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“UNIVERSAL DESIGN

MOVES US INTO A

MODEL OF ACADEMIA

THAT IS FOCUSED

ON THE LEARNER,

AND THAT IS HARD

FOR SOME BECAUSE

THERE IS AN

INGRAINED NATURE

OF HOW WE THINK

ABOUT HIGHER

EDUCATION.”

RENEE PETRINA

certain things will help for one semester but won’t

work for others, and I will have to adjust the letter

with Matt to see what works best.” Tanya spoke

of an instance where she needed course materials

in a digital format before class so that she could

participate in class discussion. Despite several polite

requests throughout the course, she often did not

receive the digital format until after class. So Tanya

and Matt revised the letter to specifically state that

she needed the digital format 48 hours prior to class.

An ADA letter is what many would term a living

document, a document that is subject to change as

needs arise.

Some of the biggest concerns in regard to students with

disabilities come from people who have never had any

experience working with a student who has a disability.

A document published by the Department of Homeland

Security on their government website (www.dhs.gov) titled,

“A Guide to Interacting with People who have Disabilities”

provides tips on how best to communicate with people

who have disabilities. For example, when interacting

with someone who is hearing impaired, make sure you

have their attention before speaking. Many people with

a hearing impairment are able to read lips, but they must

be able to see your lips in order to understand what you

are saying. Aaron Linson, an IU Southeast student with

a visual impairment, noted that many individuals do not

understand that they should not interact with a service dog

as they would a pet. This is distracting the service dog from

his work. One of Tanya DeCoux’s pet peeves is having a

student without a disability take the disability desk in the

classroom. Mitchell Barnes is a junior majoring in history

and secondary education. Mitchell uses a wheelchair and

finds it frustrating when a person parks over the line into a

handicapped spot because he needs the space for her ramp.

Students who have disabilities simply want those without a

disability to be more aware of how their choices affect those

with disabilities.

In spite of some frustrations, IU Southeast has made

progress in working with students who have disabilities.

Small class sizes benefit students, and many professors

will meet with students prior to the beginning of the

semester to work out individual accommodations. One

faculty resource on campus is the Institute for Learning and

Teaching Excellence, often referred to as the ILTE office.

Their primary role is to create positive learning experiences

for people. They help design syllabi, course objectives,

and lesson plans with the goal of finding the best way to

teach effectively. Renee Petrina in the ILTE office has been

working to incorporate Universal Design for Learning

throughout the campus since she attended a seminar on it a

year and a half ago. She explained, “What I do in my role is

try to get faculty to think early about a way they can design

their course so that it is openly accessible to everyone.

Universal Design moves us into a model of academia that is