daily planners.
  • Use mini talking memo.
  • Color coding for reading/scanning (highlighters and colored mylar templates).
  • Premack Principle: Perform the task that is unpleasant first, followed either by the one that is liked or by a reward


  • Use white noise machine or environmental soothers to cover noise.
  • Study in an environment that doesn't have a lot of visual or auditory distractions.
  • Use a watch alarm or timer set for ten-minute intervals to be reminded to get back to task.
  • Find outlets for restlessness like exercise and/or sports.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is caused by an injury to the motor center of the brain that may have occurred before or shortly after birth. Manifestations may include involuntary muscle contractions, rigidity, spasms, poor coordination, poor balance, or poor spatial relations. Visual, auditory, speech, hand-function, and mobility difficulties might occur.

For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to section(s) on Speech Disabilities, Visual Impairment/Blindness, and/or Mobility and Hand-function Disabilities.

Psychological/Psychiatric Disabilities

Students with psychiatric disabilities present some of the most difficult challenges to the college professor. As is the case for students with other disabilities, this disability may be hidden and. in fact, latent, with little or no effect on learning. Unlike other disabilities, however, psychiatric disabilities may manifest themselves in negative behavior ranging from indifference and recalcitrance to disruptiveness. Such conduct makes it hard to remember that those students have as little control over their disabilities as do students with physical disabilities. The most common psychological disability among students is depression. The condition may be temporary, in response to inordinate pressures at school, on the job, at home, or in one's social life; or it may be a pathological sense of hopelessness or helplessness that may provoke, in its extreme, threats or attempts at suicide. It may appear as apathy, disinterest, inattention, impaired concentration, irritability, or as fatigue or other physical symptoms resulting from changes in eating, sleeping, or other living patterns. Anxiety is also prevalent among students and may be a transient reaction to stress. Mild anxiety, in fact, may promote learning and improve the student's functioning. Severe anxiety, however, may reduce concentration, distort perception and weaken the learning process. Anxiety may manifest itself as withdrawal, constant talking, complaining, joking or crying, fantasizing, or extreme fear, sometimes to the point of panic. Bodily symptoms might include episodes of light-headedness or hyperventilation.

Students are susceptible to a myriad of other psychiatric disorders, some of which express themselves in inappropriate classroom behavior or inadequate performance of assignments. Some troubled students who are undergoing treatment take prescription medication to help control disturbing feelings, ideas, and behavior. The prescribed medication(s) might cause undesirable side effects such as drowsiness and disorientation.

Best practices for teaching students with psychological/psychiatric disabilities
In dealing with psychological conditions that impair the functioning of the affected student alone, the principles outlined for students with disabilities in the General Considerations section usually apply. If the behavior begins to affect others or your course of instruction, other measures may be necessary:

Speech Disabilities

Speech communication disabilities range from problems with articulation or voice strength to complete voicelessness. Students with a speech communication based disability could include a person with Asperger's Syndrome, a person with a learning disability, or a person with numerous other possible primary disability classifications. A range of observable difficulties may include projection difficulties, as in chronic hoarseness and esophageal speech: fluency problems, as in stuttering and stammering; and the nominal aphasia that alters the articulation of particular words or terms.

Best practices for teaching students with speech disabilities

Some of these difficulties can be managed by such mechanical devices as electronic "speaking" machines or computerized voice synthesizers. Others may be treated through speech therapy or other compensatory strategies. All of the difficulties can be aggravated by the anxiety inherent in oral communication in a group. Patience is therefore an effective strategy for students with speech disabilities. Other strategies are listed below and some may require collaboration among the faculty member, the student, and the disability service provider at a particular college.

Give students the opportunity—but do not compel them—to speak in class.

Permit students the time they require to express themselves, without unsolicited aid in filling in gaps in their speech. Don't be reluctant to ask the student to repeat a statement.

Address students naturally. Don't assume the "spread phenomenon"—that they cannot hear or comprehend.

Consider course modifications, such as one-to-one presentations and the use of a computer with a voice synthesizer.

Visual Impairment/Blindness

Visual disabilities vary greatly. Persons are considered legally blind when visual acuity is 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of corrective lenses or when they have a field of vision no greater than 20 degrees. Most people who are legally blind may have some vision. Those who do may rely on residual vision with the use of adaptive equipment. People who are totally blind may have visual memory, depending on the age when vision was lost.

Whatever their degree of visual disability, students should be expected to participate fully in classroom activities, including discussions and group work. To record notes, some use such devices as portable or computerized Braillers. Others may use notetakers. They may encounter limitations in laboratory classes and field trips, and internships, but with planning and adaptive equipment the barriers can be overcome or minimized.

Best practices for teaching students who are visually impaired or blind

Before or early in the semester:

  • Provide reading lists or syllabi in advance to allow time for such arrangements to be made as ordering electronic versions of textbooks and other reading materials or for scanning or Brailling of texts.
  • If videos will be used in class or assigned, provide a list in advance to enable private viewing with someone to describe what is taking place.
  • Web-based or Web-enhanced courses can pose challenges for students with vision disabilities.
  • Screen enlargement and screen reader software may address many access issues.
  • Consultation with the student and the disability services staff will assist in identifying effective adjustments.
  • In cooperation with the disability services staff, assist the student in finding readers, note-takers, or tutors, as necessary, or team the student with a sighted classmate or laboratory assistant.
  • Reserve front-row seats for low-vision students.
  • If a guide dog is used, it will be highly disciplined and require little space.

During the semester:

  • Face the class when speaking.
  • Convey in spoken words whatever you put on the board and any other visual cues or graphic materials you may use.
  • Permit lectures to be taped and or provide copies of lecture notes, where appropriate.
  • Duplicate materials distributed to the class on a large-print copier, or print documents in large fonts and or provide electronic copies on disk, flash drive or by e-mail.
  • Be flexible with assignment deadlines.
  • Plan field trips and such special projects as internships well in advance and alert field supervisors to whatever adaptations may be needed.
  • If a specific task is impossible for the student to carry out, consider an alternative assignment.

Examinations and evaluations: Students should not be exempt from examinations or be expected to master less content or lower levels of scholastic skills because of visual disabilities. But alternative means of assessing their course achievements may be necessary. The students themselves, because of their experience in previous learning situations and the college disability services staff may offer suggestions on testing and evaluation strategies. Among alternatives are oral, large-print, Braille, or audio-taped exams.

Screen reader and print enlargement software can be used with electronically formatted examinations, which may be sent to the disability services office via e-mail. Each of these alternatives, with additional time to complete the exam, may be warranted. Other adaptations suited to specific instructional situations—like tactile materials in presenting diagrams or illustrations in certain subjects—may be helpful.


1. What, exactly, do I do with accommodation letters and other paperwork I receive from students registered with your office?

The Office of Student Disability Services provides all students who are eligible for classroom accommodations with accommodation letters verifying such eligibility. If a student is entitled to testing accommodations, that student will bring a Testing Accommodations Request form for you to complete, so that our office can make arrangements with you on behalf of the student in a timely manner. (For information on testing accommodations procedures, please see question 2 below.) Please note that it is the student's responsibility to talk to you about any accommodations he or she receives, including testing accommodations. (You aren't required to take any action until the student does so.) If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to stop by the SDS office in room 238 Shuster Hall or call 718-960-8441.

2. What is the procedure for testing accommodations?

Students who are eligible for testing accommodations during an exam or quiz, such as extended time or a distraction-free room, should notify their professors. Some professors request that SDS administers extended-time exams; other professors may choose to oversee exams themselves, with the required accommodations in place. Students must follow the SDS testing accommodations policy to receive this service. An eligible student will be furnished with an accommodation letter, which they will present to you, stating that they are entitled to receive testing accommodations. It is the student's responsibility to notify you and request alternative testing. It is also their responsibility to present you with a Testing Accommodation Request form for completion to be returned to us by the student at least one week prior to the exam, to ensure that our office makes appropriate arrangements in a timely manner. For more information, please visit the Testing Accommodation Procedures section in the Resources for Faculty section, or feel free to either stop by our office in room 238 Shuster Hall or call us at 718-960-8441.

3. What testing accommodations are available to students with disabilities?

The Office of Student Disability Services evaluates its students on an individualized basis. Accommodations are granted based on how a student’s disability impacts their ability to take an exam. A student who is entitled to testing accommodations is required to notify you and present the proper form to you for completion prior to the exam date.

Accommodations can include, but are not limited to, extended time; a quiet/low-distraction environment; private room; use of a computer; use of a calculator; reader; scribe; sign language interpreter; use of a spell checker; Braille; large print, periodic breaks; assistive technology (e.g., closed circuit television for magnifying printed material; screen magnification or screen reading program; or speech recognition software).

4. What if a student doesn't make use of testing accommodations, performs poorly or fails the test, and wants to retake it with extended time?

It is the student's responsibility to ask for accommodations. Tests generally can't be retaken once they are administered. To help prevent this from reoccurring, please refer the student back to our office in room 238 Shuster Hall (718-960-8441) so that the student can make sure they understand the SDS testing accommodations policy. In addition, please be sure to include our Disability Access Statement in your course syllabus. This way, students with disabilities who need accommodations—and might not otherwise know where to get them—can come to our office and find out about the processes in place to get the assistance they require.

5. How do I determine whether a student's absence or late-assignment submission is disability-related?

A student's condition may fluctuate depending on the nature of their disability; there are many conditions and/or medications that may interfere with students' academics, resulting in periodic or irregular curtailments of functioning. The Office of Student Disability Services can verify the reason for extended absences, with the student’s permission and their submission of appropriate documentation. Please visit the Instructional and Communication Strategies section under Resources for Faculty for information on specific disabilities and how they might impact a student's academic pursuits.

6. I have a student in my class whom I think has a disability. What do I do?

Be sure and handle the situation delicately. Rather than tell the student you suspect they have a disability, talk to him or her about the trouble he or she is having in your class and what might be affecting progress. The student might come forward and admit that the issues are longstanding in nature or even related to a disability. If so, refer the student to SDS in room 238 Shuster Hall (718-960-8441). If not, offer a list of applicable campus resources such as tutoring, counseling, and so on, and include the Office of Student Disability Services among them.

7. What are notetaking accommodations?

Students who cannot take notes or who have difficulty taking notes adequately are generally helped by tape recording lectures and by having a notetaker in class. The Office of Student Disability Services makes arrangements for in-class notetakers for eligible students, either by hiring a staff notetaker to go to class and take notes or by offering a $100 stipend to a volunteer peer notetaker in the student's class. The student will provide their notetakers with specialized paper or will arrange to have the notes photocopied (free of charge) at the SDS office. In some cases, notes are taken on a laptop instead of by hand.

8. How can I help a student obtain a notetaker from the class?

The Office of Student Disability Services recruits and pays staff notetakers for our eligible students. However, students with disabilities may also recruit a peer notetaker—a volunteer in their same class—to take notes on their behalf. From time to time, students who are eligible for notetaking services, whether their disabilities are invisible or apparent, will want to remain anonymous to their class. They might, therefore, ask their professors to make an announcement requesting a peer notetaker, similar to the one that follows:
There is a student in our class who requires a notetaker. You will receive a $100 stipend and be invited to attend a reception at the end of the semester in appreciation of your assistance. If you are interested, please raise your hand and say your name so that the student can meet you outside of our room after class to introduce themselves.

9. Do notetakers take notes for students who are absent?

No. Notetaking accommodations are provided to students when they are in class. The notetaker is not a proxy for the student, and the notes they take are not a substitute for attendance by the student with a disability.

10. I have a student in my class who is visually impaired. How will he access course materials?

Alternate format materials such as audio recordings, mathematical translations, large print, Braille, or e-text can take a considerable amount of time to develop and/or obtain. (Visit the Academic Assistance and Requesting Services section under Our Services for further information on alternate formats.) One of the best ways to help a student who is blind or visually impaired is to have copies of your syllabus and reading assignments ready early, anywhere from three to five weeks prior to the start of the semester. During lecture, it is good to get in the habit of speaking aloud what you're writing on the board so the student can follow along. If you are going to be providing handouts to the class, be sure and provide vision impaired students with alternate formats. (Ask the student to inform you of their needs.) The Office of Student Disability Services can work with you to make sure your course documents are accessible to students who are blind or who are visually impaired. Call our assistant director at 718-960-1167 or stop by our Access and Technology Center (ATC) in room 146 in the library, or come to our office in room 238 Shuster, and we will be happy to help you prepare your materials. Additional information on visual impairment and blindness is available in the Instructional and Communication Strategies section on our Resources for Faculty page.

11. Should I modify my standards or curriculum for a student with a disability?

In short, no. While we recognize the underlying sentiment and motivation to make adjustments to courses and requirements, we do not endorse this. Students with disabilities are capable of performing as well as their peers with the right accommodations in place. All post-secondary institutions are covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Office of Student Disability Services, in accordance with Section 504, works with students one-on-one to develop suitable, individualized, accommodations plans. Examples of types of accommodations and auxiliary aids provided by our office can be found by visiting the Our Services section. For specific questions or additional information, please do not hesitate to stop by our office in room 238 Shuster Hall or contact us by phone at 718-960-8441. We would be happy to speak with you in more detail.