Accommodations in the Classroom: Not Just an Issue for People with Disabilities

Every day we accommodate for our own incapacities. We also manage to accommodate for the incapacities of others. I was reminded of this when I came cross this email from a middle school principal to the parents of enrolled students.

Accommodations Letter from Principal

What I found ironic is that the email itself did not address the fact that there is a student among the 12 – 13 year olds who is blind. The principal’s concern was focused on the other students and the parents of the other students — allergies and fears of animals.

I applaud the comprehensive concern and was so intrigued by it that I decided to look at accommodations in the classroom not from the student’s with disability perspective but from the students and faculty who learn, teach and live around him and how together, we can all create environments where students thrive.

Three Critical Success Factors for Accommodations in the Classroom

When we compared our own experiences at NWI Global with research of attitudes in the classroom, readiness by school administration, and compliance to laws, we found there to be three factors that play into the successes of schools enrolling students with disabilities.

1. Process: Being Prepared for Enrolling Students with Disabilities

The email from the middle school principal was sent in August. This particular middle school is located in Northern Virginia — an area known to welcome military families frequently throughout the school year. I’m not making the assumption that this student is military but I am drawing the comparison to the unforeseen reasons why any school, K-12 or higher education, needs to be ready to manage the accommodations of students with disabilities.

In fact, in the United States and in accordance with Title III of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, public and private schools and colleges & universities must provide an equal opportunity to students with disabilities, so they can participate in and benefit fully from school services and classroom instruction. This is not an option, but that doesn’t mean it’s happening in all educational instructions throughout the country.

A proactive process for handling accommodations in the classroom will inevitably make relationships between peers, between student and faculty, and between school and parent a much smoother and more productive experience.

2. Culture: Attitudes Surrounding Accommodations in the Classroom

A program for managing accommodations is one that can be and should be replicated and the repetition will help to build greater understanding, tolerance, and cooperation among all of the stakeholder groups comprising an educational institution. These characteristics and attitudes will build a culture that is supportive of diversity and disability.

Despite the fact that accommodations are beneficial to the wellbeing of students with disabilities and their success in the classroom, a recent Rowan University study found that a significant number of students at the college and university level may not avail themselves to accommodation services.

The study found that one of the factors that may influence the decision of college students with disabilities to request or avoid accommodations is the attitudes of surrounding students and faculty; hence, researchers have strongly suggested that ensuring a more tolerate and accepting culture for diversity, including disability, will in turn create more positive attitudes towards requesting accommodations for students with disabilities and help to make their educational experiences successful ones.

3. Compliance: Defining Accommodations and Requirements

The aforementioned study of attitudes toward accommodations in the classroom, surveyed its respondents to understand the types of accommodations that they were requesting or in some cases availing due to the tenuous culture.

Below is a chart of responses:

Accommodations Survey

From our own experiences, we can add translation and interpretation services for the non-English speaking, Deaf, and hard of hearing communities which can come in the form of spoken and sign language interpreters, remote captioning (CART), and other technologies to assist in the communication translation/interpretation process.

Service Dog

No matter what the specific accommodation, whether digital book or a Golden-doodle, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses, services providers, and schools, colleges & universities to provide equal opportunity to persons with disabilities.

Further, any of these types of organizations receiving federal financial assistance in the form of grants, tax payer funded programs and/or student tuition assistance must be ready to offer necessary accommodations to any student who is requesting and who shows need.

Creating Success for Schools and All Students

For more information on how you can create successful environments where accommodations come into play, we suggest you contact NWI Global to review your current state and how we can help you prepare a proactive process for future enrollment of students with disabilities, to share experiences about creating positive attitudes around accommodations, and to ensure that your school is compliance with ADA and Section 504 requirements.

Additionally, here are some links to resources that you may find useful and/or were referenced in this article:

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