Whitman College is committed to the education of all qualified students, whether or not they have physical limitations or disabilities. Moreover, the law requires us to make our programs genuinely accessible to all qualified students. This means that individual instructors may need to modify some of their instructional techniques or modes of assessment in order to enable students with documented disabilities to participate in courses and to demonstrate their mastery of the material. Any services a department offers to students must be offered to all students without regard to disability.
Faculty members should make sure that each class, when viewed in its entirety, is accessible to students who have documented their disabilities to, and obtained accommodation letters from, Julia Dunn, Associate Dean of Students. Faculty members do not have the option to discourage a student from taking a particular course or declaring a specific major because of a disability; in fact, creative teaching techniques have enabled students to study a wide variety of subjects (i.e., blind students have studied astronomy, geology and art history). At the same time, faculty members are not expected to lower their expectations of student achievement. It would be a disservice to students with disabilities to expect them to achieve less than their peers achieve.
The challenge for faculty members is to provide reasonable adjustments while upholding academic standards. The challenge for college students with disabilities is to acquire and demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter or learning outcomes despite the presence of a disability. Faculty will be notified by letter or e-mail of the necessary course-related accommodations.
Instructors should feel free to discuss disability issues with Julia Dunn, and they should notify her if they feel that the recommended accommodation interferes with an essential element of the course. Concerns regarding the justification or nature of accommodation should be addressed to the director, not the student. Questions about the provision or implementation of the accommodation should be addressed to the student.
The sections below contain further information for faculty members regarding working with students with disabilities.
Guidelines for Interaction with Students Who Have Disabilities
Information for Faculty Regarding Privacy
Working with Students
Adjustments in Testing
Field Trips and Out-of-Class Activities
Learning Disability Information
Disabilities are not protected under ADA law, however individuals with disabilities are. Because students with the same type of impairment vary in their level of functioning, it is better to focus on how the student performs in your class than on his or her disability. It is the student’s responsibility to request services from the Academic Resource Center. After the student and Julia Dunn, Associate Dean of Students, meet and agree on reasonable accommodations, you will receive verification of the student’s disability and an outline of recommended adjustments. Students with disabilities are advised to approach their instructors to discuss the requested accommodations.
Instructors are not given specific information or a diagnosis of the student’s disability, in most cases they will be told that a disability exists, and they will be given an outline of the accommodations recommended. All information about your students’ disabilities must be kept confidential. The provision of accommodations should be done without drawing undue attention to the students or disclosing their identities to the rest of the class. Faculty can learn how to provide the recommended adjustments discreetly by speaking privately with the student.
The following documents contain specific suggestions for working with students who have various disabilities.
- Students Who Have Visual Impairments
- Students Who Have Hearing Impairments
- Students Who Have Mobility Impairments
- Students Who Have Learning Disabilities
- Students Who Have Psychological Disabilities
For more information on specific learning disabilities, see the Learning Disability Information section of this page.
Many students with disabilities need extra time to complete tests because of the extra effort they must make to read, process, and/or write the relevant information. Time and a half is considered adequate extended time for exams; however, some students may need double time.
Students with Tourette's Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, or learning disabilities, and anyone using a talking computer, may need to take tests in a separate room. This will produce an environment with fewer distractions for students with disabilities as well as the other students.
Some students with visual impairments may need to have large-print tests. Often, this can be accomplished by using a photocopier's enlarge function. Other students will need to have tests printed in Braille.
It may be appropriate to allow a student to use a word processor or laptop computer. If it is not appropriate for the student to use his or her personal computer, there are laptops available in the Academic Resource Center for exam use.
Oral exams are sometimes an excellent alternative for testing students with disabilities. They can be of value in helping students who have trouble writing (often a complication of such diseases as arthritis and multiple sclerosis), or reading (blind students and some students with dyslexia can best demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter orally). Another option is to allow the student to dictate his or her answers to the instructor or to an assistant, or to read them into a tape recorder.
In general, it is best and fairest to give the same test to all students, rather than composing special tests for students with disabilities. All students should be held to the same standards; special adjustments merely allow the disabled student to demonstrate fairly his or her understanding of the course material.
Students who have disabilities have a right to participate in all the educational activities associated with a course, including any activities planned for outside the classroom. Thus, it is necessary for faculty members to consider the specific needs and limitations of students as they plan required field trips or other out-of-the-classroom activities. Issues to consider are accessible transportation; steps, curb cuts, and elevators at the off-campus site; service animals; and sign language interpreters. The Academic Resource Center will be able to assist faculty in planning appropriate adjustments.
Occasionally, it will be impossible for a student to engage in a regular course activity; for instance, a blind student cannot use a telescope or microscope. In such cases, an alternative activity should be devised to achieve the same educational goals.
Visit the following websites to get information about most learning disabilities:
Keep in mind that the information on these sites provides general guidelines but does not hold true for everyone with these learning differences. Accommodations must be made on an individual basis. For accommodation assistance, questions, or more information please contact Julia Dunn, Associate Dean of Students by phone at (509) 527-5213 or by email at Julia Dunn and consult the following documents:
- Auditory Processing Deficiency
- Nonverbal Learning Disorder
- Visual Processing Deficiency
In case of medical emergencies, contact the Welty Student Health Center or call 9-1-1 immediately. Notify the Health Center as soon as possible after phoning 9-1-1. They may have some health information about the student that could be of critical importance to the emergency response team. Students who are blind or deaf may not be able to identify warning signs or alarms in the event of a fire, earthquake, or other disaster. Communicate directly with them to ensure they can safely exit from the building along with the rest of the class. Students with mobility limitations should consult with the Director of Academic Resources, the college’s Safety Officer, and the Director of Security to form a plan for assistance in the case of an emergency.