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Making a Curriculum Accessible to Students with Disabilities

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Students with disabilities have unique needs and may require extra attention in education. This lesson will explain how to make curriculum accessible for special needs students. We will end with a quiz to see what you have learned.

What Is a Disability?

Melissa is a fifth-grade student with a hearing impairment. Due to Melissa's disability, she qualifies for special education under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 (IDEA). This law mandates that students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education designed to meet their unique needs. This is commonly called special education.

A disability is a physical or mental issue that impairs normal and regular functioning.

IDEA is a revised version of the original Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EHA) which set the tone for meeting the educational needs of disabled students. In other words, accommodations and modifications must be provided to special needs students to make curriculum equally accessible to them.

An accommodation is a special tool or device designed to support the needs of disabled individuals. An example of an accommodation that might be useful for Melissa would be a hearing aid.

A Hearing Aid Is An Example Of An Accommodation
hearing aid

Modifications are changes in the level or method of instruction that a child receives as a result of his or her specific disability. For example, it might be determined that Melissa would benefit from one-on-one instruction, an example of a modification provided by a special needs teacher.

However, these accommodations and modifications do not always make facilities and curricula fully accessible to those with disabilities. For example, Melissa is not able to use all of the equipment in her school because it was not designed with the hearing impaired in mind. These limitations prevent Melissa from participating fully in the class.

Universal design seeks to eliminate issues like those that Melissa faces by creating spaces and materials that are accessible to everyone regardless of ability. It is a method of design that strives for equality in accessibility to all environments and materials. In other words, facilities and curriculum are designed for accessibility from the start rather than trying to use accommodations later to make them accessible.

With the practice of universal design, Melissa's school would have been constructed with materials and equipment that are accessible to all. Furthermore, the supplies and curriculum in her classroom would also be usable by all students, disabled and non-disabled alike.

What Is Accessibility?

As mentioned, students like Melissa have the right to an education that meets their unique needs. Therefore, accessibility is a requirement in special education. Accessibility in a special needs classroom means that the students can access or use the materials and understand the instruction. For example, captioning, or transcribing the audio of a presentation in written form on the screen, would make a movie accessible to Melissa because she would be able to read the words on the screen instead of struggling to hear them.

Accessibility Is Increased When Captioning Is Used
captioning

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