Equal Access: Inclusive Strategies for Teaching Students with Disabilities (Case Study 3)

Recruiting and Retaining Women through Inclusive Pedagogy

More students with learning and physical disabilities are in the educational pipeline than ever before. Being aware of the issues, tools, and services for students with disabilities makes it easier for them to learn and for you to teach them. Below is a summary of tips from Equal Access: Universal Design of Instruction, a resource provided by DO-IT(Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) at the University of Washington. DO-IT’s mission is to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers, including science, engineering, math, and technology.


  • Make sure that assistive technology can be made available in the computer lab.
  • Invite students to meet with you and discuss disability-related accommodations.
  • Ensure physical access to all facilities.
  • Arrange instructional spaces to minimize distraction and maximize visibility and comfort.
  • Ensure that everyone can see and use equipment and materials safely and effectively.
  • Learn campus procedures for accommodation requests (e.g., arrangement of sign language interpreters).


  • Ask a person with a disability if he or she needs help before providing assistance.
  • Speak directly to the student, not through his or her companion or interpreter.
  • Refer to a person’s disability only if it is relevant. Always mention the person first and then the disability. “A man who is blind” is better than “a blind man” because it puts the person first.
  • Avoid negative descriptions of a disability. For example, say “a person who uses a wheelchair,” not “a person confined to a wheelchair.”
  • Never interact with a person’s guide or service dog without permission.

Blind or Low Vision

  • Be descriptive. Say, “The computer is about three feet to your left,” not “The computer is over there.”
  • Verbally describe all of the content presented with overhead projections and other visuals.
  • Offer persons with visual impairments your arm rather than grabbing or pushing them.

Learning Disabilities

  • Offer directions or instructions both orally and in writing. If asked, read instructions to individuals who have specific learning disabilities.

Mobility Impairments

  • Position yourself at the approximate height of people sitting in wheelchairs when you interact.

Speech Impairments

  • Repeat what you think you understand and then ask the person with a speech impairment to clarify or repeat what you did not understand.

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

  • Face people with hearing impairments so they can see your lips.
  • Speak clearly at a normal volume.
  • Use paper and pencil if the person who is deaf does not read lips or if more accurate communication is needed.
  • Ask students in groups to raise their hands when they speak so that their deaf peer knows who is speaking.
  • When an interpreter voices what a student who is deaf signs, look at the student, not the interpreter.

Psychiatric Impairments

  • Provide information in clear, calm, respectful tones.
  • Allow opportunities for addressing specific questions.



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Authors: Lecia Barker and Antonia Frydman