Accommodations for students are determined by the staff at the DRC after an interactive conversation with the student about the individual impact of their disability and how that presents challenges for them within the university environment. So the provision of accommodations is generally very individualized to ensure that the way their disability impacts them specifically is addressed, and that it is addressed in relation to the specific environment that they are having to navigate.
While there are a set of more commonly used accommodations (listed below), we can almost rely on every semester being presented with a new challenge to accommodate, such as a student with no arms, who needs to type with their toes, or a person who has a circulation disorder that causes them to pass out if they're in a vertical position for too long, so they generally need to stay in a horizontal position whenever possible. These disabilities do not inhibit a person's ability to learn as long as we adapt our environment in ways for them to be able to participate as fully as possible.
Accommodations must meet two criteria in order to be utilized:
1. Is the accommodation reasonable to address the impact of the disability?
- Example: Extended time on an exam is probably not reasonable for someone who is a wheelchair user, since being a wheelchair user does not usually affect exam taking.
- Example: Someone with high distractability may miss parts of a lecture, so it would be reasonable for them to be able to record the lecture to review later.
Note: If the DRC is unable to determine whether or not a requested accommodation is reasonable based on the conversation they have with the student about the impact, they may ask for supporting documentation from a qualified professional to help make that determination.
2. Is the accommodation appropriate for the setting in which it is applied?
- Example: A student is being assessed on how quickly and accurately they can diagnose a patient and stabilize their condition. Extended time on that task is probably not appropriate.
- Example: A student is being assessed on their ability to complete basic algebra, and a calculator is not permitted. This student has a problem particularly with arithmetic, and requests a basic function calculator to help with their arithmetic. This is probably appropriate since a basic calculator can't help them with the solution for solving an algebra equation.
Note: To determine the appropriateness of certain accommodations, the DRC will collaborate with instructors in order to understand what the essential functions of a task are so that accommodations do not alter those essential functions.
Note: Accommodations must be considered as setting specific. So accommodations applied in high school may not be appropriate for higher education, but we cannot consider the workplace environment while applying accommodations in higher education. The only exception may be if the tasks being completed in higher education are the same as tasks that will be completed in the workplace (such as the stabilization of a patient in the example above).
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Exam accommodations are one of our most commonly utilized accommodations, and generally require the most collaboration with faculty. They can include one or more of the following:
- Extended time
- Distraction reduced environment
- Use of Adaptive Technology such as:
- Kurzweil (text-to-speech for learning disabilities, reading disabilities, or some vision impairment)
- Dragon Naturally Speaking (speech-to-text voice dictation)
- CCTV (enlarges documents)
- Sound machines or music to reduce anxiety or distraction
- Jaws (screenreader for individuals who are blind)
- Zoomtext (magnifies a computer screen and uses other features to help people with vision impairments)
The DRC is fully equipped to provide these tools for students who need them, and it is the responsibility of the DRC to ensure that anything necessary for accommodations that we do not have is acquired. The DRC can also provide students with any required materials not related to their accommodations, such as subject specific software (BlueJ, Matlab, SPSS, etc.), if we are given advance notice to make sure that we have what we need. Faculty may also share materials with us such as rocks for geology classes, or maps for geography classes, etc.
Some exam accommodation numbers for Spring 2018:
The DRC administered 1,948 exams for 281 students in 351 different classes with 267 individual faculty.
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Students may receive assistance with note-taking in various forms and for various reasons, and is another one of our most utilized accommodations.
Some reasons for note-taking assistance:
- Dysgraphia (poor hand coordination)
- Vision impairment
- Delayed processing
- OCD or other anxiety
Some ways that note-taking assistance can be accommodated:
- Ability to type notes (accommodation allows for technology when otherwise prohibited by classroom policy)
- Use of a digital recorder to review lecture later (accommodation allows for technology when otherwise prohibited by classroom policy)
- Use of a smart pen (like a digital recorder, but better)
- Volunteer note-taker (another student in the class to share notes -- DRC will assist with identifying volunteers)
The DRC has a limited number of recorders and smart pens that students can check out each semester if they have an accommodation for note-taking assistance. Students who do not have an accommodation for using these tools may still purchase and use them on their own, but regular classroom policies can still apply to their use.
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Alternative text can be provided to students for a number of reasons and in a number of formats. Alt. text is provided when simply having a hard copy of a piece of text or textbook creates barriers for a student.
Reasons for needing Alt. Text:
- Learning disability or reading disability
- Visual processing delay
- Vision impairment
- Mobility impairment that may make carrying heavy books more difficult
- Limited dexterity that may make holding or manipulating books more difficult
Ways to provide Alt. Text:
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning -- converts a scanned image of text into real text
- DRC has the ability to scan documents with a high-speed scanner and use OCR to convert the page images to text. This includes scanning textbooks if we can't find an already accessible alternative.
- Scanning textbooks involves cutting off the spine to access the pages, but the DRC will rebind the book with spiral binding, which the bookstore will accept as a return.
- Proof of purchase is required before we can provide an alternative format of textbooks.
- Accessible PDF and Word Documents (More information here)
- Braille embossing
- DRC has a braille embosser if needed. However, many braille users today have technology that will convert digital text to braille on a portable device that refreshes the braille as the user reads (not allowed for exams unless the braille device plugs in to a computer that we can monitor).
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The DRC will provide communication access for anyone at UTC or visiting UTC, whether or not they're visiting for a campus related event (such as concerts, Disney on Ice, the circus, or special speakers, for example). Communication access can extend beyond the needs of people with hearing impairments. Auditory processing disorders may also require communication access in order for individuals to keep up with oral information. Certain environments may make hearing difficult for people without any auditory disorders, such as someplace that has a lot of echoes or where the sound can't get quite loud enough for everyone to hear. So being able to proactively provide communication access can be very important.
UTC has a very comprehensive ability to provide communication access. The DRC has staff that provides live transcription via a program called C-Print for hearing impaired students in the classroom who are not sign language users or prefer not to use sign language in the classroom. The DRC also has a partnership with interpreting agencies in town to hire sign language interpreters whenever needed, as well as CART providers (Communication Access Real-time Translation) for live, real-time captions (a higher level of access than C-Print transcription).
The Walker Center for Teaching and Learning has resources to help faculty proactively provide captioned media in the classroom, which the DRC helps facilitate whenever necessary on a triage basis (if the need is more immediate for a student who will be in their class and will need communication access, rather than proactively creating access). Between the Walker Center and the DRC, virtually any type of digital media can be made accessible.
The DRC also has a limited number of assistive listening devices, which help students with hearing impairments or certain auditory processing disorders hear their faculty more clearly. In a closed-loop system, students wear an earbud or headphone plugged into a pack that is connected remotely to a pack that the professor wears with a lapel mic.
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Adaptive, or assistive technology (AT), are technologies that help individuals do certain tasks differently because of the impact of a disability. These technologies include low-tech solutions such as placing a writing utensil through a tennis ball to help with writing dexterity, to high-tech solutions such as hand-held digital magnifiers to help individuals with vision impairments see finer details wherever they go.
The DRC has a limited amount of AT depending on the particular tool due to cost restrictions, but we will always help ensure that students have the tools that they need to help mitigate the impact of their disabilities. We have a computer lab in Frist Hall that is loaded with all of the software technologies students might need as accommodations, and we have licenses for most of those technologies to share with students on their individual computers on an as-needed basis. The library also has a room with these technologies available on the 2nd floor. We currently have one CCTV to enlarge documents for students, a handful of digital and non-digital hand-held magnifiers, and various other adaptive technologies such as large-keyed keyboards, high contrast keyboards, ergonomic keyboards and computer mice, etc.
Each semester, Professor of Engineering, Cecelia Wigal, teaches an introductory engineering course that has students design and create assistive devices for people with disabilities, which is showcased at the end of each semester in the EMCS Building.
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