Creating a Welcoming Classroom Climate
The Office of Student Accessibility professional staff, in collaboration with Lewis & Clark students, would like to offer the following tips for creating a welcoming classroom climate:
- This starts with your syllabus. Here is an approved statement you may wish to add to your class syllabus and review during the first week of each class:
“If you have a disability that may impact your academic performance, you may request accommodations by meeting with the Office of Student Accessibility staff and submitting documentation on the Office of Student Accessibility website. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional questions or concerns.”
When you receive an accommodations letter, be sure to follow up with the Office of Student Accessibility if you have any clarifying questions. Accommodations do not compromise the essential elements of a course or curriculum; nor do they weaken the academic standards or integrity of a course.
Accommodations simply provide an alternative way to accomplish the course requirements by
eliminating or reducing disability-related barriers.
This is also a great time to offer a private meeting with the student to set clear expectations regarding your work together.
Email Template to a Student in Response to Receiving their Accommodation Letter:
I wanted to confirm that I have received and agree with the accommodation letter was sent from you through the OSA office. Thank you for communicating with me about this. I have found it can be helpful to meet and talk about what these accommodations look like for you in my course. Would you like to meet? (INSTRUCTIONS FOR SCHEDULING)
In preparation for the meeting with me, please review the course syllabus and deadlines. If at any point in the semester you are having a difficult time in the course, please remember that I am here to support you. I hope you have a fun and successful semester!
Prompt questions you can ask during this meeting:
Do you have any questions about the syllabus or deadlines?
What type of support have you received in the past that you found helpful?
Is there anything in particular you anticipate will be a challenge for you in this course?
How will I know if you are having a hard time? (e. missing class, missing deadlines)
If you are experiencing something difficult, how will you communicate with me?
Finally, discuss student’s definition of success for the course, and then clarify what that looks like from your perspective as the instructor
- It is important to remember that not all students with disabilities work with the Office of Student Accessibility - consider incorporating elements of Universal Design into your classroom.
- Establish ground rules. One option to create effective ground rules is to elicit them from the class. Students with hidden disabilities, especially those that are psychologically based, may be fine with their instructor knowing about their disability, but may be very concerned about ridicule or harassment by their peers. Consider the work of Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens (2013) - From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces
- Attend to the physical needs of all students. Informing them where the restrooms are and allowing occasional breaks in longer classes lets them know that you have an interest in their comfort.
- Review your reading materials for class — are your Word documents or .pdf articles accessible? Review your video content for class — are your videos captioned and accessible? Think about providing Google Slides and PowerPoint presentations before the beginning of class. This will allow students to upload them to their electronic note taking systems for taking notes in class.
- Avoid singling out students. If you need to talk with a student, for example, about exam accommodations, do so in private; office hours or a scheduled appointment work well for this type of conversation.
- Is a microphone available in your classroom? Sound amplification makes it possible for everyone to engage and learn.
- Recognize the expertise and authority of personal experience. The student with the disability is most always the one who best understands the disability and how it impacts learning.
- Share your own experiences, as your comfort level allows. Vulnerability is a quality that students with disabilities have identified as important in people they decide to trust.
- Honor diversity and cultural differences. Every student is an individual, there is no one way to accommodate a student; consider the individual.
- Consider including the Office of Student Accessibility statement on your syllabus and highlight it verbally the first day of class. This is a powerful way to communicate to all students that a class will be accessible to them, and that you are open to creating ways to increase inclusiveness in the course.
For assistance with access or disability-related questions or concerns, contact the Office of Student Accessibility at email@example.com or (503)768-7192.