FAQs for Faculty
How do I know what I should do for a student with a disability?
Students with disabilities who experience barriers to their full participation should register with the Disability Resource Center. If the student is registered with our office, the student will be provided an accommodation memo. The student should share the memo with you and discuss the barriers they are experiencing. The memo will outline the accommodations that you will need to provide.
What if a student requests something that is not on the accommodation memo?
Contact the Disability Resource Center. It is not always possible to predict the precise interaction between a student's disability and a specific course requirement; as a result, it may be necessary to amend the memo. In consultation with you and the student, the Disability Resource Center will be able to advise you as to what might be the best environmental/academic adaptation.
Should I waive assignments and course requirements for students with disabilities?
No. Students with disabilities should be held to the same standards as any other student. Accommodations should not alter the course or program in any substantive manner.
Do field experiences have to be accessible to students with disabilities?
Yes. Equal access must be provided to all components of a class or program even if it is not a required element. This would include labs, field trips, transportation provided by MSU and internships.
If I don't feel comfortable providing an accommodation or I feel it alters the nature of the course/program, whom should I contact?
Please contact the DRC. If an accommodation alters or compromises fundamental course or program goals, you have the right to appeal the provision of those accommodations; however, recommended accommodations should be provided until the appeal is resolved.
A faculty member should first address his/her concerns through discussions with DRC staff and may initiate a formal appeal of a recommended academic accommodation by submitting a written statement to the Provost, clearly documenting the fundamental academic goals and demonstrating that the recommended accommodation compromises those goals.
What is universal design?
Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. It benefits people of all ages and abilities.
The mission and purpose of the Disability Resource Center is driven by principles of universal design and the socio-political model of disability. Through ongoing exploration and consultation provided to faculty, administration and departments within the University, the Disability Resource Center strives to promote this systemic change.
How can I incorporate universal design in my courses?
Think about those with disabilities and other diverse groups during the planning stages of your course, program or event. How welcoming and usable is the environment for everyone who may participate? Here are some basic suggestions for universal design:
- Focus on course content, then design.
- Outline your agenda at the beginning of your presentation so that participants expect and receive a framework.
- Provide information in order of importance or in chronological order. Allow for simple navigation within your course or website.
- Select course management tools carefully. Ensure that all of your materials can be easily provided in alternative formats. Post presentation notes, handouts and summary notes on an accessible website so participants can obtain them prior to the lecture.
- Make handwritten information available in a text format.
- Use a teaching methodology that incorporates all learning styles.
- Provide visuals with verbal descriptions. If the content is visual, make it auditory.
- Choose color and font carefully for your online course and website.
- Model and teach good discussion board etiquette.
- Share examples and rubrics for assignments.
- Provide students choices when making assignments/projects.
- Provide feedback and corrective opportunities often.
- Create a practice exam.
- Have high expectations for all students.
(Adapted from Project PACE, University of Arkansas — Little Rock)
For more resources, visit Universal Design for Instruction and Faculty Focus on Course Redesign.
If universally designing my course isn't legally required, how would approaching my work from a universal design perspective make a difference to me?
Our programs and services must be accessible and usable to everyone. However, how you provide equal access is not necessarily defined. Universal design offers a seamless approach to providing access, which allows the University to be in compliance while implementing approaches to design that are more usable by everyone.
Incorporating the principles of universal design into a class enhances the accessibility of the curriculum to a variety of diverse learners: minority students, second-language learners, returning students, students with disabilities, etc. While re-envisioning the design of a course may seem overwhelming at first, experience has shown that once faculty members experience the increase in student engagement and learning that is achieved through a universally designed curriculum, there is little desire in returning to the traditional lecture format.
Could incorporating principles of universal design compromise the integrity of our programs at Missouri State University?
Universal design is not about removing the challenge of a course or degree plan. In fact, a socio-political perspective would take issue with the idea that things need to be easier for people with disabilities to succeed.
Reducing the challenge would be contrary to this philosophy. Sometimes people get the idea that proponents of universal design are saying that environments and courses should be designed so that everyone should succeed. This is a misinterpretation.
Our goals are the same as the goals of the University. We want to engage all learners in ways that support and increase their fluency with the subject at hand. We want all students to get the full experience.
What is disability studies?
Disability Studies refers generally to the examination of disability as a social, cultural and political phenomenon. In contrasts to clinical, medical or therapeutic perspectives on disability, disability studies focuses on how disability is defined and represented in society. It rejects the perception of disability as a functional impairment that limits a person’s activities. From this perspective, disability is not a characteristic that exists in the person or a problem of the person that must be “fixed” or “cured.” Instead, disability is a construct that finds its meaning within a social and cultural context.
– THE CENTER ON HUMAN POLICY, LAW AND DISABILITY STUDES, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY
Does MSU have a disability studies program?
Yes! The Faculty Senate approved the Disability Studies minor during the 2013-2014 academic year. To learn more, visit Disability Studies.
How can I incorporate disability studies into my curricula?
As the University moves toward a model of inclusive excellence, we must embrace disability as an integral part of our diversity and recognize the importance of instilling this information in our teaching and in our students. The DRC staff is available to consult and explore how you can infuse this rich history and culture into your curricula. To start a consultation, please feel free to contact us.
A few items to consider include:
- What is it like to live with a disability?
- How does our society perceive disability?
- How much do you know about disability culture and history and do you share this information when you teach diversity in your course?
- How does disability intersect your field of study?
- Do your students know about these issues in disability studies?
You can also visit our Disability Studies Resources page for more information.