Accommodations to Ensure Programmatic Accessibility
Institutions must assure program accessibility to students with disabilities. Program accessibility ensures that people with disabilities are afforded access to all programs, services, and activities offered by the institution. While we may interpret program accessibility to mean physical accessibility issues, and it does, it is important to also consider other types of accessibility issues:
- Accessibility through technology
- Alternative formats for written materials
- Sign language interpreting
- Rescheduling classes in accessible locations
- And priority registration.
Accessibility through Technology
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Amendments is part of the federal legislation supporting the idea that "disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural, and educational mainstream of American society." Section 508 addresses electronic and information technology and helps ensure that for people with disabilities the "access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data" for people without disabilities. For some students with disabilities, technology is key to their success. Students with visual impairments or reading disabilities may use any of the following technological resources as accommodations.
- JAWS, an acronym for “Jobs Access With Speech,” is the most widely-used screen
- ZoomText 9 allows the student to see and hear everything on the computer screen,
providing complete access to applications, documents, e-mail and the internet.
- Kurzweil 1000 is a system for scanning books and other printed material into a
computer and then speaking it aloud through a synthesizer.
Alternative Formats of Text
Still other students may use the following as sources of alternative formats of text that are accessible to people with disabilities. Some of the formats include Braille, large type, recorded books, digital books, and tactile graphics.
- American Printing House for the Blind offers Braille, large type, recorded, computer disk, and tactile graphic publications.
- Bookshare.org is an online community that allows book scans to be shared, eliminating significant duplication of effort.
- Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic provides recorded books in specialized formats.
- Texas Text Exchange is a web-based digital library of electronic books for exclusive use by students with disabilities in postsecondary institutions.
Sign Language Interpreting
The role of the interpreter within the postsecondary setting is to facilitate communication between deaf and hearing individuals throughout the educational environment. This link plays a major role in the success of most college students who are deaf. The interpreter’s task typically involves listening to the spoken English message of the instructor and other students, and then signing the message to the deaf student. However, there are times when an interpreter must “voice” for a deaf student. Some deaf students do not have speech that is intelligible to most listeners and yet others may have somewhat intelligible speech but feel uncomfortable using it publicly. The deaf student may choose to express themselves using sign language, while relying on the interpreter to translate the signed message into spoken English.
Rescheduling Classes in Accessible Locations
Some institutions may have classes in buildings that are not completely accessible due to the age of the building. If a student with a disability is assigned to an inaccessible classroom, the institution should reschedule the class location to an accessible building.
Priority registration allows a student with a documented disability to register for classes at the beginning of the registration period. This accommodation is beneficial to students with disabilities for a variety of reasons:
- Student may need to take medication at certain times of the day.
- Student needs to space classes sufficiently to allow for travel time between classes.
- Student needs to space classes to allow for extending testing times on days that tests are administered.