Disability Resource Center

Curricular Access

Disability Studies defines disability, not as an attribute of an individual, but rather as the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a social organization which takes no or little account of people who have impairments. From this perspective, designing accessible learning environments necessary for the full participation of students with disabilities is a matter of social responsibility. When considering curricular environments, this concept promises exciting opportunities to create inclusive learning experiences.

Universal Design (UD), also known as human-centered design is a conceptual framework that can be used to operationalize this philosophy. Using UD principles, instructors can design courses that are accessible and inclusive of a diverse student body. Below are some barriers that are common in the learning environment and the potential impact of those barriers. Additionally, you will find inclusive design ideas that will increase access. Please note that inclusive design may not completely eliminate the need for individual accommodations, but it has the potential to greatly reduce the number of accommodations requested.

Learning Barriers and Solutions Table
Common Learning Barriers Impact Inclusive Design Suggestions Impact
Timed Exams    Students must arrange individual accommodations each semester Plan shorter, more frequent assessments Student's knowledge, rather than the speed with which answers are provided, is the essential element being tested
Faculty may need to send students to another location for testing and remember to send exam and instructions for proctoring each exam Allow students who are not finished at the end of class to finish in the department conference room Students are not separated from their peers during testing and have equal access to the professor
Students may not have access to faculty during exam if they have questions Give online assessments allowing everyone additional time for completion Students may not need to make separate testing arrangements each semester
Consider giving take-home exams
Inaccessible Course Materials (e.g., PDF's, Word documents, textbooks, videos, PowerPoints, etc.)     Students may fall behind while waiting for documents to be converted to an accessible format or videos to be captioned Ensure that PDF's, Word documents and PowerPoints are designed in an accessible format (visit faculty resources for more information on creating accessible documents) Students can stay on track with the timeline of the course
Faculty may need to work with the Disability Resources and other resources to obtain accessible materials Choose textbooks from publishers who offer both print and e-books Faculty spend less time during the semester trying to make alternate arrangements for students
Faculty may need to extend deadlines or offer incompletes to accommodate students who have fallen behind due to inaccessible course materials Choose captioned videos Once a document is designed to be accessible, it does not have to be re-designed each semester, even if minor changes to dates, assignments, etc. need to be made.
Students can view videos with the class without the need for separate accommodation
Other students in the classroom may find captions to be helpful, as well
Note Taking     Faculty may need to assist with finding volunteers to take course notes for students with disabilities Encourage students to share notes and form study groups All students have access to additional materials to enhance learning and studying
Students may fall behind while waiting for a note taker to be identified and for the note taker to provide copies of notes Use online discussions The group note taking method allows for note taking assistance to be a seamless part of the design of the course
Record lectures and post podcasts online
Make PowerPoints available to all students
Utilize the group note taking method

To find out more about strategies that can be used to design accessible learning environments, visit the Resources for Faculty & Instructors section of this website.

Information available here has been adapted from the University of Arizona Disability Resource Center.

Hours of Operation

Monday - Friday
8:00am to 4:30pm

Contact Info

Student Development and Success Center
Memorial Hall 125
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455

Email: SDSC@wiu.edu
Phone: (309) 298-1884
Fax: (309) 298-2361