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Disability Services Home > Faculty Handbook > Types of Disabilities

Types of Disabilities
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD) is a neurological condition that affects learning and behavior. Students may be easily distracted, impulsive, hyperactive, and inconsistent. Some may daydream; some may have difficulty completing tasks; others may be disorganized and forgetful. Procrastination, difficulty with time management, and mood swings are usually prevalent. These students are often highly creative, intelligent, intuitive, and have the ability to hyperfocus.

Common accommodations include early syllabus, exam modifications, priority registration and taped lectures.

General Instructional Strategies

All of the general instructional strategies in this book are suggestions to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized, reasonable accommodations.

  • Have copies of the syllabus ready three to five weeks prior to the beginning of classes so textbooks can be ordered from a national reading service or by the Office of Disability Services.
  • Allow the student to tape record lectures.
  • Students benefit from the use of visual aids, handouts and any multimedia approach.
  • Allow the use of spell-check and grammar-check devices for in class work, or do not lower grades for in-class errors.
  • Provide extended time for quizzes, tests and/or exams.
  • An alternate test format may be necessary.
  • Time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • A quiet, distraction free place to take tests.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students; avoid pointing out the student or the alternate arrangements to the rest of the class.

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Blind or Visually Impaired


Visual impairments vary greatly. Persons are considered legally blind when visual acuity is 20/200 or less in the better eye with the use of corrective lenses. Persons who are totally blind may have visual memory, it's strength will depend on when the vision was lost.

Common accommodations include note takers, readers, transcribers, document conversions, exam modifications, priority registration, and taped lectures.

General Instructional Strategies

  • Have copies of syllabus and reading assignments ready three to five weeks prior to the beginning of classes so documents are available for taping, enlarging, or Braille transcription.
  • Provide students with visual impairments materials and alternative formats at the same time the materials are given to the rest of the class-the student must request the format type (large print or tape; Braille is provided with at least two weeks notice).
  • Repeat aloud what is written on the board or presented on overheads and in handouts.
  • Allow students to tape record lectures.
  • Lab assistants may be needed and can be coordinated through our office.
  • Assistance with finding an effective note taker may be needed.
  • Oral examinations may be necessary.
  • Guide dogs may be used by the student. These dogs are highly trained and disciplined and should cause no distraction. It is important to remember not to pet the dog or otherwise distract it from its duties.
  • If classes involve field trips to off campus locations, discuss traveling needs with the blind student. In most cases, all that will be required is for a member of the class to act as a sighted guide.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students.

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Deaf and Hearing Impaired


The causes and degrees of hearing loss vary across the deaf and hearing impaired community as do methods of communication and attitudes toward deafness. The inability to hear does not affect an individual's native intelligence or the physical ability to produce sounds. However, it may affect their knowledge of the English language if they have always been deaf. Look directly at the person with a hearing loss during a conversation even when an interpreter is present. Speak clearly, without shouting. If you have problems being understood, rephrase your wording. Writing is also a good way to clarify.

Common accommodations include sign language or oral interpreters, assistive listening devices, TDD's, signaling devices, priority registration, note takers, and captions for films and videos.

General Instructional Strategies

  • Circular seating arrangements offer the student the best advantage for seeing all class participants.
  • When desks are arranged in rows, keep front seats open for students who are deaf or hearing impaired and their interpreters.
  • Repeat the comments and questions of other students, especially those from the back rows; acknowledge who has made the comment so the student can focus on the speaker.
  • Assist the student with finding an effective note taker.
  • Lab assistants can be coordinated through our office.
  • Face the class while speaking. If an interpreter is present, make sure the student can see both you and the interpreter.
  • Because visual information is this student's primary means of receiving information, films, overheads, diagrams, and other visual aids are useful instructional tools. Films and videos should be captioned.
  • If you need to contact a student who uses a TDD, call 1-800-743-3333 and use the Indiana Relay Service.

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Learning Disabilities


Learning disabilities are neurologically-based conditions that interfere with the acquisition, storage, organization, and use of skills and knowledge. They are identified by deficits in academic functioning and in processing memory, auditory, visual and linguistic information. These students have trouble taking information in through the senses and bringing that information accurately to the brain. The information often gets "scrambled." If a student discloses a learning disability to you, please refer them to this office, the Student Development Center and the Writing Center. The diagnosis of a learning disability in an adult requires documentation of at least average intellectual functioning along with a deficit in one or more areas.

Common accommodations include alternative print formats, taped lectures, note takers, alternative ways of completing assignments, course substitutions, early syllabus, exam modifications, and study skills and strategies.

General Instructional Strategies

  • Have copies of the syllabus ready three to five weeks prior to the start of classes so textbooks can be ordered from a national reading service or recorded by our office.
  • Put a disability access statement in your syllabus (see page 2).
  • Assist the student with finding an effective note taker from the class.
  • Allow the student to tape record lectures.
  • Students benefit from the use of visual aids, handouts and any multimedia approach.
  • Allow the use of spell-check and grammar-check for in-class work, or do not lower grades for in-class errors.
  • Provide extended time for quizzes, tests, and/or exams.
  • An alternate test format may be needed.
  • Time for clarification of directions and essential information may be needed.

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Mobility Impairments


Mobility impairments range in severity from limitations on stamina to paralysis. Some mobility impairments are caused by conditions present at birth while others are the result of illness or physical injury. Students often use a wheelchair or other assistance device. A physical disability should not imply that a student has other health problems or difficulty with intellectual functioning. Dependency and helplessness are not characteristics of physical disabilities. A wheelchair is a personal-assistance device rather than something one is "confined to." It is also a part of a student's personal space; do not lean on or touch the chair, and do not push the chair unless asked.

Physical access to a class is the first barrier a student with a mobility impairment may face. This includes not only access to the building or classroom; but also an unshoveled sidewalk, new construction along a route, or mechanical problems with a wheelchair can easily cause the student to be late.

Common accommodations include priority registration, note takers, accessible classroom location, alternative ways of completing assignments, lab or library assistants, assistive computer technology, exam modifications, and accessible parking.

General Instructional Strategies

  • If necessary, arrange for a room change before the term begins.
  • If possible, try not to seat wheelchair users in the back row. Move a desk or rearrange seating at a table so the student is part of regular classroom seating.
  • Make sure accommodations are in place for in-class written work (e.g. allow the student to use a scribe, to use assistive computer technology, or to complete the assignment outside of class).
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students.

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Psychological Disabilities


Students with psychological disabilities can have very successful college careers. At times, determining and providing appropriate accommodations can be a challenge. Below are brief descriptions of some common psychological disabilities:

Depression is a major disorder that can begin at any age. Major depression may be characterized by a depressed mood most of each day, a lack of pleasure in most activities, thoughts of suicide, insomnia, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

Bipolar disorder causes a person to experience periods of mania and depression. Concentration, memory, and organization are affected. In the manic phase, a person might experience inflated self-esteem and a decreased need to sleep. In the depressed phase they lose energy and motivation.

Anxiety disorders can disrupt a person's ability to concentrate and cause hyperventilation, a racing heart, chest pains, dizziness, panic, and extreme fear.

Common accommodations include exam modifications, alternative ways of completing assignments, time extensions, priority registration, taped lectures, early syllabus, and study skills and strategies training.

General Instructional Strategies

  • Flexible deadlines.
  • Allow the student to tape record lectures.
  • Assist the student with finding an effective note taker.
  • Lab assistants.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students; avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class.

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