- Learning Objectives
- Disability Related Civil Rights Laws: Section 504/ADA
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Comparing Section 504/ADA to the IDEA
- Defining “Disability” in Federal Laws
- Student Responsibilities
- Institution and Faculty Responsibilities
- Physical and Cognitive Access
- The Role of Universal Design In Higher Education
Physical and Cognitive Access
Some students with disabilities face barriers in relation to their ability to physically access education. For example, if a student cannot access a classroom, lab, or a library, that student is restricted in the ability to fully participate in the educational environment. The ADA clearly notes that in regard to physical access for students with disabilities:
However, for most students with disabilities in postsecondary education, physical access does not present barriers. Most students are identified with “hidden” or less visible disabilities. These include learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or emotional disabilities. These students can face barriers to their cognitive access to course information. This includes how they can receive such information (e.g., reading texts or online materials, listening in class, focusing attention and concentration), process the information (e.g., encoding information into memory, retrieving facts from memory), and express understanding and knowledge (e.g., through test taking, in writing).
It is important to note that accessibility in online and blended learning has focused almost exclusively on the needs of students with physical and sensory disabilities. Although this is certainly important, the access needs of students with cognitive disabilities have been almost completely overlooked (Bohman & Anderson, 2005).
Traditionally, barriers to access have been eliminated through the use of academic adjustments (often referred to as reasonable accommodations) and auxiliary aids. The regulations of Section 504 specifically comment on accommodations on exams, noting:
The concept of universal design (UD) offers a new way of enhancing access to course information for a range of diverse learners including those with disabilities. UD promotes planning to meet the needs of as many people as possible during the design stage. By so doing, the need for retroactive accommodations or modifications can be minimized. Importantly, people without disabilities, including second-language learners, returning students, and students with a range of learning styles also benefit from enhanced access to the curriculum when universal design principles are applied as a course is being developed (Bissonnette, n.d.; Burgstahler, 2002).
Permission is granted to copy this document for educational purposes; however, please acknowledge your source using the following citation: