Even though most schools advertise accessibility and require that instructors include segments about accessibility, many simply recommend that students register with the disability office on campus. While this is an important step in the right direction, many instructors may not promote the accessibility in their own class. When you write your syllabus it will be important to promote your own class as accessible. Many students do not report their disabilities. If you promote your class as accessible and approach this topic with greater sensitivity, you may increase the independence of your students and encourage them as they succeed with minimal assistance.
Best Practices for Syllabus Accessibility Statements
- Create Your Own Statement
Besides including what is necessary for your institution, write your own summary of how you specifically made this class accessible.
Be careful about how you refer to your accessibility statement. Sections titled “disability statement” or any title that gives prominence to the disability overall can have a negative connotation. Remember that personal or individual-centered language is always better than disability centered language.
Most accessibility statements are towards the end. To let your students know that accessibility is important to you, consider moving it more toward the front of your syllabus.
In your statement, include information about how you specifically have adapted to different learning styles, which shows your students that they can approach you to discuss a way of learning that is best for them. If your students know you are there to help them, they may have greater comfort in addressing you. By stating that you are able to adapt, it lets them know that this class is a collaboration between student and teacher.
This statement lets students know that if they need accommodations, they can ask you, which makes you more available and welcoming to your students. This should be placed near the top of a syllabus rather than buried in the institutionally required statements.
Here is a sample statement that is typically required by a department or institution:
“Students with disabilities who require accommodations (academic adjustments, auxiliary aids or services) for this course must register with ABCU’s Disability Services Office. Please contact the Disability Service Office in the University Center, Suite 111 or call 555-111-1212 < http://disability.abcu.edu/> for more information.
After you provide verification of your disability to the Disability Services Office, they will then provide documentation authorizing accommodations. Note that you should not discuss your disability with me or any of your other instructors directly, as accommodations cannot be provided without authorization from the Disabilities Services Office. You must go through the Disability Services Office, and instructors must receive the documentation from the Disability Services Office before any accommodations can be provided. Instructors can only provide accommodations specified by the Disability Services Office, and accommodations cannot be made retroactively.”
While this statement is thorough and covers legal bases, it’s tone does not create an atmosphere where students may feel comfortable approaching an instructor about documented or undocumented accessibility issues.
Below are several sample statements that create such an atmosphere:
“It is my goal that this class be an accessible and welcoming experience for all students, including those with disabilities that may impact learning in this class. If anyone believes the design of this course poses barriers to effectively participating and/or demonstrating learning in this course, please meet with me (with or without a Student Accessibility Services (SAS) accommodation letter) to discuss reasonable options or adjustments.”
“The instructional media and materials for this class are accessible to students with disabilities. Students who are having difficulty accessing them should contact the faculty member.”
“Your success in this class is important to me. If there are circumstances that may affect your performance in this class, please let me know as soon as possible so that we can work together to develop strategies for adapting assignments to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course.”
While some of the information is a repeat of the information here, following are two additional resources specific to the syllabus: