Student Accommodations and Resources
Campus Center: A-1125
Office Phone: (815) 280-2230
Resource Room Phone: (815) 280-2613
Fax: (815) 280-2820

Office Hours:
Monday – Friday: 7:30am – 4:00pm
(Closed on Fridays during the summer)

Resource Room Hours (Fall and Spring Semesters):
Monday – Friday: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Resource Room Hours (Summer Semester):
Monday – Thursday: 9:00am – 2:00pm

StAR Testing Accommodations for testing are provided on an appointment basis; please schedule in advance. Please contact the Resource Room to schedule all appointments.

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Instructor Guide 

Instructor teaching class 

This guide is specifically prepared for Joliet Junior College instructors who are teaching students with disabilities. JJC attracts an ever growing number of students with disabilities. Therefore, this guide is designed to:

  • Review basic principles related to teaching and interacting with students with disabilities.
  • Alert faculty to the available accommodations, support services, assistive technology, and equipment available to assist faculty to meet the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Provide general information regarding some of the specific disabilities you may encounter in the classroom.


The Role of Student Accommodations and Resources (STAR)

This guide is specifically prepared for Joliet Junior College instructors who are teaching students with disabilities. Joliet Junior College attracts an ever growing number of students with disabilities. Therefore, this guide is designed to:

  • Review basic principles related to teaching and interacting with students with disabilities.
  • Alert faculty to the available accommodations, support services, assistive technology, and equipment available to assist faculty to meet the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Provide general information regarding some of the specific disabilities you may encounter in the classroom.

Student Accommodations and Resources (STAR) is the office designated by the college to:

  • Determine if students attending the college who request accommodations are eligible to receive accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Arrange accommodations for these eligible students.
  • Assist college administration, faculty, and staff to provide required accommodations.

STAR is located on main campus in A-1125 (Campus Center). The STAR office phone number is (815) 280-2230 or just extension 2230 from any on-campus phone.

STAR Eligibility Requirements for Accommodations as a Student with a Disability

Individuals with disabilities who wish to use accommodations in their classroom at Joliet Junior College must go through the following steps to become eligible under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act:

  • The students must identify themselves as persons with a disability and request accommodations.
  • The students must complete an intake process, which includes a diagnostic interview.
  • The students must provide current documentation of their disability.

Who is eligible?

The Definition of Disabilities under ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act defines "individuals with disabilities" as having:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.
  • A record of such impairment or are regarded as having such impairment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided the following examples of impairments which can be disabilities under ADA:

  • Diseases, both contagious and non-contagious
  • Blindness and other visual impairments
  • Orthopedic problems
  • Speech and/or hearing impairments
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Emotional illness
  • Learning disabilities
  • AIDS and HIV infection
  • Drug addiction and alcoholism

Responsibilities of the Student

Instructor Notification Letter

Students who are eligible to receive an accommodation at Joliet Junior College receive an official letter entitled "Instructor Notification Letter" from Student Accommodations and Resources. The letter lists the accommodations that the student is entitled to use in the classroom. It is the instructor's responsibility to provide the accommodations listed in the letter in the classroom.

STAR will assist instructors to comply with the required accommodations by providing test monitoring, ordering taped textbooks, hiring interpreters, paying notetakers, etc. STAR can also assist instructors to determine methods with which they can modify their instructional style or instructional activities to accommodate students with disabilities.

Students have the responsibility for requesting STAR services and providing documentation of conditions that may warrant academic accommodations. Once STAR has definitely determined that students have a disability-related need for academic accommodations, the students are given an Instructor Notification Letter describing the needed accommodations.

Occasionally, a student may request accommodations from you without presenting you with an Instructor Notification Letter from STAR. To protect yourself, the student, and the college, you should insist that the student contact STAR to request an appropriate Instructor Notification Letter. Students eligible for STAR services normally receive Instructor Notification Letters no later than one week after requesting them. STAR strongly emphasizes that students should show you their Instructor Notification Letters.

Sometimes it is mid-semester or later before students are diagnosed with disabilities and authorized for STAR services. In this event, students cannot provide you with Instructor Notification Letters early in the semester, even though you have invited them to do so in your syllabus.

Student Responsibility to Talk to Instructors

It is the student's responsibility to contact you during the first week of class and make an appointment with you to discuss their needs. Students are instructed to show you their letter if they wish to use accommodations in your class. Please make a copy of the letter for your records.

The letter the students show you will verify that the student is registered with STAR, has provided appropriate documentation, and qualifies for the listed accommodations. The notification will be authenticated by the embossed seal. Please ask the students to show you their Instructor Notification Letters. You are required to provide ONLY accommodations that are listed on the letter.

Responsibilities of the Instructor

Providing the Accommodations Listed

When students show you the Instructor Notification from STAR, you are responsible for providing the accommodations listed. You are not required to compromise the academic quality of your course by giving passing grades to students who have failed to demonstrate the required level of understanding or performance competency. Accommodations are NOT a "gift". Accommodations allow the student with disabilities equal access to process information and demonstrate mastery of your subject matter.


Once you have provided accommodations, you should grade the work of disabled students as you would grade the work of any other. When students have received accommodations, there is no need to "give them a break" by being unduly lenient. On the other hand, to grade students more harshly because they have had the "advantage" of extra exam time or other instructional modifications would nullify the effect of the accommodations.

Right to Privacy

Students have a right to privacy in disability matters, and their confidentiality must be maintained. You should file your copy of the students Instructor Notification Letters in a safe place, and you should refrain from discussing their disabilities and necessary accommodations in the hearing of fellow students or others. When the Instructor Notification Letter indicates that a notetaker needs to be requested from the class, please do not announce the disabled student's name in class or ask the student with the disability to read the announcement.

If you receive an Instructor Notification Letter and have difficulty providing the accommodations listed, or if you disagree with the accommodations, please contact STAR at 280-2230 or extension 2230. If you and STAR reach an impasse in your discussion about an accommodation, you should contact the campus ADA/504 Compliance Officer within five working days of being notified about the accommodation. The ADA/504 Compliance Officer may set aside the accommodation or may decline to do so.

Syllabus Statement

Include a disability-friendly statement on your syllabus. Make your course "disability friendly". It is helpful to announce at the beginning of the semester, "Students who have an Instructor Notification Letter from the Student Accommodations and Resources Department (STAR), please see me during my office hours or after class". Our suggestion would be to include a paragraph in your course syllabus inviting students with disabilities to visit you for a discussion of their disability-related academic needs. This paragraph might read as: "If you need disability-related accommodations in this class, if you have emergency medical information you wish to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please inform me immediately. Please see me privately after class or at my office".

The Student Accommodations and Resources office is located in A-1125. This is the campus office responsible for verifying that students have disability-related needs for academic accommodations and for planning appropriate accommodations, in cooperation with the students themselves and their instructors. Students who need academic accommodations should request them from STAR, phone 280-2230.

Discuss your disability statement during the first week of class.

Key Questions to Ask Student Prior to Referral

  1. Do you need accommodations such as testing accommodations (extended time, scribing, question rephrasing), taped text, large print, Braille, sign language interpreters, adaptive equipment or software because of a documented disability?
  2. Did you receive special services such as a learning disability resource, extended time on tests, or special education services when you were in school?
  3. Is English your second language?

STAR Services and Instructor Responsibilities

Students Supported by STAR

  • Students with documented disabilities or health concerns
  • Students with limited English proficiency
Instructor responsibilities under ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Joliet Junior College follows the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibit discrimination on the basis of an individual's disability. Individuals with disabilities or health concerns are offered the opportunity to participate fully in all educational programs and activities. STAR will assist instructors to comply with federal law by providing appropriate academic support services to qualified students. STAR can also assist instructors in determining the methods by which they can modify their courses or instructional activities to accommodate students with disabilities.

At the beginning of each semester, the instructor may receive an "Instructor Notification of a Section 504/ADA Accommodation" letter from a student that requests a meeting to discuss accommodations. This letter is to alert the instructor to a student who requires classroom accommodations. These letters are provided by STAR to students who have identified themselves to STAR as having a disability, provided STAR with appropriate documentation, and requested specific services and/or accommodations. They student is expected to provide the instructor with a copy of their letter.  Once this process is completed, the college has the responsibility to ensure that reasonable and appropriate accommodations are provided to the student. It is the instructor's responsibility to provide the services or accommodations listed in the "Instructor Notification of a Section 504/ADA Accommodation" letter or to work with STAR to provide these services or accommodations for the student.

Please be aware of the following:

  1. Students cannot be excluded from a course of study solely on the basis of disability
  2. Individual instructor's policies regarding prohibition of tape recorders in the classroom must be waived if tape recording is an appropriate accommodation for a qualified disabled student
  3. Faculty members may be required to provide alternative testing accommodations such as untimed testing and test scribing for qualified students
  4. Classroom videos or films must be closed-captioned (See special topic on close-captioned films and videos)
  5. If the student must have tests read and the test is administered online/computerized then the test must be sent to StAR in an electronic format or a printed out (hard copy) format so that we can have the test read to the student through technology (tape recording, etc.). If you are not sure how to convert a computerized/online test please click on the link that follows which will provide you with instructions from iCampus. (PDF).
  6. Timed tests that are administered through iCampus must have the student's test time set to accommodate the extra  time. iCampus can assist you with this procedure.

Closed Captioned Videos Required for Hearing Impaired or Deaf Students

Reminder: This memorandum applies to all full-time and all part-time faculty! Any videos or films shown in your class must be closed-captioned. This is a necessary accommodation for Joliet Junior College students who are deaf or hard of hearing. If an instructor chooses to use a film or video that is not closed captioned, then the instructor must do one of the following:

  • Send the film out to be captioned, or
  • Provide a script of the film or video to the student who is hard of hearing or deaf. You can have a student worker or your department's clerical support staff watch the film and make a script if necessary.

The Media Department assures that all VCR/VHS on carts are equipped for closed-captioning.

STAR Services Available at Romeoville Campus

  1. Notetaking Service
  2. Extended testing times
  3. Option of taking a test at Main Campus

Main Campus Guidelines for Handling a Seizure

  1. Instruct someone in the class to call Campus Police at extension 2234, 2301 or 2911
  2. Ask for assistance from the class to clear the area of desks, chairs and tables
  3. If possible, place a folded sweater, coat or sweatshirt under the student's head
  4. Please note the exact time the seizure started
  5. Keep calm. Reassure the class that the student having the seizure will be okay
  6. Do not place anything in the student's mouth. Never force anything hard between the teeth of a person having a seizure
  7. Be reassuring. The student may be embarrassed or uncomfortable when consciousness is regained after a seizure
  8. If the seizure ends and the student feels okay, he or she may continue with the class. If the student feels exhausted, Campus Police may call a family member to drive the student home
  9. If Campus Police are not available or not at the scene and the seizure lasts more than 10 minutes call for the Joliet Fire Ambulance by dialing 9-1-1.

Romeoville Campus Guidelines for Handling a Seizure

  1. Instruct someone in the class to call the main office
  2. Ask for assistance from the class to clear the area of desks, chairs, and tables
  3. If possible, place a folded sweater, coat, or sweatshirt under the student's head
  4. Please note the exact time the seizure started
  5. Keep calm. Reassure the class that the student having the seizure will be okay
  6. Do not place anything in the student's mouth. Never force anything hard between the teeth of a person having a seizure
  7. Be reassuring. The student may be embarrassed or uncomfortable when consciousness is regained after a seizure
  8. If the seizure ends and the student feels okay, he or she may continue with the class. If the student feels exhausted, the administration may call a family member to drive the student home
  9. If the seizure lasts more than 10 minutes call for the Romeoville Ambulance by dialing 9-1-1.

Making Your Class User Friendly For Students With Disabilities

Universal Design

Definition of Universal Design:

Universal design is an approach to designing course instruction, materials, and content to benefit people of all learning styles without adaptation or retrofitting. Universal design provides equal access to learning, not simply equal access to information. Universal design allows the student to control the method of accessing information while the teacher monitors the learning process and initiates any beneficial methods. Although this design enables the student to be self-sufficient, the instructor is ultimately responsible for imparting knowledge and facilitating the learning process. It should be noted that universal design does not remove academic challenges; it removes barriers to access. Simply stated, universal design is just good teaching.

Who benefits from Universal design?

  • Students who speak English as a second language
  • International students
  • Older students
  • Students with disabilities
  • A teacher whose teaching style is inconsistent with the student's preferred learning style
  • All students

Principles of Universal design:

  • Identify the essential course content
  • Clearly express the essential content and any feedback given to the student
  • Integrate natural supports for learning (using resources already found in the environment such as a study buddy)
  • Use a variety of instructional methods when presenting material
  • Allow for multiple methods of demonstrating understanding of essential course content
  • Use technology to increase accessibility
  • Invite students to meet or contact the course instructor with any questions or concerns

Removing Attitudinal Barriers

Offer help, but wait until it is accepted before giving it. Offering assistance to someone is only polite behavior. Giving help before it is accepted is rude. It can sometimes be unsafe, as when you grab the arm of someone using a crutch and the person loses his or her balance.

Talk directly to a disabled person, not to someone accompanying him or her. To ignore a person's existence in a group is very insensitive, and it is always rude for two people to discuss a third person who is also present. For example, if a person who is deaf is with an interpreter, talk to the deaf person and not the interpreter.

Treat a disabled person as a healthy person. Because an individual has a functional limitation does not mean that the individual is sick. Some disabilities have no accompanying health problems.

In general, accommodating the person with a disability in an environment may be more a matter of common sense and less a matter of changes in interaction than one might think. It is hoped that people will look at each disabled person as an individual when considering necessary changes, and it is recognized that helping to determine successful accommodations for the environment is the responsibility of all the persons involved.

Social Tips for Non-Disabled Folks

Converse with a handicapped individual in spirit, content and approach as you would with anyone else. Don't be embarrassed over common expressions that might seem awkward, such as asking a blind person whether she or he has seen a particular movie. The English language is filled with these expressions, and you are more likely to be sensitive to them than the person with whom you are talking.

Use graphic language when directing someone who is blind.

  • Say: "From where you are standing now, walk straight about 20 paces up a ramp, 20 paces to the building, then through two sets of double doors about two paces apart that swing out
  • Don't say: "The library is right over there."

Do not talk over or provide the words for someone who stutters or speaks with difficulty. Be patient and listen and let the person speak for themselves. It is appropriate to repeat the thought back to confirm communications of the ideas, but not to anticipate the thoughts and words and assume you know what the person is trying to express.

Always face a person with a hearing impairment. Be sure the person can see your lips: speak clearly without exaggerating lip movements.

When you attempt to help a person with a disability, consider first: Who was I helping? If the answer is yourself, then you are doing no one any favors. If the answer is clearly the person with the disability, then participate with him; don't do things to, at, or for them.

Refer to the person first and then the disability when you communicate about a disability issue.

  • A "blind person" becomes a "person who is blind"
  • A "disabled student" becomes a "student with a disability"
  • "Wheelchair bound" becomes a "person using a wheelchair"
  • "Confined to a wheelchair" becomes a "student who uses a wheelchair"
  • "Handicapped" becomes a "person with a disability"

Discourage and avoid language such as:

  • "You are stupid" - meaning retarded (retard)
  • "You are mental"
  • "Only an idiot would fail this test"

Working With Specific Disabilities

Chronic Illness or Pain

Some students have medical conditions that are "non-apparent" (not easy to see), but cause serious problems in an educational setting. Students can be disabled by chronic illnesses such as asthma, arthritis, diabetes, cardiopulmonary disease, cancer, chronic fatigue, immune deficiency syndrome, and seizure disorders. They can also be disabled by medical conditions that cause intense and continual pain. Examples are repetitive stress injury, post-surgery complications, and back problems.

Symptoms of all these conditions can be unpredictable and fluctuating. Students with chronic illness or pain may have limited energy and difficulty walking, standing, or sitting for a long time. Their pain, or the side effects of medications, may cause them to become dizzy or confused, making it hard for them to pay attention in classes, complete out of class assignments, do library research, and stay focused during exams.

Medical conditions, including medication side effects, can cause problems with fatigue and stamina, which adversely affect attention and concentration. For these reasons, students with medical conditions may need extended time on exams.

Students with some medical conditions may become dizzy and disoriented or may lack physical stamina. Thus, they may be unable to quickly get from one location on campus to another. For these reasons, occasionally a student may be late getting to class. Please be patient when this happens.

Preferential seating may be necessary to meet student needs. In a few situations, students may be unable to use the type of chair provided in a particular classroom. If an alternate seating arrangement is needed, contact STAR at extension 2230.

Instructors in courses requiring field trips or internships need to work with their students and STAR to be sure the students' needs are met. For example, the students may need assistance with transportation, special seating, or frequent rest breaks.

Some students experience recurrence of a chronic condition requiring bed rest and/or hospitalization. In most situations students are able to make up the incomplete work, but they may need an extension.

Persons with chronic pain, as well as those with certain other disabilities may be allowed extra days of absence. StAR has an agreement form for the instructor and student to sign which designates how many absences the student is able to miss without it affecting their grade or ability to pass the course.  Please contact StAR with any questions you might have about this form or its use. A doctor's excuse is not required when this form is in effect for the agreed upon number of absences. PDF Agreement Form

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

For obvious reasons, students who are deaf or hard of hearing face enormous obstacles in an academic setting. It is essential that instructors maintain effective communication with these students, though instructors may sometimes feel awkward working with sign language interpreters or resorting to visual communication techniques (body language, gestures, and facial expressions).

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing are not all alike. Some are extremely adept at reading lips, and others are not; some communicate orally and others use sign language, gestures, writing, or a combination of these methods. In class, students who are deaf may have sign language interpreters.

Students who have some degree of hearing may use a device to amplify sounds; in class they may rely on hearing aids alone, or they may use an assistive listening device. When students are using assistive listening devices, instructors may be asked to wear cordless lapel micro transmitters.

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing will request a notetaker for your class. Following are suggestions for improving the academic circumstances of students who are deaf or hard of hearing:

  • Always speak directly to the student, not to the student's sign language interpreter.
  • During class discussions, ensure that no more than one person speaks at a time.
  • When a class member asks a question, repeat the question before answering.
  • Loss of visual contact may mean loss of information for some students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Unless the students are using sign-language interpreters, be sure that the students have visual contact with you before you begin lecturing.
  • Avoid giving information while handing out papers or writing on a chalkboard.
  • Provide seats near the front of the class so students with hearing impairments can get as much from visual and auditory clues as possible.
  • Use captioned videos whenever possible. When showing uncaptioned videos, slides, or movies, provide an outline or summary in advance. If the classroom must be darkened, be sure that the student's interpreter is clearly visible.
  • When reading directly from text, provide an advance copy and pause slightly when interjecting information not in the text.
  • When working with the chalkboard or an overhead projection system, pause briefly so that the student may look first at the board or screen, and then at the interpreter, to see what is being said.

Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities have average or above average intelligence, but they also have severe information-processing deficits. These make them perform significantly worse in one or more academic areas (reading, writing, math) than might be expected, given their intelligence and performance in other academic areas.

Though all learning disabilities are different, students with learning disabilities report some common problems. These include slow and inefficient reading, slow essay writing with problems in organization and the mechanics of writing, and frequent errors in math calculation. The following suggestions may be helpful in working with students who have learning disabilities, and those who have head injuries:

  • Students with learning disabilities may take longer to complete exams and may need extended time.
  • Students with learning disabilities may also take longer to complete assignments, so it is particularly important to provide a detailed syllabus at the beginning of the class. The syllabus should list all assignments and due dates.
  • If possible, provide frequent opportunities for feedback. For example, weekly quizzes on assigned reading, instructor review of early drafts of essays, error analysis of tests. If a student's written exams seem far inferior to the student's class work, you can meet during your office hours for a discussion of the exam questions. This discussion will give you a better idea of what the student really knows and how you can help the student produce better exam answers or other written work.
  • Encourage students to contact you in order to clarify assignments. You might suggest that students rephrase the assignment and send the rephrased version to you via e-mail. You can then reply via e-mail, confirming that the student has understood the assignment or correct misunderstandings.
  • Well before the beginning of your class, leave a list of required and recommended texts at your department office, and tell the office staff that students with disabilities should be permitted to make copies of the list (or put the book list on your course website). Some students with learning disabilities will need to order their textbooks on tape or CD from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic and receiving the books takes time.
  • Be sensitive to students who, for disability-related reasons, may be unable to read aloud or answer questions when called on. If students make you aware of these difficulties, you and the students can discuss other ways they can meaningfully participate in class sessions. For example, volunteering comments or making short presentations.
  • Suggest that math students use graph paper (or lined paper turned sideways) to ensure neatness and avoid confusion when performing math calculations.

On structuring exams:

  • Compose exams in a way that makes them accessible for students with learning disabilities. Make sure that exams are clearly written or typed in large black letters or numbers, with spaces between lines and with double or triple spaces between items. To avoid visual confusion, avoid too many questions or math problems onto one page. Print questions on only one side of the paper.
  • Group similar types of questions together. For example, all true/false, all multiple-choice, all short answers. Leave several spaces between multiple-choice items.
  • Permit students to circle answers in the test booklet rather than darkening circles on a Scantron sheet.
  • Allow students to use extra paper in preparing answers for essay questions. (Encourage the students to turn in preliminary outlines or scrawled notes with the completed exam bluebooks.)

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a persistent pattern of frequent and severe inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsiveness. People with ADHD have many problems in academic settings. Some of these problems are similar to the problems of people with learning disabilities: slow and inefficient reading, slow essay writing, and frequent errors in math calculation and the mechanics of writing. Other problems are especially characteristic of ADHD. Students with ADHD often have serious problems with time management, task completion, organization, and memory.

For suggestions on working effectively with students who have ADHD, please review our section on learning disabilities, as well as the following:

  • Students with ADHD generally perform better if given a syllabus with clear explanations of tasks and specific due dates.
  • Whenever possible, start each lecture with a summary of material to be covered, or provide a written outline. If you use broad margins and triple space, students will be able to take notes directly onto the outline, which serves as an aid to organization. At the conclusion of each lecture, review major points.
  • Students with ADHD may tend to "drift" mentally during class, especially during long lectures. They are better able to concentrate when the class material is stimulating and the format varied. For example, lecture alternating with presentations and class discussion). If the class goes on for several hours, be sure to permit several breaks.
  • Students with ADHD are often distractible, so you should invite them to sit near the front of the class away from possible sources of distraction (for example, doors, windows, pencil sharpeners, and noisy heaters).
  • Avoid giving only oral directions for assignments, since ADHD students may miss them. Always write assignments on the chalkboard, or (even better) pass them out in written form.
  • Provide test sites that are relatively distraction-free. When students are taking tests with extended test time, do not ask them to move from one test site to another while they are taking the test.
  • For large projects or long papers, help the student break down the task into its separate parts. Set deadlines for each part; for example, there might be deadlines for the proposal of an essay topic, for a research plan, for the completion of research, for pre-writing to find the essay's thesis, for a writing plan or outline, for a first draft, and for a final edited manuscript.

Limited Manual Dexterity

Students may have limited manual dexterity as a result of illness or injury. In this age of the computer, increasing numbers of students are developing carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes them to suffer severe pain when they take notes or write exams.

Whether they handwrite, use computers, or dictate to a scribe, students with limited manual dexterity generally need extended time for examinations.

Students with limited manual dexterity need frequent rest breaks during exams since handwriting and typing are slow and painful and dictating to a scribe is difficult and mentally fatiguing.

During lab sessions, students with limited manual dexterity often need assistants to manipulate equipment, take notes, and complete lab reports.

Mobility Impairments

Mobility impairments can have many causes. For example, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injury. Students with mobility impairments have varying physical limitations and deal with their limitations in different ways; they may use crutches, braces, or a wheelchair.

Students who have upper body limitations may need notetakers, extended exam time, audiotape recorders or a scribe to record exam answers. STAR provides notetakers, scribes, and exam rooms where students can dictate into audiotape recorders or confer with a scribe without disturbing other exam takers. Below are some suggestions on working with students who have mobility impairments.

  • Students with upper body weakness may not be able to raise their hands to participate in class discussion. Establish eye contact with the students and call on them when they indicate that they wish to contribute.
  • A wheelchair is part of a student's personal space. No one should lean on it, touch it, or push it unless asked. Whenever you are talking one on one with a student in a wheelchair, you should be seated so the student does not have to peer upward at you.

Please understand that for reasons beyond their control, students with severe mobility impairments may on occasion be late to class. Some are unable to quickly move from one location to another due to architectural barriers, inadequate public transportation, or difficult terrain on campus.

Special seating arrangements may be necessary to meet student needs. Students may require special chairs, lowered tables on which to write, or spaces for wheelchairs. In laboratory courses, students who use wheelchairs may need lower lab tables to accommodate their chairs and allow for the manipulation of tools or other equipment. Please contact STAR if you need assistance in getting furniture to accommodate your student.

Instructors in courses requiring field trips or internships need to work with students and STAR to be sure the students' needs are met. For example, students may need assistance with transportation or special seating. These arrangements must be made in advance of the field trip. Not all mobility impairments are constant and unchanging; some students experience relapses requiring bed rest or hospitalization. In most cases, students are able to make up the incomplete work, but they may need time extensions.

Psychological Disabilities

Some students have psychological disabilities such as depression, bipolar disorder, or severe anxiety. Psychological disabilities complicate many areas of life, including education.

What is a Psychiatric Disability?

Persons with a "psychiatric disability" have a diagnosable mental illness causing severe disturbances in thinking, feeling, relating, and/or functional behaviors that result in a substantially diminished capacity to cope with daily life demands.

A psychiatric disability is a hidden disability; it is rarely apparent to others. However, students with a psychiatric disability may experience symptoms that interfere with their educational goals, which may include, yet are not limited to:

  • Heightened anxieties, fears, suspicions or blaming others
  • Marked personality change over time
  • Confused or disorganized thinking; strange or grandiose ideas
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
  • Extreme highs and/or lows in mood
  • Denial of obvious problems and/or a strong resistance to offers of help
  • Thinking or talking about suicide

Psychiatric Diagnoses

A student with a psychiatric disability may have one or more of the following psychiatric diagnoses (American Psychiatric Association, 1994):

This is a mood disorder that can begin at any age. Major depression may be characterized by a depressed mood most of each day, a lack of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, thoughts of suicide, insomnia, and consistent feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
Bipolar Affective Disorder (BAD, previously called Manic Depressive Disorder)
BAD is a mood disorder with revolving periods of mania and depression. In the manic phase, a person might experience inflated self esteem, high work and creative productivity and decreased need to sleep. In the depressed phase, the person would experience the symptoms of depression (see above).
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
BPD is a personality disorder which includes both mood disorder and thought disorder symptoms. This diagnosis has both biological and environmental determinants. Individuals diagnosed with BPD may have experienced childhood abuse and family dysfunction. They may experience mood fluctuations, insecurities and mistrust, distortion of perceptions, dissociations, and difficulty with interpersonal relationships and limited coping skills.
This is a thought disorder that can cause a person to experience difficulty with activities of daily living. The person may experience delusions, hallucinations and paranoia. Schizophrenic individuals typically demonstrate concrete thought processing and appreciate structure and routines.
Anxiety Disorders
These are mood disorders in which the individual responds to thoughts, situations, environments and/or people with fear and anxiety. Anxiety symptoms can disrupt a person's ability to concentrate and focus on tasks at hand. Symptoms may be in response to real or imagined fears. Specific anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social and Specific Phobias, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The following conditions are behavior or personality disorders excluded from coverage under the ADA: transvestitism, transsexualism, pedophilia, voyeurism, gender identity disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, and pyromania (Blacklock, 2001).

Functional Limitations

The following functional limitations related to psychiatric disabilities may affect academic performance and may require accommodations (Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 1997).

Difficulty with medication side effects
Side effects of psychiatric medications that affect academic performance include drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth and thirst, blurred vision, hand tremors, slowed response time, and difficulty initiating interpersonal contact.
Screening out environmental stimuli
An inability to block out sounds, sights, or odors that interfere with focusing on tasks; limited ability to tolerate noise and crowds. Sustaining concentration: restlessness, shortened attention span, distraction, and difficulty understanding or remembering verbal directions.
Maintaining stamina
Difficulty sustaining enough energy to spend a whole day of classes on campus; combating drowsiness due to medications.
Handling time pressures and multiple tasks
Difficulty managing assignments, prioritizing tasks and meeting deadlines; inability to do multitask work.
Interacting with others
Difficulty getting along, fitting in, contributing to group work, and reading social cues.
Fear of authority figures
Difficulty approaching instructors or teaching assistants.
Responding to negative feedback
Difficulty understanding and correctly interpreting criticism or poor grades; may not be able to separate person from task (personalization or defensiveness due to low self-esteem).
Responding to change
Difficulty coping with unexpected changes in coursework such as changes in the assignments, due dates or instructors; limited ability to tolerate interruptions.
Severe test anxiety
Such that the individual is rendered emotionally and physically unable to take the exam.

Instructional Strategies

Students with a history of psychiatric disabilities can be intelligent, sensitive, creative and interesting. You can employ strategies that will promote their success in your class. For example, address a variety of learning styles (e.g. auditory, visual, kinesthetic, experiential, or combination of styles).

  • Incorporate experiential learning activities
  • Be prepared to set behavioral expectations for all students in your class
  • Embrace diversity to include people with psychiatric disabilities

Speech Impairments

Speech impairments can have many causes: dysfluencies such as stuttering, neurological conditions such as Tourette's Syndrome, surgical removal of the larynx, stroke, traumatic head injury, and degenerative illness.

Students with speech impairments may communicate in various ways. Some students speak with their own voices, but slowly and with some lack of clarity; other students write notes, point to communication boards, use electronic speech synthesizers, or communicate through assistants who interpret their speech to other people.

Following are some suggestions on working with students who have speech impairments.

  • In communicating with students who have speech impairments, resist the temptation to indicate that you have understood when in fact you have not
  • Students with speech impairments are accustomed to being asked to repeat, so do not be afraid that you will offend them if you ask them to say it again or to spell words that you cannot decipher
  • When students have speech impairments, meet with them early in the semester to discuss their communication styles and how they can best function in your classroom. Will they be able to answer if you call on them? Will they be able to ask questions and make comments during class discussions, or do oral presentations? If not, are there other ways the students can demonstrate competency, for example, by completing an extra essay or project?
  • If a communication assistant accompanies the student to class, address your comments and questions to the student rather than the assistant

Visual Disabilities

Like students who are deaf or hard of hearing, students with visual disabilities are at a great disadvantage academically. Though they can hear lectures and discussions, students with visual disabilities are often frustrated by class syllabi, textbooks, chalkboard diagrams, overhead projections, films, maps, videos, printed exams, Scantron answer sheets, laboratory demonstrations, and Internet websites designed to be navigated by clicking on images.

Students with visual disabilities vary considerably. Some have no vision, others are able to see large shapes, and still others can read standard print if it is magnified. Depending on their disabilities, they use a variety of accommodations, equipment, and compensatory strategies. For example, many students with visual disabilities need extra time for exams and projects, and many use readers or scribes for exams.

Most students with visual disabilities take advantage of assistive technology. Computers can enlarge print, convert printed material to Braille, read the text on a computer screen aloud, or scan books, articles, and other printed materials and then read the scanned text aloud. Some students also use audiotape recorders, portable note taking devices, or talking calculators.

Following are some suggestions on instructing students with visual disabilities:

  • Students with visual disabilities may need preferential seating. Your student should be seated near the front of the class to hear clearly, what is being presented and to see as much as possible.
  • Well before the beginning of your class, leave a list of required and recommended texts at your department office, and tell the office staff that students with disabilities should be permitted to make copies of the list, or put the book list on your course website. Some students with visual disabilities will need to order their textbooks from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, and receiving taped books takes time.
  • When using an overhead projector with transparencies, use a large print size (at least 18 point). Provide additional time for students with visual disabilities to copy the material on the transparencies, or provide them with printed copies.
  • Whenever possible, modify the presentation of material to make it accessible.
  • Allow the student to audiotape lectures or use a notetaker.
  • Pace presentation of the material. If referring to a textbook or handout, allow time for students with visual disabilities to find the information.
  • When lecturing, avoid making statements that cannot be understood by people without sight. For example, "This diagram sums up what I am saying about statistics".
  • Do not worry about using words and phrases that refer to sight. For example, "See you later!". Such expressions are commonly used, and most people with visual disabilities do not find them offensive.
  • Read aloud everything that you write on the chalkboard. Verbally describe objects and processes whenever possible.
  • In making comparisons and analogies, use familiar objects that do not depend on prior visual knowledge. Foods and objects found around the house are good choices. You might say, for example, that a particular dance movement requires a lot of weaving and turning, "like getting from one side of the living room to the other on moving day".

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are head injuries typically caused by accidents (for example, motor vehicle accidents or falls) which result in physical, cognitive, and/or psychosocial impairments. Individuals with TBI face various difficulties and functional limitations based on the nature and location of the head injury. Some common consequences of head injuries include changes in cognition, attention, memory, judgment, and organization; physical, sensory, and perceptual impairments; and social, behavioral, and personality changes.

Students with TBI may eventually regain function, or must cope with permanent loss of function. Any one or a combination of these problems can impact learning and academic performance.

Students who are capable of returning to postsecondary education may require academic accommodations such as extended time during tests and reduced course loads. Students with head injuries may also benefit from instructional strategies that involve repetition, routine, and step-by-step instructions.

Students are the best source of information about their needs. Faculty should work with each student and the disability service staff to determine appropriate accommodations.

Accommodations for students with traumatic brain injury may include:

  • Extended time to complete tests or assignments
  • Notetakers/scribes/readers
  • Reduced course loads
  • Preferential registration for smaller classes
  • Copies of overheads/class notes
  • Accessibility to classroom, labs, facilities and field experiences if needed
  • Seizure precautions if needed
  • Tape-recorded lectures, books, and printed course material on audiotape

Asperger Syndrome

Asperger syndrome (A.S.) is characterized by impairment in social interaction. Individuals with A.S may be eager to relate to others, but they do not have the skills. Social communication problems can include failure to make eye contact, standing too close, staring, abnormal body posture and failure to understand gestures and facial expressions. They may have difficulty with the rules of conversation. They may interrupt or talk over the speech of others, and may make irrelevant comments.

Students with Asperger syndrome are of average to above average intelligence and may appear quite capable. They may have an advanced vocabulary and frequently talk incessantly about a favorite subject. Academic problem areas for A.S. students are in reading comprehension, problem solving, organization, concept development, and making inferences and judgment. They do not understand sarcasm, figurative language, or jokes. Their thinking tends to be rigid, so they have trouble with change or failure and it is hard for them to learn from their mistakes. Problems with motor coordination can result in poor handwriting. A.S. students may also be inattentive and easily distracted and frequently suffer from anxiety.

Following are some suggestions that should be helpful in working with students with Asperger syndrome:

  • Preferential front row seating will be important for the A.S. student
  • Standing near the student's desk during a question and answer session will help him to concentrate
  • They will need a structured environment, so a syllabus that you will follow will be necessary
  • Provide clear expectations and rules for classroom behavior
  • Limit preservative discussions and questions
  • Use nonverbal cues to get attention
  • Be as concrete as possible in presenting new concepts and abstract material
  • Use graphic organizers such as semantic maps
  • Provide direct instruction as well as modeling
  • Avoid verbal overload
  • Capitalize on strengths such as memory
  • Do not assume that the student has understood what they have read. Check for comprehension, supplement instruction and use visual supports
  • Provide positive praise
Revised 08/2014

© 2012 Joliet Junior College

Joliet Junior College
1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, IL 60431-8938
Phone: (815) 729-9020