Faculty Flash November 12, 2014

University Life Faculty Flash: Working with Students with Disabilities

November 12, 2014

This Faculty Flash is brought to you by University Life, your partners in educating and supporting Mason students. We will periodically share our expertise that may be helpful in the classroom.

University Life at George Mason University is committed to student retention and graduation. We offer a range of resources to support you in your work with students, and also provide services directly to students to develop their academic skills, and, when appropriate, provide accommodations for disabilities.

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, George Mason University is committed to providing equal access to curricular and co-curricular activities. As a result, the mission of Disability Services is to promote equal access to students with disabilities in curricular and co-curricular activities within the university experience; foster partnerships with students, faculty, and staff to create environments that are accessible, diverse, and inclusive; and empower students to fully participate in the university community.

According to research, students with disabilities are less likely to graduate from college with a degree than their peers without disabilities. www.ncset.org/topics/psesupports/

Additionally, students with disabilities are “more likely than students in the overall population to expect to need tutoring in specific courses, to take longer to degree, and receive personal counseling while in college.”

In order to promote the success of all students, collaboration between faculty and the various support services available at Mason is necessary (i.e., Learning Services, The Writing Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Math Tutoring Center, University Career Services, etc.). The following are some suggestions for working with students with disabilities:

  • Use direct, concise, concrete language
  • Be patient and wait for a response; often there may be a delay before responding
  • Follow up and check for understanding
  • Use different inflections for a question vs. a statement
  • Break down lengthy instructions into steps
  • Assist students with joining/forming groups, as needed
  • Respect differences
  • Increase their understanding of expectations, while working to understand how they think

YouTube Video: “Invisible Disabilities and Postsecondary Education”

There are many additional resources available to assist faculty with supporting students with disabilities.

Tips for Successful Collaboration

  • Students are not required to disclose information about having a disability.
  • In order for students to access accommodations, they must be registered with Disability Services and provide faculty with a Faculty Contact Sheet.
    • A Faculty Contact Sheet lists accommodations that have been approved by Disability Services.
  • Students with disabilities have the right to confidentiality. Faculty are not advised to ask if a disability exists if a student has not disclosed or requested accommodations.
  • One suggestion for working with students with disabilities is to allow an opportunity for students to share information about accommodations (i.e., having office hours, including a statement on the syllabus about availability to discuss accommodations, etc.).
  • Disability Services staff are available to support faculty. Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have questions about how to support students with disabilities.

Equal Access and Student Rights

  • Provide only those accommodations that have been approved by Disability Services and outlined on the Faculty Contact Sheet
  • Hold all students accountable for adhering to the George Mason University Honor Code
  • Remember, it is not required for students to disclose specific information about their disability

Resources for Faculty Working with Students with Disabilities

Please visit Disability Services for a list of additional resources and to take advantage of the faculty trainings available for accommodating students with disabilities.

(703) 993-2474

If you think a student needs additional support beyond academic skills development please contact Counseling and Psychological Services, 703-993-2380, or Student Support, 703-993-5376.

Thank you for being our partners in student success.

Rose Pascarell

Vice President of University Life