Responding to Needs of Students with Disabilities at PSU

Did yoaccessibility2u know?

  • 19% of U.S. citizens identify as having disabilities (2010 U.S. Census Bureau)
  • 11% of post-secondary students identify as having disabilities (National Center for Education Statistics, 2006)

And even closer to home:

  • Approximately 4.5% of the PSU student population (1300 students) are registered with our Disability Resource Center (DRC)
  • DRC has seen a 53% increase in registration since 2013

The actual number of students with disabilities is even higher. We know that many students who need accommodations do not come through the DRC. Some do not know about the DRC, or that the DRC serves students with invisible disabilities. Others do not identify as having a disability (even though they may have one by legal standards), or they cannot afford to get a doctor’s evaluation to obtain the required documentation.

How does PSU serve students with disabilities?
The DRC and Office of Academic Innovation (OAI) operate on partnerships and infrastructure that incorporate the principles of universal design. They find creative solutions by proactively collaborating with students, faculty, and staff to develop an accessible and inclusive environment. The DRC provides resources for students with disabilities and works with faculty to make course and learning materials accessible to that student.

OAI works with faculty to preemptively create course and learning materials that makes them universally accessible. OAI also offers workshops where accessibility experts will give an overview of what accessibility means in a learning environment, and help faculty make changes to courses to accommodate the student.

My experiences
I know first-hand the needs and the challenges for creating an accessible and inclusive environment. Over 35 years ago my master’s and doctoral research and early faculty career years were devoted to researching and creating tactual maps—maps for the blind.

My interest was in recognition that maps provide a unique perspective to understand geographic locations and relationships. Imagine what little we would understand about the world if we had never “seen” a map. The years I spent discovering ways to translate printed maps, with all their detail and complexity, into something read by the fingers, certainly raised my awareness to the need for providing accessible information.

What faculty can do
Faculty can improve the accessibility and inclusion of students with disabilities by:

  1. Select textbooks as far in advance as possibleThis allows students to purchase, pre-read, and have enough time to request alternative, accessible versions of the textbooks from DRC.
  1. Teach to various learning styles and abilities– Present, illustrate, and reinforce new content; use materials such as online resources, videos, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations, manipulatives, and e-books.
  1. Allow for students to demonstrate what they have learned in a variety of ways– Provide flexible opportunities that include visual and oral presentation, written assessment, or any other creative assessment technique that effectively demonstrates mastery of the subject matter.
  1. Add syllabus statement that highlights the resources available for students with disabilities and show that the course has been prepared with accessibility and inclusion in mindStudents feel much more comfortable accessing available resources when those resources are not hidden, appear to be secretive or shameful, and when the student knows that the professor was thinking about them in the development of the course.
  1. Find out how accessible your course materials are – If you teach online or hybrid courses, or use D2L or other online teaching applications, you can come to OAI for an accessibility consultation. An accessible course specialist can go through your course with you, and help you make it more accessible.
  1. Consult with students – Ensure that students know of all available resources and determine if there are any slight alterations to the format of the course that could assist them in achieving more.

To request an accessibility consultation for the courses you teach:

To find a workshop to assist you with accessibility tools:

Reducing Student Textbook Costs

2 thoughts on “Responding to Needs of Students with Disabilities at PSU

  1. Thank you so much, Provost Andrews. Accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities is a civil right and all of us have the responsibility of making sure everyone feels welcomed and included here at PSU. Thank you so much for bringing this to light!


  2. All of us over at the Oregon Office on Disability and Health, OHSU, love to see the great work that is happening at PSU! We are here to support this endeavor in any way possible.

    We receive funding from the CDC to provide this sort of technical advice to people and institutions throughout the state. Please feel free to browse our website for more information.


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