Seeing Our Students With Disabilities

Students with disabilities in an online classroom are often hidden from view. When we don't meet face-to-face with our students, it's difficult to identify individual needs. How can we better “see” these students and work to accommodate their needs? At Ohio State, we are challenging ourselves to think of all types of learners when we are designing and delivering online or in-person instruction.

Here's something to consider - a mall in Russia started projecting holograms of people with disabilities in handicapped parking spaces to deter people without disabilities from parking in reserved spaces. Around 30 percent of drivers in Russia take those spaces without much regard for those who truly need them. See the reactions of drivers when a person with a disability suddenly appeared in the parking spot:

To address the needs of our students, we must first identify and understand what their needs are. Experiencing a course from a variety of perspectives isn’t easy. You have to be willing to step out of your own preferences and perspective, while attempting to “see” through the lens of someone else entirely. The UDL and Accessibility Perspectives site provides insight on students with differences in ability or communication. This knowledge will help you experience activities or course content through a different lens. When experiencing material through a different prospective, ask yourself:

  • What challenges does this course/activity/resource present for me?
  • Will I be able to be successful or will my disability or learning preferences get in the way?
  • Will this activity be meaningful to me?

Although we do not have holographic images of students with disabilities to remind us of the responsibility we have, all students must be considered when designing a course, just as all people are when designing a building or parking lot.