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Accommodations for ELL Students with Disabilities

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

English language learners (ELLs) face a challenge as they try to learn a new language. ELLs who have disabilities have an extra challenge to face. This lesson overviews the accommodations teachers can make for ELLs with disabilities.

What Is an Accommodation and Why Apply It?

Tamara is an English language learner (ELL) from Ecuador. In addition to working hard to learn English, Tamara also has dyslexia. This learning disability means that Tamara has serious difficulty when reading and writing. Tamara writes very slowly, has difficulty putting her thoughts on paper, and has poor spelling. Tamara is an ELL with a disability who needs accommodation in school.

An accommodation is a modification that educators can make to the regular way things are done to give the same opportunity to students with a disability that their peers have. In our example, Tamara can have the same opportunity as her peers to academically succeed if we make an accommodation for her disability. Now, let's explore how this can happen.

Types of Accommodations for ELLs

ELLs with disabilities are provided equal educational opportunities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is the law that defines disabilities and the general principles that guide accommodations. Under the ADA, ELLs who have disabilities are entitled to general accommodations in school, such as wheelchair access to school facilities, personal assistants (e.g., trained animals) and personal devices (e.g., hearing aids) to help overcome a disability. We are somewhat familiar with these accommodations because they apply to most facilities that provide goods and services, such as stores, hospitals and parks.

For schools, different states across the country create policies to accommodate ELLs with disabilities. However, most states use the following guiding principles. Keep in mind that accommodations for ELLs with disabilities are not to lower school expectations but to aid students with disabilities.

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