Ways To Support Students With Disabilities

When students with disabilities are admitted to the University, they have met the same rigorous standards for admission as all other students attending Rutgers. Faculty can support the continued success of students with disabilities by implementing certain practices described below, in sections that refer to students with specific disabilities (found later in this site), and in the quick reference list of Recommendations for All Courses (located at the end of this document).

Syllabus Statement

It is important that faculty include in each syllabus a statement asking students to inform them of any special needs to ensure that those needs are met in a timely manner. A further recommendation is that the statement be read aloud by the faculty member during the first week of class. This approach demonstrates to students that you are someone who is sensitive to and concerned about meeting the needs of ALL students you teach. Furthermore, it affords students the opportunity to make their accommodation needs known to you early in the semester.


It is essential that disability information be kept confidential. At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability, except at the student’s request. All information that a student shares with a faculty member is to be used specifically for arranging reasonable accommodations for the course of study. We recommend that students discuss Letters of Accommodation with faculty during office hours or by special appointment. At that time, arrangement of accommodations can be discussed in private. (See also Receiving a Request for Accommodations and Special Testing Accommodations below.)

Verification of Disability

The professor is entitled to confirmation of the student’s disability from a qualified source such as ODS. At the student’s or professor’s request (with a release from the student), ODS will provide the student with a Letter of Accommodation (LOA) verifying his or her disability, and detailing options for accommodations needed in class and/or in testing situations. The student may then share this letter with the professor during office hours and discuss how accommodations will be implemented.

Textbooks, Course packs, Syllabi, and Videos

Please make your book selections, compiled course packs, and syllabi available in a timely manner. Students, who are blind, have visual impairments, or learning disabilities affecting their reading rates and comprehension, require printed materials that are transformed into alternate formats. Conversion of a text into an alternate format or Braille can be a time consuming process, taking as much as six months to complete. Your syllabus is required to determine the extent to which each text will be used and the order in which reading assignments will be completed.

Some students will rely on having printed material scanned and saved in computer format that can be listened to using voice output software. If you are collating various journal articles and portions of books into the course pack, please use originals or a copy that is as clean as possible. Creating course packs using second, third, and forth generation copies of material (copies made from copies, made from copies, etc.) may cause images of text that are fuzzy. Such blurring often makes it impossible for character recognition software to decipher images as readable text. If material included in course packs is not all of top quality, the Office of Disability Services would appreciate being able to briefly borrow your originals for scanning.

In addition, when posting additional reading material on Sakai or Blackboard, please make sure that the PDF was created in text and not image. The adaptive software can not read image PDF’s.

In addition, you may ask if the publishers of the books you are considering have created electronic text (e-text) and/or alternate formats. New Jersey, along with other states, is in the process of adopting legislation requiring book publishers to automatically create alternative format versions for all books they market. If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide to maximize comprehension for all students.

Further, using captioned versions of videos is extremely helpful for deaf or hard of hearing students and students who have other auditory processing difficulties. Although some videos used in classes are already captioned, others are not. In most cases, you will be contacted by a staff member in the Office of Disability Services (ODS) before a semester begins or early in the semester, if there is a deaf or hard of hearing student in your class who needs captioning. However, if you are aware that you will be using videos in a class with an enrolled deaf or hard of hearing student, please contact the ODS to discuss how captioning can be created for you. Be aware that to create such captioning, ODS requires a minimum turn-around time of thirty business days from the receipt of a video. So your forethought, prompt action, and cooperation are greatly appreciated. Please provide us with a transcript of the video, if one is available.

Creating captioning from a transcript simplifies the process and may shorten turn around time. When requesting audio-visual equipment, make sure you request equipment with a captioning decoder.

How to Refer to People with Disabilities

The following are some suggestions for communication that can make both you and a student with disabilities more comfortable:

  • A person with a disability is first and foremost a PERSON with many unique qualities, only one of which may be an impairment that is handicapping in particular settings.
  • Avoid references, phrases, and words that suggest restrictions, limitations, or boundaries because these phrases tend to carry stereotypes and contribute to discriminating attitudes. Even if a person with disabilities refers to him or herself in particular ways, using phrases like “confined to a wheelchair” reflect poor judgment on the part of the speaker or writer. If you feel awkward in how to refer to a person with disabilities, your best bet may be to ask the person.

Receiving a Request for Accommodations

Procedurally, formal requests for accommodations will come to you in a Letter of Accommodations (LOA) authorized by ODS. The LOA will be signed by the student’s coordinator in the Office of Disability Services. The accommodations in these letters are not meant to give students with disabilities an unfair advantage, but rather to give them an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of course content. Although a student may request an academic adjustment at any time, the student should request this as early as possible. Some academic adjustments may take more time to provide than others. The student should follow established procedures to ensure that the University has enough time to review the request and provide an appropriate academic adjustment. Also, ODS does not ask that instructors modify essential course requirements for the sake of the student. Any faculty member considering denying an accommodation because it modifies an essential course requirement should consult with ODS. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the LOA, please contact the student’s coordinator.

Special Testing Accommodations

Some accommodations listed in the LOA relate to test taking. For example, extended time for testing is the most prevalent accommodation given to students who, for disability related reasons, process information at a different pace and require additional time to complete tests. A few students may also need to take tests in a room with reduced distractions or with no other students present. For example, a student may need to read test questions aloud, and this would be disturbing to other test-takers. Still other students may benefit from the use of a laptop computer or adaptive computer technology for taking essay exams.

When special test accommodations are needed, it is in everyone's best interest if the proctor is either one of the teaching assistants for the course, the professor, or another member of the academic department. This practice allows students to direct any problems or questions they might have to someone with knowledge of course content and departmental procedures.

Making a Referral to the Office of Disability Services (ODS)

Faculty members sometimes contact ODS regarding students they feel might need to avail themselves of services offered by our office. Although teachers in high school are active participants in the process of identifying and referring students to special services, there is no comparable requirement in higher education. If you see a student who is struggling, please feel free to refer that student to ODS at 848-445-6800 or to Counseling, Alcohol & Other Drug Assistance Program & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) (732) 932-7884. Remember that our students are adults; they may respond best to private conversations in which you use an inquiring and supportive approach and share information about the existence and location of the ODS office. Only the student can decide to disclose his or her disability, or to pursue information about services available in the ODS office. If a student is requesting accommodations but has not presented you with a LOA from our office, you may ask the student to contact ODS.