Creating a Welcoming Classroom Climate
The Office of Student Support Services professional staff, in collaboration with Lewis & Clark students, would like to offer the following tips for creating a welcoming classroom climate:
- When you receive an accommodations letter, be sure to follow up with the Office of Student Support Services if you have any clarifying questions. This is also a great time to offer a private meeting with the student to set clear expectations regarding your work together.
- It is important to remember that not all students with disabilities work with the Office of Student Support Services - 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 .pdf articles accessible? Review your video content for class — are your videos accessible?
- 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 Student Support Services 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 Support Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or (503)768-7192.