In most ways, students with disabilities are just like other students. They need
to be challenged, to be part of a group, to be accepted, and to succeed. Students
with disabilities wish to be treated as individuals and not be singled out or stereotyped
because of their disabilities.
The following general considerations are critical in assisting students with disabilities
and assuring that they have the opportunity to meet their individual educational goals:
- Remember that students with disabilities are "experts" regarding their condition.
If you have questions concerning accommodations, the student will serve as your most
valuable source. If further explanation is needed, feel free to contact Disabilities
- Few disabilities affect all areas of functioning. Most students find only a narrow
range of activity affected by their particular disability.
- Many persons find themselves feeling awkward, fearful, or self-conscious when interacting
with persons with disabilities. Remember that simple common sense, courtesy, caring
and experience will reduce these initial reactions.
- Avoid actions that call attention to disabilities. For example, insisting that a
student with a spinal cord injury sit "up front" where attention is drawn to their
disability, or discussing the disability in front of the class.
- It is important to make a statement at the beginning of each term that invites students
to discuss their needs with you individually and privately. Include this invitation
on your course syllabus.
- Misconceptions and/or lack of knowledge concerning persons with disabilities occur
frequently throughout society. Remember that the term "disabled" is not synonymous
with cognitive impairment.
- Remember that some students with disabilities will avoid the process of identification
and/or accommodation to avoid being "labeled."
- Language and/or behavior by instructors and staff members that serves to reaffirm
inaccurate assumptions about persons with disabilities may cause offense, and serve
to substantially impede the full and equal participation of students with disabilities
in classroom and other activities. By changing how you communicate with people with
disabilities, and by modifying a few features of your environment, you can show that
you are committed to teaching a diverse population of students, including those with
Some Suggestions Include:
- Use "people first" language - The person precedes the disability, both figuratively
and literally. For example, students with disabilities not disabled students.
- Use disability rather than handicap - The word "disability" refers to the functional
limitation attributable to a physical or mental impairment. The word "handicap" refers
to the stigmatizing social consequences of the disability. For example, stairs, narrow
doorways, and curbs are handicaps to people with disabilities who use wheelchairs.
The term "accessible entrance" or "accessible parking" is preferred over "handicap
entrance" or "handicap parking."
- Avoid pity - People with disabilities are not victims nor should they be described
as inspirational or courageous just because they have a disability.
- Do not use adjectives as nouns - Use an adjective as a description, not a category
or group, (i.e., person with epilepsy not an epileptic).
For further information on proper etiquette for discussing or interacting with people
with various types of disabilities, please contact Disabilities Services at (231)