Teaching Students with Disabilities

The University is committed to reflecting and respecting the diversity of students in all academic programs. This commitment translates into proactive services for providing the reasonable accommodations needed to ensure students with disabilities equal access to educational opportunities.

While the University is ready to provide reasonable accommodations, the student must make an effort to advocate for and avail himself/herself of all services and agreed upon accommodations.

Students with disabilities constitute a population of scholastically-qualified students who present some special instructional needs to the University as a whole and to individual instructors. This resource guide provides University of New England faculty with practical information about teaching these students. Students with disabilities are a growing group within the academic community. Nationally, the number of first-year students with disabilities who have enrolled in college in the last 10 years has tripled to between 7 and 8 percent.

The University of New England is committed to reflecting and respecting the diversity of students in academic programs. This commitment translates into the need for proactive services that provide the reasonable accommodations needed to ensure students with disabilities equal access to educational opportunities.

Disabilities and the Law

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 are federal laws mandating the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities, and requiring institutions such as UNE to provide reasonable accommodations unless they pose an undue hardship for the institution.

A person with a disability is anyone who either has, used to have, or is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially affects a major life activity (such as seeing, walking, working, or learning). A qualified person with a disability is someone with a disability whose experience, education, and training enable the person to meet program requirements, with or without a reasonable accommodation. An accommodation is any change in the learning environment, or in the way things are customarily done, that enables a person with a disability to have equal educational opportunities.

Some disabilities are readily apparent, such as mobility impairment or hand limitations. "Hidden" disabilities, that are not usually noticeable through casual observation, include learning disabilities, chronic illnesses, hearing or visual impairments, and psychological disorders.

Despite physical, learning, sensory, or behavioral differences, students with disabilities are, first and foremost, students. Each comes to the University with a unique set of abilities and experiences. Although students with disabilities may learn in different ways or use different tools, these differences in no way imply that their capacity for college-level work is inferior or limited.

Students with disabilities who have been admitted to the University have matriculated through the same process and have met the same admissions requirements as other students.

Accommodating students with disabilities does not mean setting different standards for them than for the rest of your students. It may, however, mean:

Modifying the way course information is presented
Modifying methods of testing and evaluation to allow students to demonstrate what they know
Allowing students to use assistive technology such as digital recorders or voice amplifiers
Adapting administrative procedures or removing architectural barriers

Recent Legal Decisions

Lawsuits brought under the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA have created a growing body of case law clarifying the academic obligations involved in educating students with disabilities.

These cases have firmly established that the University must provide the accommodation once the student has self-identified as having a disability. Students are not required to assume the responsibility for securing a necessary accommodation. The University is required to provide reasonable accommodations for the disability when requested by the student so that the student has an equal opportunity to participate in the courses, activities or programs.

Cost is Not an Undue Hardship

The University may not charge students for necessary accommodations as the expense of an accommodation such as a recorded text book or voice amplifier is rarely considered an "undue hardship" under existing law. In determining what constitutes an undue hardship, courts and regulatory agencies view the entire financial resources of the University rather than a single department or division's resources.

Classrooms Must Be Accessible

A classroom’s location must be changed to provide accessibility for a student with a mobility impairment. The University does not need to make every classroom accessible but must provide for the participation of students with disabilities when "viewed in its entirety."

Extended Time is Reasonable

Extended time is a reasonable accommodation for a student whose medical or psychological documentation specifically calls for that accommodation. The University is required to ensure that the student is provided additional time to complete tests or course work in order to provide an equal opportunity for the student unless the purpose of the assignment is to assess performance under time constraints.

Altering the Form of an Exam

The form of an exam may be altered if the testing procedure puts a student with a disability at a disadvantage based on the student’s documented disability, unless the purpose of the testing format is to measure a particular skill.

Accommodation Must be Documented

The University may refuse to grant a student’s request for an accommodation which is not specifically recommended in the student’s documentation.

Handouts in Alternate Format

If a student with a visual impairment is enrolled in a class, the instructor or the office that coordinates academic accommodations must provide all handouts in an alternate format, normally the format requested by the student (for example: large print or computer disk). These handouts must be made available on the same day they are distributed to non-disabled students, provided that the student with a disability made the request in a timely manner.

Material on Reserve in Library

Course material placed on reserve in the Library must be made available in alternate formats for students who have visual impairments and are enrolled in the course.

Academic Freedom

Academic freedom does not permit instructors to decide that they will not provide special aids and services for students in the classroom with documented disabilities.

Testing Accommodations

Accommodations for testing must be provided for a student with a documented disability.

Personal Services and Aids

The University is not required to provide personal services such as attendant care, or personal aids such as wheelchairs or eyeglasses.

Preadmission Inquiries

Preadmission inquiries by the University as to whether an applicant has a disability are not permissible.

Developing a Partnership

The first step in teaching students with disabilities seems obvious: treat these students as you would other students. They have come to college for the same reasons others do, and, like other students, they present a wide variety of backgrounds, abilities and academic skills. Despite good intentions, faculty sometimes treats students with disabilities differently than they treat other students. Revising your perceptions and attitudes is perhaps the most important accommodation for a student with a disability.

Encourage students to talk to you about their academic needs and problems to the extent they are comfortable. The student’s own suggestions, based on his or her experience with the disability, will prove invaluable as you adapt your instruction to meet the student’s needs. Up to this point in their education, teams of specialists, classroom teachers, and parents may have planned any help needed by students. At the college level, seeking disability accommodations becomes the responsibility of the student. Students who fear possible discrimination on the part of faculty may find this responsibility difficult. Making a general announcement in class that you are willing to work with any student who needs accommodation for a disability can be of great help to these students.

Disabling Stereotypes

Negative attitudes toward students with disabilities are often more disabling than the disability itself. Negative attitudes are often based on the following myths and stereotypes about students with disabilities.

Myth Fact
Students with disabilities who request accommodations are looking for a way to do less work. Most students with disabilities have to work much harder than non-disabled students. Many disabled students don’t want to ask for help.
Providing accommodations means lowering academic standards. The law does not require lowering standards for students with disabilities. Accommodations allow students with disabilities to meet the academic standards.
Accommodations give students with disabilities an unfair advantage over other students. Providing accommodations simply “levels the playing field” for students with disabilities. Barriers created by a student’s disability must be removed in order to fairly evaluate the academic performance of students with disabilities.
If a student with a disability can’t perform like non-disabled students, she or he doesn’t belong in college. Students with disabilities have the same intellectual potential as non-disabled students. If they meet admissions and program standards, they are entitled by law to attend and receive accommodations.
Students with learning disabilities aren’t intellectually capable of doing college work. By definition, students with learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence. The process by which they learn, not their ability to learn, is what is impaired.
Providing accommodations takes too much time for faculty and costs too much. 90% of all accommodations require minimal time and money. Many of the teaching adjustments that help students with disabilities are strategies that help non-disabled students learn better, too.

Communicating with Students with Disabilities

Effective communication that reflects respect for the individuality and dignity of students with disabilities is a prerequisite to effectively teaching these students. Most people with disabilities prefer that others focus on their individuality, not their disability, unless of course it is the topic of discussion. The term "handicapped" is falling into disuse and should be avoided. The terms "able-bodied," "physically challenged," and "differently abled" are also discouraged.

Following are recommendations for respectful communication.

Avoid using the article "the" with an adjective to describe people with disabilities. The preferred usage is "people with disabilities," which stresses the essential humanity of individuals and avoids objectification. Alternatively, the term "disabled people" is acceptable, but note that it still defines people as disabled first, and as people second. For example, use "people who are deaf," not "the deaf" or "deaf people."

If it is appropriate to refer to a person’s disability, try to use the correct terminology for the specific disability. For example:
People who are: blind, visually impaired; deaf, hard of hearing; mentally retarded; non-disabled; physically disabled.

People with or who have: cerebral palsy; mental illness; paraplegia; quadriplegia; partial hearing loss; seizure disorder; specific learning disability; speech impairment.

Avoid implying either that people with disabilities are to be pitied, feared, or ignored, or that they are somehow more heroic, courageous, patient, or "special" than others, or that they are "abnormal."

Effective communication that reflects respect for the individuality and dignity of students with disabilities is a prerequisite to effectively teaching these students. Most people with disabilities prefer that others focus on their individuality, not their disability, unless of course it is the topic of discussion. The term "handicapped" is falling into disuse and should be avoided. The terms "able-bodied," "physically challenged," and "differently abled" are also discouraged.

Following are recommendations for respectful communication.

Avoid using the article "the" with an adjective to describe people with disabilities. The preferred usage is "people with disabilities," which stresses the essential humanity of individuals and avoids objectification. Alternatively, the term "disabled people" is acceptable, but note that it still defines people as disabled first, and as people second. For example, use "people who are deaf," not "the deaf" or "deaf people."

If it is appropriate to refer to a person’s disability, try to use the correct terminology for the specific disability. For example:
People who are: blind, visually impaired; deaf, hard of hearing; mentally retarded; non-disabled; physically disabled.

People with or who have: cerebral palsy; mental illness; paraplegia; quadriplegia; partial hearing loss; seizure disorder; specific learning disability; speech impairment.

Avoid implying either that people with disabilities are to be pitied, feared, or ignored, or that they are somehow more heroic, courageous, patient, or "special" than others, or that they are "abnormal."

Do Not Say...
Trina held her own while swimming with normal students.

But Instead Say...
Trina qualified for her "Swimmer" certificate last week.

A person in a wheelchair is a "wheelchair user" or "uses a wheelchair." Avoid terms that define the disability as a limitation, such as "confined to a wheelchair," or "wheelchair-bound." A wheelchair liberates; it doesn’t confine.

Avoid words like "victim" or "sufferer" to refer to a person who has or had a disease or disability. This term dehumanizes the person and emphasizes powerlessness. For example, refer to a "person with AIDS," not an "AIDS victim," or a "person who has cancer," not "a cancer sufferer."

Suggestions for Interacting with a Student with a Disability

  • Speak directly to the person rather than to a companion or interpreter who may be along.
  • Offer assistance if you want, but wait until your offer is accepted before you help.
  • Give whole, unhurried attention when talking with someone who has difficulty speaking. When necessary, ask short questions that require short answers or a nod of the head. Don’t pretend to understand if you’re having difficulty doing so. Repeat what you do understand to confirm it.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it may take a person with a disability to get things done and said. Let the person set the pace in walking and talking.
  • When talking with someone who uses a wheelchair, position yourself at the person’s level, if possible. Don’t lean against the chair — it is an extension of the person’s body and you don't want to violate their personal space.
  • When greeting someone with a severe loss of vision, identify yourself and others with you. Before walking with the person, alert him or her to your presence, then let the person take your arm. This will allow you to guide rather than propel the person.

Students with Disabilities at UNE

Identifying Students with Disabilities

A student with a disability is responsible for informing the University about the disability, requesting accommodations in a timely manner, and at his or her expense, providing current, appropriate documentation of the disability from a qualified medical or other licensed professional.

The student’s documentation and related information about his or her specific disability are regarded by law as confidential and are maintained in the Student Access Center. The Student Access Center coordinator is responsible for coordinating services for students with disabilities. The coordinator reviews the documentation to verify the student’s disability and need for accommodations. Faculty are not expected to evaluate the appropriateness of a student’s documentation. The role of a faculty member is to work with the student and the coordinator to eliminate barriers to the student’s education. If a student chooses to share information about his or her disability with a faculty member, the information must be treated as confidential and not disclosed to others.

A faculty member can neither suggest the presence of a disability to account for poor academic performance, nor ask a student if he or she has a disability. Should an instructor suspect that a disability negatively affects scholastic performance, the instructor can ask the student if he or she knows the cause for the academic difficulty and whether the University can do anything to help. The instructor can then advise the student to avail themselves of the appropriate campus resource such as the Student Academic Success Center, the Counseling Center, or the Student Access Center.

If a student asks you for accommodations because of a disability and has not already contacted the Student Access Center coordinator, refer the student to our office. The coordinator can be contacted on the Biddeford Campus at (207) 283-0171, extension 2815, or on the Portland Campus at (207) 797-7261, extension 4418.

Registering with the Student Access Center

Students with disabilities who require accommodations must register with the Student Access Center and request accommodations in a timely manner prior to the start of classes or as soon as the disability becomes known. Students will be required to participate in an intake interview, complete an application and provide documentation from a qualified professional which supports the presence of a disability and the need for accommodations. After the intake interview and review of the student’s documentation, the coordinator of the Student Access Center will determine the student’s eligibility for registration. Upon determination of eligibility, the coordinator will complete a Notification of Registration and Accommodation(s) Sought and Granted. This form will also be signed by the student as acknowledgment of the granted accommodations. The Student Access Center will thoroughly review with the student:

  1. What accommodations will be provided.
  2. Why they will be provided.
  3. When they will be provided.
  4. Who is responsible for providing them.
  5. How they will be provided.

Each student will receive a copy of the Student Access Center Policies and Procedures Manual.

Responsibilities of the Student and Faculty

Responsibilities of a Student with a Disability

A student with a disability has the responsibility to:

  1. Self-identify concerning disability status to the Student Access Center in a timely manner.
  2. Provide disability documentation.
  3. Request necessary accommodations.


Responsibilities of the Faculty Member
If notified in writing

A faculty member has the responsibility to cooperate with the Student Access Center in providing authorized accommodations in a reasonable and timely manner. Faculty should meet with any student who provides a letter of request for accommodations from the coordinator to establish the means of providing accommodation; for distance learners, this contact can occur by telephone. The coordinator arranges for most accommodations, such as relocating a class to an accessible location, arranging services such as note takers or readers, obtaining adaptive equipment, and providing course materials in alternate formats. Faculty are responsible for accommodations that involve only the faculty member and the student—for example, preferential class seating and extended time for the completion of course assignments.

If not notified in writing

If a student requests accommodations without the authorized letter of request, the faculty member should refer the student to the Student Access Center. If the disability is visible and accommodations appear appropriate, the faculty member should also refer the student to the Student Access Center.

If you question the appropriateness of accommodations

If a faculty member has questions about the appropriateness of certain accommodations, the Student Access Center coordinator should be contacted for further clarification. The faculty member should continue to provide accommodations while the issue is being resolved. When a student uses a digital recorder in the classroom, it is appropriate to ask the student to sign an agreement not to disseminate the recording or otherwise obstruct the copyright if desired by the faculty member.

Shared responsibilities

Students with disabilities have the first responsibility to report their needs to the faculty in a timely manner as faculty are not required to anticipate special student needs. The faculty can open the door to a student with a disability by including a statement on the course syllabus reminding them that to inform faculty in a timely manner of their need for accommodations. By including a statement on the course syllabus the faculty assists the student and contributes to the University’s obligations to inform students of their willingness to comply with the appropriate federal and state laws. Please include one of the sample statements below on every course syllabus.

Sample Syllabus Statements
  1. The University of New England will make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Students should notify the Student Access Center and the instructor of any special needs. Timely accommodations are dependent on early registration.
  2. If you have specific physical, psychiatric or learning disabilities and require accommodations, please let me know as soon as possible so that your learning needs may be appropriately met in a timely manner. You will need to provide documentation of your disability to the Student Access Center before classroom accommodations can be granted.
  3. Any student eligible for and needing academic adjustments or accommodations because of a disability is requested to speak with the professor within the first two weeks of class. Registration with the Student Access Center is required before accommodation requests can be granted.
  4. The University, in recognition of state and federal laws, will accommodate any student with a documented disability. If you have a disability which may impact your work in this class and for which you require accommodations, please see me after registering with the Student Access Center to arrange the needed accommodations.

If a student waits until the day of an exam to ask for extended time or a separate testing area, the student has not made the request in a timely manner. If the student does not ask for extended time until late in the semester, the instructor is only required to provide accommodations from that time on and does not need to offer make-up exams.

When a student discloses a disability, faculty members should ask what they can do to facilitate learning. Often it is as simple as allowing the student to sit in the front of the class. Faculty members should keep students with disabilities in mind when making special class arrangements such as field trips.

Faculty members may not discourage students from specific fields of study if the student meets the admission requirements and maintains the appropriate grades and is otherwise qualified. Faculty are responsible for providing an education, and the student is responsible for meeting the academic requirements.

Student Access Center Test Center

The most frequently requested and granted accommodations involve test taking. The Student Access Center Test Center provides a proctored test environment for students registered with the Student Access Center who require test accommodations such as extended time, a quiet test environment, reader/scribe service, and computer access.

Providing the student with the proper test accommodations and assuring test security are essential concerns of the Student Access Center Test Center. The Student Access Center Test Center is located in the lower level of Stella Maris, Room 128. The Test Center is open Monday through Friday, except during University holidays, and can be reached at extension 2119. The Test Center is staffed by an administrative secretary/proctor and work-study students under the administrative secretary’s supervision from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Faculty and the Student’s Test Accommodations

Student registration with DS is based on the presence of a documented disability which has a significant impact on their ability to equally access the University’s educational environment or services. The purpose of accommodations is to provide equal access and doesn’t ensure success or require preferential treatment. Test accommodations are frequently utilized to provide equal access when evaluating a student’s knowledge in a course. Test accommodations frequently granted in the post-secondary environment include extra time (time and a half or double time); a quiet, distraction-reduced test environment; computer access for essay exams; a test reader; a test scribe, or alternative format of the exam. Extended time may not be considered a reasonable accommodation if time is an essential element of the skill being evaluated. The use of a calculator may not be considered a reasonable accommodation if computation is the essential element being evaluated.

The course instructor is obviously the best person to oversee the student’s test taking as only they can interpret and clarify any questions a student may have. Instructors always have the prerogative to supervise a student’s test taking. Students are advised to meet early in the semester with their instructors in order to discuss their test accommodations and to work out mutually satisfactory provisions for the taking of exams, tests and quizzes. When an instructor, because of time constraints or the nature of the accommodations, is unable to provide the student with the accommodations granted, the Student Access Center offers students and their instructors the option of having exams administered in the Student Access Center Test Center.

Request for Test Accommodations: Faculty Responsibility

Instructors are required to complete a portion of the Request for Test Accommodations (Appendix 2) form for each student. This form is initiated by the Student Access Center by request of the student. The purpose of the form is to:

  • Verify the student’s registration with the Student Access Center.
  • Note the test accommodations granted to the student.
  • Document the instructor’s test transportation preferences.

It is the student’s responsibility to:

  • Discuss all contingencies, such as regular, midterm and final exams and quizzes with their instructor.
  • Share this form with faculty to complete their portion of the form.
  • Return the form to the Student Access Center.

Test transportation options include:

  • For delivery of the test, the instructor drops the test off at the Student Access Center or the Test Center, or the student picks up the test from the instructor in a sealed envelope to take to the Test Center.
  • For return, the instructor picks up the test from the Test Center or Test Center staff return the test to the instructor’s office or mailbox. Security envelopes are available to students one at a time and to instructors at the Student Access Center or the Test Center.

Miscellaneous Faculty Information

The instructor should complete the form, Request for Special Materials found in each security envelope. This form provides important information to the test proctor with regard to materials students are permitted to use while testing such as textbooks, notes, a calculator, etc.

Test Center proctors will not answer a student's request for test clarification. The student is welcome to contact the instructor by phone to seek clarification or interpretation. If the instructor is not available, the student can attach a written note which will be included with their test.

When a Test Center proctor observes or suspects a student of an academic honor code violation while in the Test Center, the proctor will complete a Test Incident Report which will be included in the return security envelope. Further action is at the discretion of the instructor.

Every attempt will be made to schedule the test on the same day and time as scheduled in the classroom. This may not always be possible due to the volume of exams and various scheduling conflicts.

Test accommodations on the Portland Campus are developed between academic departments and the Student Access Center.

Accommodation Procedure

As part of the continuing effort to make UNE's campuses accessible, the University has designated the coordinator of the Student Access Center responsible for coordinating services for students with disabilities. Students are encouraged to meet with the coordinator to develop a plan for their academic accommodations.

A request for accommodation is deemed reasonable if it:

  • Is based on appropriate individual documentation.
  • Allows the most integrated educational experience possible.
  • Does not compromise essential requirements of a course or program.
  • Does not pose a threat to personal or public safety.
  • Does not impose undue financial or administrative burden on the University.
  • Is not of a personal nature (e.g., hiring personal care attendants).

The best accommodations often result from an interactive process that involves the student, faculty member, and the Student Access Center. Faculty are encouraged to suggest creative alternatives when accommodating student needs. A faculty member who believes that a request for a specific accommodation is unreasonable should contact the Student Access Center to discuss their concerns.

Denying a request for accommodation is a decision with potential legal implications for the University as a whole. Refusal to provide reasonable accommodations in a timely manner is a form of illegal disability discrimination. Thus, consultation with the Student Access Center coordinator must take place before denying an accommodation to assure that the decision complies with federal and state laws and University policy.

A student who believes that a faculty member or administrator has denied a reasonable accommodation should consult with the coordinator of the Student Access Center. If a satisfactory solution is not reached, the student may file a formal or informal complaint using the Student Access Center appeal policy. The same process is also available to faculty members who believe a student has been granted an accommodation that is not reasonable.

Suggestions for Developing Accommodations

The appropriate accommodations for a student with a disability are determined on a case-by-case basis. The Student Access Center is responsible for determining appropriate accommodations and coordinating arrangements for most accommodations. Sometimes the same accommodation is appropriate and effective for different types of disabilities — for example, providing a note taker in class is a common accommodation for a student who has a hearing impairment, a student with a learning disability, and a student with a hand impairment. Sometimes different students with similar disabilities need different accommodations — for instance, a student who is blind may need textbooks on audio tape, while a student with low vision may need written course materials enlarged.

The student is often the best source of information about which accommodations are necessary and effective. Although it is the student’s responsibility to request accommodations, a faculty member can make the student comfortable by being receptive to discussing special needs in the classroom, laboratory, fieldwork, and testing.


  • Include a statement on syllabus stating, “If you need accommodations in this course because of a disability, please contact UNE's Student Access Center Coordinator as soon as possible.”
  • Select course materials as early as possible. Make syllabi, assignments, and reading lists available in advance to allow enough time for course materials to be prepared in alternate formats such as audio tape, braille, or large print.

Many accommodations involve simple modifications of teaching techniques, for example:

  • Put an outline of your lecture on the chalkboard, overhead, handout, or web.
  • Highlight key words or new terms by writing them on the chalkboard or overhead. Present new terms in context by using them in sentences.
  • Repeat or paraphrase the questions or comments of others in the class before responding.
  • Hand out assignments in writing; provide written summaries of demonstrations in advance; provide an outline of visual media presentation such as slides or videotapes.
  • Face the class when speaking to allow students to lip-read.
Physical/Health-Related Disabilities

The degree to which physical disabilities affect students in the academic setting varies widely. In some cases the degree of impairment may vary from time to time because of the nature of the disability. Some conditions are progressive, while others may be stable. Many of these conditions, such as spinal cord injury (paraplegia or quadriplegia), cerebral palsy, spina bifida, cardiac disorders, and polio/post polio result in orthopedic/mobility-related disabilities. Functional limitations and abilities vary widely even within one group of disabilities. At times it is not the condition itself but the medication needed to control symptoms that impairs academic performance. Common side effects of medications include fatigue, memory loss, shortened attention span, loss of concentration, and drowsiness. Accommodations vary greatly and are determined on a case-by-case basis.

A partial list of other types of physical/health-related disabilities

  • AIDS
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Burns
  • Cancer
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome/Tendonitis
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Chronic Pain
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Epilepsy
  • Hemophilia
  • Lupus
  • Motor neuron diseases
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Renal-kidney disease
  • Respiratory disorder
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Stroke
Accommodations may include
  • Accessible location for the classroom and place for faculty to meet with student.
  • Extra time to get from one class to another, especially in inclement weather.
  • Special seating in classrooms.
  • Note takers, use of audio recorders, laptop computers, or photocopying of peer notes.
  • Test accommodations: extended time, separate place, scribes, access to word processors, readers*.
  • Special computer equipment/software: voice-activated word processing, word prediction, keyboard modification.
  • Service animals or personal care attendants.
  • Extra time for assignments due to slow writing speed.
  • Adjustable lab tables or drafting tables.
  • Lab assistance
  • Taped texts
  • Advance planning for field trips to ensure accessibility; if the University provides transportation, it must also be accessible.
  • Enlarged printed materials
  • Flexibility in attendance requirements in cases of documented health-related absences.

*Readers simply read. Faculty interpret if needed.

Learning Disabilities

A learning disability is a permanent neurological disorder that affects the manner in which individuals with normal or above-average intelligence receive, organize, remember, and then retrieve or express information. Like interference on the radio or a fuzzy TV picture, incoming or outgoing information may become scrambled as it travels between the eye, ear or skin and the brain. A learning disability is complex and requires diagnosis by a professional who can interpret the appropriate tests to determine if a student has a learning disability. A learning disability is commonly recognized in adults as a deficit in one or more of the following areas: reading comprehension, spelling, written expression, math computation, and problem-solving. Many adults with learning disabilities may also have language-based and/or perceptual problems. Persons with learning disabilities often have to deal not only with functional limitations but also with the frustration of having to “prove” that their hidden disability may be as disabling as paraplegia.

Accommodations may include

No student will need all of these, and specific accommodations are based on a careful review of the diagnostic information that is on file in the Student Access Center.


Course substitution for non-essential course requirements in major

  • Taped texts
  • Reader
  • Note Taking
  • Audio recorder
  • Peer note taker

Word processor with spell check

  • Extended time
  • Proctored testing in a quiet, separate area
  • Test read to student (only faculty interpret)
  • Student respond orally to essay test
  • Alternative type of exam
  • Scribe
  • Blank card or paper to assist in reading
  • Calculator
  • Word processor
  • Math calculator for a student with a disability in the area of math processing. (The Educational Testing Service is now allowing the use of a standard four function calculator as an accommodation during the SAT.)
Blindness and Visual Impairments

Visual impairments include disorders in the sense of vision that affect the central vision acuity, the field of vision, color perception, or binocular visual function. Legal blindness may be caused by tumors, infections, injuries, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, vascular impairments, or myopia. The effect of visual disabilities varies widely. Some students may use a guide dog, others a white cane, while others may not require any mobility assistance. Students who have low vision may rely on residual vision with the use of adaptive equipment such as magnification devices or closed-circuit television.

Accommodations may include
  • Reading lists or syllabi in advance to permit time for transferring into alternate format.
  • Text books ordered in the preferred medium of the student.
  • Seating in the front of the class without glare from windows.
  • Audio recording of lectures and class discussions.
  • Note taking devices such as pocket braille computers.
  • Handouts in the medium that the student prefers.
  • Clear black print on white or pale yellow paper for students with visual impairments.
  • Testing accommodations: taped tests, reading of tests, scribe, extended time, separate testing area, enlarged print, computer word processing software with speech access.
  • Materials presented on the board or computer projector read out loud.
  • Lab assistance
  • Advance notice of class schedule changes.
  • Service animals

Some textbooks can be ordered on tape from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic: (800) 221-4792. When they aren’t available from this source, the University is responsible for putting the textbook on audiotape. This requires advanced planning and your timely book orders are appreciated. 

Large print
Standard sized materials can be enlarged on a copier using 11" x 17" paper.

Computer File
Convert the text of materials to ASCII format.

Adaptive equipment will be necessary to provide alternate format in braille; however, braille is probably the least requested alternate format for students with blindness.

Deafness and Hearing Impairments

More individuals in the United States have a hearing impairment than any other type of physical disability. A hearing impairment is any type or degree of auditory impairment, while deafness is an inability to use hearing as a means of communication. Hearing loss is measured in decibels and may be mild, moderate, or profound. Since much learning is acquired orally, persons born with a hearing loss may have language deficiencies and exhibit poor vocabulary and syntax. Because they do not hear environmental noises and day-to-day conversation, students who are hearing impaired or deaf miss a great deal of crucial information usually learned incidentally by non-hearing-impaired students. Many students with hearing loss use hearing aids and rely on speech reading. Under the most favorable conditions, only 30 to 40 percent of spoken English is distinguishable on the lips even by the best speech readers. Some students may require an interpreter. Faculty should be aware that sign language does not provide a word-for-word translation of the English language and that students using an interpreter may still miss information.

Accommodations may include
  • Seating in the front of the classroom.
  • Written supplement to oral instructions, assignments, and directions.
  • Visual aids 
  • Instructor repeating questions asked by other students.
  • Notetaker for class lectures.
  • Test accommodations: extended time, separate place, proofreading of essay tests, access to word processor, interpreted directions.
  • Unfamiliar vocabulary written on the board or on a handout.
  • Amplification system
  • Interpreter seated where the student can see both the interpreter and the lecturer.
  • Excess noise reduced as much as possible to facilitate communication.
Tips for communication
  • Face the class, not the board, when teaching.
  • Direct your remarks to the student, not the interpreter.
  • Before speaking, attract the student’s attention with a cue such as a tap on the shoulder or a wave.
  • Speak clearly and naturally without exaggerating lip movements or volume.
  • Avoid standing in front of a light source like a window—the glare from behind makes it difficult to read lips.
  • Avoid chewing gum or otherwise obstructing the area around your mouth with your hands or other objects that interfere with speech reading.
  • Provide the interpreter prior to each class with information about technical terms, special vocabulary, and names to be used.
Psychological Disabilities

Psychological disabilities cover a wide range of disorders such as neuroses, psychoses, and personality disorders. The majority of psychological disorders are controlled using a combination of medications and psychotherapy. These medications may result in side effects, such as drowsiness or disorientation, which can affect academic performance. Students with psychological disabilities present some of the most difficult challenges to the college professor. Like students with other disabilities, their impairments may be hidden or latent, with little or no effect on their learning.

Accommodations may include
  • Extended time for exams, and/or taking exams in a quiet testing area with a proctor.
  • Notetakers, readers, or audio recorders in class.
  • Incompletes or late withdrawals in place of course failures in the event of prolonged illness.
  • Flexibility in attendance requirements in cases of documented health-related absences.

However, a student is required to make up missed assignments and tests.


A psychological disability does not necessarily mean a risk to self or others exists. However, some students with psychological impairments may exhibit negative behavior such as indifference or occasionally disruptive behavior. In the event of disruptive behavior, the following measures may be necessary:

  • Discussing the inappropriate classroom behavior with the student privately, directly, and forthrightly, delineating the limits of acceptable conduct.
  • Referring the student to the Counseling Center if you sense that discussion with the student would not be effective, or if the student approaches you for therapeutic help.
  • If the disruptive behavior continues, please refer to the UNE Student Code of Conduct. Students with disabilities are required to meet the same standards of acceptable conduct as all other students.


Who is responsible for obtaining equipment and services for the student?

After the student presents appropriate documentation, the Student Access Center makes arrangements for assistive technology, special furniture, or services. If a student experiences any problems with the accommodations or finds that special furniture is not in the appropriate location, the student should contact the Student Access Center. At no time should the student risk injury by moving the furniture.

Can I see the documentation of a student’s disability?

Under the law, only those with a “need to know” may see the documentation. Faculty do not need to review diagnostic information about a student’s disability. Faculty do need to know what accommodations are necessary to provide the student with an equal educational opportunity.

May I talk with the student about his or her disability?

Yes, but only if the student initiates the discussion. Focus on the need for accommodations. Be wary about appearing to probe for information about the disability itself, and do not discuss the disability in class.

Does extra time to complete assignment or exams give the student with the disability an advantage?

Current research does not support this concern. Extra time as an accommodation for a student with a disability gives that student the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of the subject by removing the barrier posed by the disability. Although many students are concerned about the amount of time allotted to complete exams, there is a distinction between the need for extra time due to a disability and the preference for extra time shared by many non-disabled students.

Can a student request an accommodation after an exam or assignment has been completed?

The student is responsible for requesting an accommodation prior to the date of an assignment or exam. A faculty member may allow the student to redo the assignment or take another test with the requested accommodation but is not obligated to do so.

When a hearing impaired student has an interpreter, what are the interpreter’s responsibilities in the classroom?

The interpreter is there in order for the instructor to talk to the student and so the student can communicate his or her questions and comments. The interpreter is not an extra pair of hands to pass back exams or tutor the student who is hearing impaired.

Does a faculty member need to give a copy of his or her own lecture notes to a student as a reasonable accommodation?

This can be beneficial, but faculty are not obligated to provide lecture notes if another effective accommodation, such an audio tape or note taker, can be provided.