Faculty SAS Handbook

Student Accessibility Services HOURS & Location

Monday – Friday: 8:00-4:30
Hours may vary during breaks, summer, and holidays

Location: SAS Main Office (D117)

Email: sas.alameda@peralta.edu

Table of Contents


Dear College of Alameda Faculty Member:

Since one out of ten students enrolled at the College of Alameda has a disability that has been verified by Student Accessibility Services (SAS), formerly Programs and Services for Students with Disabilities (DSPS), it is very likely that you will have at least one student with a disability in each class.

It is also likely that there is at least one student in your class who is eligible for services but who does not know that they are available. Other students, particularly those with learning disabilities, may not know that they have a disability and that SAS offers limited diagnostic testing. There may also be students in your class who have disabilities but who choose not to disclose that information to anyone at the college.

The goal of this faculty handbook is to offer you, the instructional faculty, suggestions and resources so that students with disabilities who enroll in your class have an equal opportunity to succeed. This does not mean that all students will succeed in your class, but rather that they have equal access to the instruction that you provide.

The handbook will also describe strategies and best practices, such as the application of universal curriculum design, that can enhance instruction for all students in your class, including those with disabilities.

In addition, the handbook will offer suggestions on how you can provide information about services to students who are struggling in your class. One approach is to include a statement on your syllabus about services that are available; a sample statement is included in the handbook.

If you can’t read the entire handbook at first, we recommend that you start with the following sections:

  • Legal Foundations for Academic Accommodations: What the Law Requires and What It Doesn’t Require
  • Who is Eligible for Services?
  • Services Provided to Eligible Students
  • Process for Students to Receive Services
  • Students’ Rights to Confidentiality
  • How Testing Accommodations are Provided at COA
  • What Constitutes “Fundamental Alteration”
  • Using Universal Design Principles in Instruction
  • How to Refer Students to DSPS

You may also want to consult the “Specific Disabilities” section for recommendations on working with students who have visual impairments, students who are deaf/hard-of-hearing, or others. Of course, we hope that you will take the time soon to become familiar with all of the topics presented in the handbook.

Whether you are a seasoned instructor or this is your first semester teaching, we trust that the information in the handbook will increase your confidence in working with students with disabilities — in knowing what to do, whom to ask if questions arise, and where to go to get additional information.

We look forward to working with you. Please call SAS at (510)748-2328, email us at SAS.Alameda@peralta.edu or drop by the office in D 117.

Roll and Missions of SAS

SAS provides both instruction and support services to students with disabilities. The goal is to support the student with a disability in educational activities consistent with the mission of the college, federal and state law, and Peralta Board policy. (See the following section and Appendix A for a summary of these laws and policies.)

The role of SAS staff is not to enforce the law or to intervene in the student/teacher relationship, but to assist the college and instructors in meeting their obligations to students.

The mission of Student Accessibility Services (SAS) is to provide exemplary support services, instruction and access to students with disabilities. SAS supports students with disabilities in instructionally related activities consistent with the mission, vision, and values of the College of Alameda and in compliance with federal and state laws. With equal access as its hallmark, the faculty and staff of SAS are committed to the following:

  • Opportunity: To ensure equal educational opportunities to students with disabilities who have the potential for achieving academic and vocational goals consistent with a community college program.
  • Empowerment: To empower students with disabilities to achieve independence and integration leading to maximum participation in the college and the community.
  • Awareness: To provide information and support to College of Alameda employees and students in carrying out the institution’s responsibility to students with disabilities.

The SAS mission forms the basis for the faculty handbook.

How to Refer Students to SAS & Syllabus Statements

It is strongly recommended that all faculty include statements on your syllabus advising students of the process to request accommodations through SAS.  These statements provide an excellent first step in ensuring that students are aware of SAS’s services, increasing the timeliness of their accommodations requests, and avoiding problems which might result from delayed requests for accommodations.

It is also standard to include on all college documents a statement that the document is available in alternate format (i.e. large print, braille, e-text.)

Following are two statements that SAS staff recommend for inclusion on all syllabi:

  1. “If you have a disability which may require classroom or test accommodations, please contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at 510-748-2328 or SAS.Alameda@peralta.edu. You will need to provide written documentation of your disability. If you think you have a disability but currently have no documentation, SAS may be able to help you. All information will be kept confidential.”
  2. “This document is available in alternate format upon request. Please contact SAS at 510-748-2328 or SAS.Alameda@peralta.edu.”

You may also encourage students to meet with you to discuss their learning needs. For example, you could say to a student: “I noticed that you seemed to have difficulty organizing your paper. You might consider using some of the support services we have on campus such as the Tutorial Center, the Basic Skills Lab, or the program for students with disabilities.”

Another option is to provide students with a copy of the “Self Quiz Regarding Diagnostic Testing” found in Appendix D so that students can refer themselves for testing if they think it is appropriate.

It is not a good idea, however, to ask directly about a possible disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that a public entity may not make unnecessary inquiries into the existence of a disability. These inquiries usually relate to hiring or pre-admission screening, but when talking with students such inquiries should also be avoided. A direct inquiry such as this could be considered intrusive or insensitive. You may simply tell the student that you notice s/he is having academic difficulty and encourage him/her to come talk with you about gaining assistance, just as you would with any student.


FAQ’s, University of Washington DO-IT Program https://www.washington.edu/doit/programs/accesscollege

Legal Foundations for Academic Accommodations

Federal and state laws and Peralta Board Policy govern the rights of students with disabilities to higher education. These laws and policies include Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973 and 1998); the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990); Peralta Board Policy 5.24; and Title 5, sections 56000 through 56076. For specific information about these laws and policies, please see Appendix A of the SAS Faculty Handbook.

What the Law Requires: Equal, not Preferential Treatment

The law requires equal access to instruction, services, activities, and facilities of the college.

The law requires that the student be evaluated on ability, not disability.

The law requires accommodations when the student has an educational limitation that affects the ability to acquire information or to demonstrate knowledge of the course material in a standard way.

What the Law Does Not Require

The law does not require changing standards or grading policies because a student has a disability.

The law does not require allowing a student to cheat.

The law does not require providing accommodations to a student who verbally claims a disability but who has not provided documentation to the college, either through SAS or through the 504/ADA Compliance Officer.

The law does not require providing personal devices such as wheelchairs, hearing aids or glasses.

The law does not require providing personal services such as assistance with eating, dressing, or mobility.

The law does not require providing accommodations that would fundamentally alter the nature of a program, class, or course.

The law does not require providing accommodations which lower or substantially modify academic or program standards.

Brief History of SAS at CoA

Enactment of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provided impetus at COA for creation of Programs and Services for Students with Disabilities (DSPS), now called Student Accessiblity Services (SAS).

In 1977 the first full-time counselor was hired to provide services to students with disabilities.

In 1978 a Learning Disabilities Specialist was hired and created the Learning Skills Program.

In 1979 the Vocational Living Skills Program was launched.

In 1987 the Adapted Computer Learning Center (ACLC) opened through a grant from the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR); in 1990 funding was secured to continue the ACLC.

In 1994 WorkAbility III was established and funded through a contract with the Department of Rehabilitation.

In 2011 the College to Career Program was established and funded by the Department of Rehabilitation.

In 2021, with feedback from our community we changed our name to Student Accessibility Services (SAS).

Is SAS the Same as Special Education?

There is no Special Education in postsecondary education, although some students may choose to participate in Educational Assistance classes offered by SAS.

Services provided to students with disabilities in K-12 are different from those at the postsecondary level. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law that applies to the education of students with disabilities in K-12, does not apply to postsecondary schools. Because K-12 education is mandated while postsecondary education is not, the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities are different in K-12 than in college.

Students in K-12 may be evaluated using differential standards and curriculum may be fundamentally altered. The primary focus of postsecondary disability services is to ensure that students with disabilities receive classroom accommodations to which they are legally entitled. The law mandates equal access to instruction, it does not require the fundamental alteration of a program.

Who is Eligible for Services?

Students who have a documented disability may be eligible for SAS services. SAS serves students whose disabilities include, but are not limited to:

    • Mobility impairment
    • Visual disability
    • Learning disability
    • Autism Spectrum disabilities
    • Acquired Brain Injury
    • Intellectual Disability
    • Mental Health/Psychological Disability
    • Chronic Health Conditions
    • Deafness, Hearing Loss, Hard of Hearing.

Although SAS works primarily with students with permanent or ongoing disabilities, students with temporary disabilities due to accident, illness, surgery or other circumstances may also qualify for SAS services on a temporary basis if the disability substantially interferes with the student’s ability to participate successfully in the academic environment.

Services Provided to Students

SAS provides educational and vocational support services for students with disabilities enrolled at the college.

Services may include, but are not limited to:

    • Academic, personal, and vocational counseling
    • College program planning
    • Diagnostic testing
    • Priority registration and enrollment assistance
    • Support services personnel such as notetakers, real-time captioners, sign language interpreters, and scribes
    • Testing accommodations
    • Liaison with four-year colleges and community agencies
    • Liaison with the Department of Rehabilitation and the Regional Center
    • Instructional materials in alternate media, such as braille, large print, electronic text (e-text), tactile graphics, and audio tape
    • Access to adapted computer equipment and other assistive technology

Students may also participate in the following specialized instructional programs:

Learning Skills Program – Assists students with learning disabilities by providing assessment, advising, and liaison with campus instructors and programs. Teaches learning strategies in reading, writing, spelling, math, and study skills. Covers basic through college skill levels.

Adapted Computer Learning Center– Provides instruction in keyboard modification, speech synthesis, screen enlargement, braille output, voice input for “hands-free” computer operation, and other computer adaptations as appropriate for students with learning disabilities, acquired brain injury, visual impairment, or physical disability. Provides computer-assisted instruction in cognitive skills for students with acquired brain injuries or learning disabilities. See the “Special Considerations” section of this handbook for more information on students with acquired brain injuries. See Appendix B for a list of assistive technology available in the Adapted Computer Learning Center.

College to Career Program –College of Alameda is one of five California Community Colleges selected for the College to Career (C2C) grant, funded by the Department of Rehabilitation through 2014. The goals of C2C are to improve employment outcomes for persons with intellectual disability (ID) and to expand the range of jobs available to persons with ID,  with emphasis on areas of job growth.  The C2C program includes on-campus instruction; off-campus internships related to students’ employment goals; and job placement with follow-up as needed.  Students also participate in campus activities to improve social and communication skills needed for success in getting and retaining a job.

WorkAbility III – Emphasizes job seeking skills and job placement. Funded through a contract with the Department of Rehabilitation.

Students’ Process to Receive SAS Services

Following is a summary of the process for students to receive accommodations:

    1. Student makes contact with SAS and asks for accommodations.
    2. Student provides SAS with documentation of disability or is referred for testing by the Learning Disability Specialist.
    3. SAS counselor, in consultation with the student, identifies educational limitations and determines academic accommodations.
    4. With the consent of the student, SAS sends the instructor the Academic Accommodations Form. If testing accommodations are authorized, the student brings the Exam Proctoring Request form to the instructor.
    5. SAS assists instructor in providing accommodations.
    6. Student and SAS evaluate accommodations with input from instructor.

At the College of Alameda, SAS is the designated program to evaluate documentation for disability. If the student gives you documentation directly, you can simply ask the student to come to SAS to meet with a counselor. Instructional faculty are not expected to evaluate disability documentation. If a student says, “I have a disability and I need additional time for tests,” you can ask the student if they have gone through SAS or have otherwise provided the college with disability documentation. By law you are not required, nor advised, to provide accommodations unless the student has submitted the necessary documentation to the college. Almost all students go through SAS to provide this documentation, although very occasionally a student may choose to provide documentation to the 504/ADA Compliance Officer. At the College of Alameda the Vice President of Student Services is the 504/ADA Officer.

The SAS counselor documents the need for specific accommodations, based on the educational limitations caused by the disability. Medical or diagnostic testing and other sources of information are used. With the student’s permission, we will provide you with written notification that the student has a disability and we will send you written recommendations about the student’s approved accommodations. We will not, however, identify the student’s specific disability because that information is confidential unless the disability is apparent (e.g. a student uses a wheelchair or is deaf and needs a sign language interpreter) or the student chooses to share that information with you.

If the student has gone through SAS and has asked for accommodations, you should have received the appropriate forms. If not, please recommend to the student that he or she make an appointment to talk to a SAS counselor to arrange for accommodations.

Students’ Right to Confidentiality

Under the laws affecting higher education, students have the right to confidentiality.

When you receive an accommodation form that states a student has a disability and needs accommodations, or if the student shares that information with you verbally or in writing, that information must be kept confidential. Instructors and staff must maintain a policy of strict confidentiality about the identity of the student with a disability, the nature of the disability, and the disability-related accommodations s/he requires.

It is not legal, for example, to announce by name that a student needs a notetaker, or to discuss the student’s disability in class or in the presence of other students.

Having a disability revealed is often mentioned by students with disabilities as the situation they fear the most at school. If that information is revealed to classmates or others without the student’s permission, it is a violation of the trust that the student has in the instructor and the college.

Some disabilities are obvious but there are many more disabilities that are not so apparent. These disabilities are usually revealed to you only so that the proper accommodations can be provided to give the student an equal opportunity to learn in your classroom.



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) – University of Washington DO-IT Program https://www.washington.edu/doit/programs/accesscollege

Accommodating Students with Disabilities in the Classroom, Individual Accommodation Model (IAM) University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, p.5.

What are Academic Accommodations?

Accommodations make courses accessible to students with disabilities. By law, students with disabilities must be given the opportunity both to acquire information and to be evaluated in a way that allows the student to fully demonstrate his/her knowledge of the subject.

Following are some examples of academic accommodations that may be appropriate for students with various disabilities. However, accommodations are determined for each student on an individualized basis. Not all blind students read braille. Not all students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing know sign language. Accommodations are based on a determination of the effects of the student’s disability in the specific academic environment.

Low Vision

    • Seating near front of class
    • Large print handouts, lab signs, and equipment labels
    • TV monitor connected to microscope to enlarge images
    • Class assignments made available in electronic or large print format
    • Computers equipped to enlarge screen characters and images


    • Recorded, brailled or electronic-formatted lecture notes, handouts, and texts
    • Verbal descriptions of visual aids
    • Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
    • Computer with optical character reader, voice output, braille screen display and braille embossed output

Deafness/Hard of Hearing

    • Interpreter, real-time captioning, FM system, notetaker
    • Open or closed-captioned films, use of visual aids
    • Written assignments, lab instructions, demonstration summaries
    • Use of email for class and private discussions

Learning Disability

    • Notetakers and/or recording class sessions
    • Extra exam time, alternative testing arrangements
    • Visual, aural, and tactile instructional demonstrations
    • Computer with voice output, spellchecker, and grammar checker

Mobility Impairment

    • Notetaker / lab assistant; group lab assignments
    • Classrooms, labs, and field trips in accessible locations
    • Adjustable tables; lab equipment located within reach
    • Class assignments made available in electronic format
    • Computers equipped with special input device (e.g. voice input, alternative keyboard)

Health Impairment

    • Notetaker
    • Flexible attendance requirements and extra exam time
    • Assignments made available in electronic format; use of email to facilitate communication

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

    • Extended time to complete tests or assignments.
    • Note takers/scribes/readers.
    • Reduced course load.
    • Preferred registration for smaller classes.
    • Accessibility to classrooms, labs, facilities and field experiences.
    • Seizure precautions.
    • Recorded lectures, books, and printed course material in digital or audio format.
    • Copies of overheads/class notes.



“Working Together:Faculty and Students with Disabilities.” Brochure from University of Washington DO-IT Program http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Academics/teachers.html

What is the Instructor’s Role in Providing Accommodations?

Instructors play a key role in the accommodation process. The level of involvement faculty will have in the accommodation process will vary depending upon the following factors: the type of accommodation provided, the setting for the accommodation, the student’s disability, and the instructor’s comfort level in working with students with disabilities.

The following examples demonstrate varying levels of instructor involvement in the accommodation process. The examples are not designed to guide the selection of accommodations for a particular student.

Accommodations which require little or no involvement by the instructor

Recording Classes

Recording class lectures and discussions may be a necessary accommodation for some students. If SAS approves use of a recording device for a student, faculty must allow it. Recording is specifically mentioned in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as a means of providing full participation in educational programs and activities. As a general rule, any classroom material on which a student typically would take notes may be recorded. Occasionally, classroom discussion reveals items of a personal nature about students. If open discussions tend to reveal personal information, it would be appropriate to ask the student with a disability to turn off the tape recorder during these discussions. Students are directed that recordings are for personal use during the duration of the course, only. Recordings are not to be shared, sold, or used for any other non-class related purpose. Recording devices may include (but are not limited to): Tape recorders, digital recorders, cell phone recorder, SmartPens, audio notetaking software, and recording of Zoom classes.


A student with a physical disability who cannot use the standard classroom desks may need to use a chair and/or table designated for that individual. The instructor’s role may be simply to assist the student in reserving the chair and/or for the student’s use.

Accommodations which require the instructor to be minimally involved

Notetaking devices

A blind student may use a braille notetaking device which stores information electronically. The instructor would need to remember to verbalize what s/he writes on the board or to describe verbally other items used in instruction.


A notetaker, who may or may not be a student enrolled in your course, attends each class session in order to take notes for a student with a disability. When possible SAS pays a stipend to a student enrolled in the class to share notes. Instructors are asked to help identify students who could act as note takers. Instructors are asked to make announcements in class to identify volunteers, and make requests of specific students if volunteers are not found. Instructors may share their own notes if a note taker cannot be identified. Please notify DSPS if you are having difficulty finding a note taker in a class.

Assistive Listening Devices

Some students with hearing impairments use assistive listening devices which amplify and transmit sound. Usually the person speaking wears some type of microphone, which transmits sound directly to a receiver being worn by the student. The instructor may be asked to wear a transmitter or microphone during class. Faculty may also need to restate questions or comments that are made by other students so that this information is transmitted to the student with the hearing impairment.

Interpreters or Real-Time Captioning

Students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may use an American Sign Language interpreter or a Real-Time Captioner who transcribes the lecture so that the student can access instruction and participate in classroom discussion. The instructor should speak directly to the person who is deaf or hard of hearing rather than to the interpreter. For more guidelines on working with students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, please see the “Special Considerations” section in this handbook.

Extended Time on Tests

When a student is authorized for extended time on tests, test proctoring services are provided by the SAS so that students may take their tests with accommodations. Many students who are authorized for extended time also require a reduced distraction environment, one as free as possible of distracters (visual, auditory or sensory) that would inhibit a student from concentrating and attending to the exam with results reflective of their knowledge of the subject matter.

In the event that an instructor prefers to proctor exams instead of sending the student to the SAS care must be made to adhere to all accommodation instructions. Remember that the student has the legal right to refuse to take an exam if appropriate accommodations are not in place.

Accommodations which require more significant involvement by the instructor

Course Materials in Alternate Formats
Students with a variety of disabilities may require course materials in alternate formats (electronic, audio, large print, etc.) in order to access course materials and content. Instructors are asked to provide a detailed textbook reading order with dates, and advance copies of any course handouts so that SAS may prepare these materials for the students use in-class. If it is possible to get materials from instructors via e-mail or on a flash drive, this will speed up the process and ensure students’ timely access to books and materials.

It is the student’s responsibility to request Alternate Media services, to purchase required texts and provide SAS with course textbook information and a copy of the syllabus for each class in which alternate media services are requested. For more information on Alternative Media and the production timelines, please see: https://alameda.peralta.edu/student-service/dsps/alternate-media-services/

Testing in Different Format or Alternative Methods of Recording Answers

In some circumstances an alternative testing method will be an approved accommodation for a student. Some disabilities make it very difficult to accurately fill out a Scantron or other computer-scored answer sheet. On a multiple-choice exam an instructor may need to permit a student to circle his or her answers on the test document. The instructor will need to hand score the exam. Other examples include permitting a student to speak answers into a tape recorder or to a scribe or to type answers on a typewriter or computer.

Alternative testing formats

Permitting students to show their knowledge or mastery of the subject matter by using an alternative testing method may be a necessary accommodation, provided that the change in method doesn’t fundamentally alter the education program. For example, permitting an oral exam in lieu of a written exam may be permissible unless the purpose of the exam is also to test the writing ability of the student. Likewise, permitting an essay exam in lieu of a multiple-choice exam or vice versa may be acceptable in some situations.

Adaptations such as these ensure evaluation of the student’s achievement in the course, rather than reflecting the student’s impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills.

Providing Technical Vocabulary

Technical vocabulary may be unfamiliar to students and an interpreter. Preparing a list of such terms will help students and interpreters keep up with the lecture.



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) – University of Washington DO-IT Program https://www.washington.edu/doit/programs/accesscollege

Accommodating Students with Disabilities in the Classroom, Individual Accommodation Model (IAM) University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, p.5.

Testing Accommodations at CoA

If a student is eligible for testing accommodations, the student will bring the Exam Proctoring Request form to you. The form asks you to specify how the test will be delivered to SAS and returned to you and other specific information about the test administration. Please take the time to read it, fill it out, sign it, and then return it to the student. The student will bring it to the SAS office.

Because the SAS office needs to arrange for a test proctor and a place for the student to take the test, it is the responsibility of the student to inform the SAS office 3 days in advance of the need for accommodations on a specific test.

Is Extended Time on Tests Unfair?

Research indicates that it is not unfair to allow students with some disabilities to have extended time for testing. In general, students with learning disabilities benefit from additional time on tests while extended time does not significantly change the performance of non-disabled students. Extra time to stare at a test will not help a student who doesn’t know the material, but students with learning disabilities who have slower writing or processing speeds may need additional time to demonstrate what they know.

The courts have held repeatedly that a lengthening of the standard examination period is an appropriate accommodation for some students with disabilities. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered the State Board of Bar Examiners to allow double the standard time on the bar exam for an applicant with dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder. Similarly, the State District Court for the Western District of New York ruled that a State Bar applicant with a visual impairment must be allowed a four-day examination period rather than the standard two-day period. Other examples include the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or tests administered by California state agencies; extended time is provided for eligible individuals with disabilities taking those tests.



Kay Runyan, “The effect of extra time on reading comprehension scores for university students with and without learning disabilities,” in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24, p. 104-108; E.H. Alster, “The effects of extended time on the algebra test scores for college students with and without learning disabilities”, in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, p. 222-227; and others.

L. Scott Lissner, “Legal Issues Concerning All Faculty in Higher Education,” in Accommodations– or Just Good Teaching?, p. 10.

Accommodations and Academic Standards

Academic accommodations should not be used to lower academic standards. They are, rather, changes to a classroom environment or task that are necessary to provide equal opportunity to eligible students with disabilities. Accommodations are designed to assist students in overcoming functional limitations resulting from their disability. Students with disabilities will still be responsible for meeting course and conduct requirements.

May Faculty Give a Failing Grade to a Student with a Disability?

The laws mandate access to education, not guaranteed academic success.

When a faculty member has communicated clear expectations for performance to his/her students, has provided or allowed academic accommodations as authorized by SAS, has worked with SAS to ensure that course materials are accessible to the student if s/he needs alternate formats (e.g. braille, electronic text, large print, tactile graphics, video captioning) and the student does not meet the course requirements, then failing a student is proper and lawful.



FAQ’s, University of Washington DO-IT Program https://www.washington.edu/doit/programs/accesscollege

What Constitutes a Fundamental Alteration?

The law states that “fundamental alteration” of a program is not required to accommodate students with disabilities. What are some examples and non-examples of fundamental alteration?

There are some situations where adjustments in teaching method or testing may not be required because they could be considered fundamental alterations.

Situation: A student taking a class in small engine repair who has limited use of his/her hands asks to take a written test instead of actually repairing an engine.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? The student’s request would not be accommodated if the essence of the course is to actually repair the engine, not talk or write about it.

Situation: A student tells you that s/he cannot complete writing assignments, with or without accommodations. The student requests that writing assignments not be included in his/her grade.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? If submitting writing assignments is an essential requirement of the class (for example, in English Composition!) there would be no legal mandate to comply with the student’s request to exclude those assignments from the grade.

Situation: A student wants to take all tests at home, although tests are usually administered at the college, or insists on taking tests only as open-book, although other students are not given that choice.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? Although a student’s disability may require extended time or administration of tests at a distraction-reduced site, it would not be appropriate for a student to request that all tests be administered as take-home or open book tests.

There are many other situations where adjustments in teaching method or materials may be required because they would not fundamentally alter instruction.

Situation: A blind student enrolls in a math class and requests that the instructor verbalize what s/he is writing on the board or overhead.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? The faculty member would be legally required (as well as ethically obliged) to make an adjustment in presentation of course material by verbalizing what is written on the board or overhead. Pointing and referring to “this” and “that” as written on the board would not give the student with a visual disability equal access to the instruction. An added benefit is that verbalizing material rather than just writing it can assist all students because the information presented is more explicit.

Situation: A blind student who reads braille requests to have handouts a few days in advance of the class session so that they can be prepared in alternate format.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? The law says that “communication must be as effective as that provided to others.” DSPS will take class handouts and braille them. But to do that, we need at least 2 days lead time. Thus, the instructor would be expected to provide the handouts to the student in a timely way so that DSPS can braille the material and the student can have equal access to the class material at the same time as his/her peers. It would not be sufficient merely to distribute the handouts in class that day and tell the student, “This is the way I teach.”

Situation: A student with a visual or reading disability requests that the instructor provide information about the textbook that will be used in an upcoming semester.

Reasonable Accommodation or Not? Faculty are expected to meet the bookstore deadlines for textbook adoption. This is not an accommodation as such, but timely textbook adoption is critically important for students with visual or reading disabilities.

California law AB 422 became effective in January 2001. It requires that textbooks be provided in electronic text on disk or CD (e-text) to students with visual or reading disabilities so that the student can access the material using assistive technology.

If a student registers with our office and if e-text is considered an appropriate accommodation, DSPS works with the student to procure the e-text. However, that process may take 1-2 months or more. Timely textbook adoption (i.e. meeting the deadlines established by the bookstore) gives DSPS time to contact the publisher and arrange for e-text, or if that isn’t available, to scan the book. Delayed textbook adoption impedes that process, thus depriving the student of access to the textbook material.

Many situations involving accommodations are not so cut-and-dried. That is why DSPS counselors are available to discuss accommodation issues with you. If you are not comfortable with an accommodation request, please call us so that we can discuss it with you.



“Accommodations for Students with Disabilities” – pamphlet from Individual Accommodation Model (IAM), University of Kansas.

Disagreements about Accommodations

Federal and state law and Board policy state that the institution has to provide equal access. In the area of academic accommodations, the role of SAS is to assist the college and instructors in meeting their legal obligations to students with disabilities.

If an instructor receives an accommodation form and doesn’t understand or disagrees with the accommodation, it is the instructor’s professional responsibility to contact SAS and possibly the instructional manager to discuss the issue.

In the event the instructor discusses the issue with SAS and the instructional manager and there is still disagreement, it is college policy that the 504/ADA Coordinator review the case and make an interim decision pending resolution through the District’s Discrimination Complaint procedure. Until a decision is made, the accommodation must be provided.

Disallowing the accommodation or telling the student, “You don’t need this,” or “I don’t believe in learning disabilities,” is illegal and puts the college and district at risk of legal action.

Denial of accommodation can also lead to the instructor being held personally liable. In the early 1990’s a math instructor at UC Berkeley did not allow extended testing time for a student, although the disability was documented and the accommodation was approved by the designated person at the university. The instructor was directed by the university to allow the accommodation. The instructor said that it wasn’t fair to the other students, that he didn’t believe in learning disabilities, and that it violated his rights of academic freedom. The student filed a lawsuit against the faculty member.

The case was Dinsmore vs. Pugh; it settled out of court. The student was satisfied with the judgment and dropped the suit. The specifics of the resolution were not disclosed, but it is assumed that the math professor had to pay an out-of-pocket settlement.

SAS counselors and instructors are here to discuss situations with you as they arise. Although accommodations must be provided if needed to compensate for a disability, the delivery of accommodations often involves a creative process. We invite you to join us in collaboration and creative problem solving so that all students in your class have equal access to your instruction.



L. Scott Lissner, “Legal Issues Concerning All Faculty in Higher Education,” in Accommodations– or Just Good Teaching?, p. 19.

Are Faculty Expected to Accommodate Disruptive Behavior?

In the postsecondary setting all students, disabled or not, are expected to follow the Student Rules of Conduct as found in the College Catalog.

Even if a student has a disability that affects behavior, they are expected to meet the behavior standards of the classroom. If not, you should follow the same procedures as with any other student who acts inappropriately.

For more information, please see “Strategies for Effective Classroom Management: Faculty/Staff Rights and Responsibilities,” a handbook prepared by the COA Crisis Team.

Sometimes it is assumed automatically that students with behavioral issues are students with disabilities and SAS receives phone calls asking that we intervene. Although some students with behavior problems may benefit from referral to SAS (especially if behavior is caused by undiagnosed learning disabilities, psychological disabilities, or frustration caused by lack of success in classes), to maintain confidentiality SAS staff cannot divulge if the student is already receiving SAS services. It is best to follow the standard college procedure if a student is disruptive.

It is important to note that the vast majority of students with psychological disability are not disruptive and will be indistinguishable from other students in your class. Usually, college students with this disability who self-identify with SAS have been in therapy or are under medical treatment.

Rights and Responsibilities (Students, Faculty, and SAS)

Students with disabilities have the right:

    • To participate voluntarily in SAS
    • To participate in other courses, programs, or activities offered by the college
    • To be evaluated based on ability, not disability
    • To appeal a decision regarding accommodations through the District’s Discrimination Complaint procedure.

Students with disabilities have the responsibility:

    • To provide professional documentation of disability to the college
    • To request accommodations in a timely way
    • To follow procedures for obtaining accommodations
    • To work cooperatively with SAS to determine and implement accommodations
    • To maintain the academic and conduct standards of the college

Faculty Rights and Responsibilities

Faculty have the right:

    • To set academic standards
    • To evaluate the student based on the standards of the class and to grade accordingly
    • To advise the student to contact DSPS if the student requests an accommodation and the instructor has not received written notification from the SAS office

Faculty have the responsibility:

    • To work with SAS to provide for accommodations in a fair and timely way
    • To adjust instruction without fundamentally altering the program
    • To provide handouts in a timely way for alternate media provision
    • To select textbooks in a timely way so that e-text can be ordered from the publisher
    • To respect and maintain a student’s right to confidentiality about his/her disability by not announcing or discussing the student’s disability in the presence of other students or staff
    • To contact the SAS office if there is disagreement about the accommodation
    • To work with SAS to ensure that instructional web pages are accessible to students who use assistive technology
    • To work with SAS to ensure that instructional videos are captioned

Faculty do not have the right to refuse to provide accommodations, to question whether the disability exists when accommodations have been authorized by SAS, or to request to examine the student’s documentation.

College Rights and Responsibilities

The college has the right:

    • To request and review documentation that supports requests for accommodation
    • To hold all students to the Student Rules of Conduct

The college has the responsibility:

    • To inform applicants and students with disabilities about the availability and range of accommodations
    • To ensure that all of its programs are accessible
    • To make college materials accessible
    • To establish college policies and procedures for access and a process to resolve disputes
    • To communicate policies and procedures to college employees and students
    • To support an atmosphere of respect and inclusion
    • To adjust, substitute, or waive any requirement that has a disproportionately adverse impact on a disability and is not fundamental to the student’s academic program

SAS Rights and Responsibilities

SAS has the right:

    • To request and receive current documentation that supports the need for accommodations
    • To deny a request for accommodations if the documentation demonstrates that the request is not warranted or if the individual fails to provide appropriate documentation
    • To suspend services if a student persistently violates SAS policies and procedures regarding academic accommodations

SAS has the responsibility:

    • To assist faculty in providing or arranging accommodations and/or auxiliary aids
    • To hold student information confidential except where permitted or required by law
    • To communicate to students, faculty, and staff the process to request accommodations
    • To verify the student’s disabilities and authorize accommodations based on educational limitations caused by the disability

Using Universal Design Principles In Instruction: Suggestions for Helping All Students Succeed

Resource:  Butte College has developed extensive resources regarding Universal Design for Learning.  You will find them at:  https://www.butte.edu/learning/udl/index.html

Information and Tips:

College students come from a wide variety of backgrounds. For some, English is not their first language. Represented in most classes are many types of learning styles, including visual or auditory learners. In addition, increasing numbers of students with disabilities are included in regular postsecondary education courses.

Students want to learn and instructors share this goal. How can you design instruction to maximize the learning of all students? The field of universal design can provide a starting point for developing an inclusive model for instruction.

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Making a product accessible to people with disabilities often benefits others. For example, sidewalk curb cuts designed to make sidewalks and streets accessible to those using wheelchairs are often used by parents with baby strollers and delivery staff with rolling carts. Automatic doors are helpful to those who cannot open a manual door, either because of disability or because their hands are full.

Universal design principles can also be applied to instruction. Employing universal design principles in instruction does not eliminate the need for specific accommodations for students with disabilities. You may need, for instance, to provide a sign language interpreter for a student who is deaf. However, applying universal design concepts in course planning will assure full access to the content for most students and minimize the need for special accommodations. Designing Web resources in accessible format as they are developed means that no redevelopment is necessary if a blind student enrolls in the class. Letting all students have access to your class notes and assignments on an accessible Web site can eliminate the need for providing material in alternative formats. Planning ahead saves time in the long run.

Universal design can generate unanticipated benefits for others. Captioning course videotapes, which provides access to deaf students, is also a benefit to students for whom English is a second language, to some students with learning disabilities, and to those watching the tape in a noisy environment. Delivering content in redundant ways can improve instruction for everyone, including students with a variety of learning styles and cultural backgrounds.

Following are instructional strategies that can help all students succeed. You may not be able to implement all of these suggestions, but many are readily achievable.

Detailed Syllabus: Provide a detailed syllabus that includes course objectives, weekly topics, classroom activities, required reading and writing assignments, and dates of tests, quizzes, and vacations.

Rules Clarification: Clarify rules in advance: how students will be graded, whether makeup tests or rewrites of papers are allowed, what the conditions are for withdrawing from a course or getting an incomplete. These should be included in the syllabus.

Reviews and Previews: Briefly review the major points of the previous lecture or class and highlight main points to be covered that day. Explain what is to be learned and why it is important. Try to present reviews and previews both visually and orally. Emphasize new or technical vocabulary.

Office Hours: Remind students often of your availability during office hours for individual clarification of lectures, reading, and assignments.

Study Aids: Use study aids such as study questions for exams or pretests with immediate feedback before the final exam. Teach students memory tricks and acronyms. Periodically offer tips and encourage class discussion of ways to improve studying – organizational ideas, outlining techniques, summarizing strategies, etc.

Testing: In exam questions, avoid unnecessarily intricate sentence structure, double negatives and questions embedded within questions.

Multi-sensory Teaching: Present material in as many modalities as possible (seeing, speaking, touching).

Visualization: Help the student visualize the material. Visual aids can include overhead projectors, films, carousel slide projectors, chalkboards, flip charts, computer graphics, and illustrations of written text.

Color: Use color. For instance, in teaching anatomy highlight the respiratory system in green and the digestive system in orange. In complex mathematical sequences use color to follow transformations and to highlight relationships.

Tactility: Provide opportunities for touching and handling materials that relate to ideas. Cutting and pasting parts of compositions to achieve logical plotting of thoughts is one possibility.

Announcements: Whenever possible, provide announcements in oral and written form. This is especially true of changes in assignments or exams.

Distinct Speech: Speak at an even speed, emphasizing important points with pauses, gestures, and other body language. This can help students follow classroom presentations. Try not to lecture while facing the chalkboard.

Eye Contact: Establish eye contact to assist students in maintaining attention and to encourage participation.

Demonstration and Role Play: These activities can make ideas come alive and are particularly helpful to the student who has to move around in order to learn.

Faculty participating in the University of Minnesota Curriculum Transformation Project implemented the following strategies after attending workshops on writing inclusive curricula.

    • Post course-related material on the Web to allow students to have repeated access to it.
    • At the beginning of the semester, ask students to complete an optional brief information sheet that includes areas such as, “Tell me anything that you think I should know about you that might affect your performance in this class.” All students are writing at the same time, so there is no obvious disability disclosure.
    • Require group projects, but create a division of labor within the project so that students have choices about what or how they contribute. Not all have to stand up and present, for example.
    • Allow students to develop and bring a “crib sheet” of limited size to exams. Preparation of it results in improved performance as well as reduced anxiety. It also serves as an accommodation for students with short-term memory struggles.
    • Hand out vocabulary sheets two weeks in advance of exam dates to allow for study and review over time. This allows time for students to prepare a variety of study helps such as note cards and computerized study sheets.
    • Allow access to PowerPoint notes for all students.
    • Make specific reference to the disability statement on the course syllabus at the beginning of the semester. (See the following section of the handbook for a suggested syllabus statement.)
    • Add a few bonus points to all exams to reduce stress of questions missed.
    • Distribute lecture outlines to promote thorough notetaking and reference points for study.
    • Develop exams with a percentage of questions that can be omitted. For example, a 100-point exam will have 110 points worth of questions on it, 10 points of which can be selected by the student as “omits.”
    • Require progress reports at regular intervals on team projects that become part of the total grade for the project. Progress notes result in overall improved team project progress and higher levels of participation by all members of the team.
    • Frequently use “one minute papers” at the end of class to allow for questions to be asked, points clarified or materials summarized.
    • Include peer reviews with team assignments. Reviews include descriptions of what work has been completed, an explanation of how it was done, why it was done, and who did it. This activity fosters greater levels of involvement earlier by most students.

Finally, you may want to distribute to students the Learning Strategies for Different Learning Styles described in Appendix C so they can see which approaches work for them.



Description of Universal Design from the University of Washington DO-IT web site: http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Strategies/Universal/

L. Scott Lissner, Accommodations– or Just Good Teaching?, p. 27.

Curriculum Transformation and Disability Project (CTAD) – University of Minnesota

What Do You Say After You Say Hello? A Guide to Disability Etiquette

We are fortunate to have a rich disability rights history in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Through the efforts of activists such as Ed Roberts, the University of California at Berkeley was the first university to have a Disabled Students Program funded in 1970 by the federal government.  Berkeley became a focal point for the disability rights movement because many people with disabilities came to live in the area.

Ed Roberts received his B.A. and M.A. from UC Berkeley although he had a severe physical disability; he’d had polio and used a wheelchair and respirator.  He became one of the first directors of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley and went on to become the director of the California Department of Rehabilitation in 1975.

Although there have been many positive changes over the past 30 years, some of the most difficult barriers people with disabilities face are the negative attitudes and perceptions of other people.   Persons with disabilities still experience prejudice, patronizing attitudes, the presumption about what they can and cannot accomplish, and biases based on their disability rather than their abilities. Sometimes those attitudes reflect unconscious misconceptions on the part of otherwise well-meaning people.

If as an instructor you have had limited experience with persons with disabilities, you may feel awkward or hesitant, not knowing how to communicate comfortably.  Or you may be fearful that you won’t have the tools or techniques to teach that student.

In the spirit of increasing awareness, we offer a Disability Etiquette Guide to assist in the process.  We also recommend that you implement techniques described in the section on Universal Curriculum Design to make the classroom more inclusive and welcoming to all students.


Positive language empowers. When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, put the person first. Group designations such as “the blind,” “the deaf” or “the disabled” are inappropriate because they do not reflect the individuality, equality, or dignity of people with disabilities. Following are some examples of positive and negative phrases. Note that the positive phrases put the person first.

Words with Dignity / Words to Avoid

    • Person with a disability / Handicapped/crippled/the disabled; physically/mentally challenged
    • Person who has multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy / Afflicted by MS, victim of CP
    • Person who has multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy / Afflicted by MS, victim of CP
    • Seizures / Epileptic fits
    • Person who has muscular dystrophy / Stricken by MD
    • Person who uses a wheelchair / Restricted/confined to a wheelchair; wheelchair bound. (The chair enables mobility. Without the chair, the person may be confined to bed.)
    • Person who is blind / The blind
    • Person who is deaf or hard of hearing / Suffers a hearing loss, the deaf
    • Person who is unable to speak or uses synthetic speech / Dumb, mute. (Inability to speak does not indicate lowered intelligence.)
    • Person with psychological disability / Crazy, insane, nuts
    • Successful, productive / Has overcome his/her disability
    • Says s/he/they has a disability / Admits s/he/they has a disability
    • Person without a disability or non-disabled / Normal (Referring to non-disabled persons as “normal” implies that persons with disabilities are abnormal.)
    • Person with an intellectual disability or developmental delay / Slow, retarded


Outlined below are the “Ten Commandments of Etiquette for Communicating with People with Disabilities” to help you in communicating with persons with disabilities.

    1. When talking with a person with a disability, speak directly to that person rather than through a companion or sign language interpreter.
    2. When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. (Shaking hands with the left hand is an acceptable greeting.)
    3. When meeting a person who is visually impaired, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking.
    4. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen to or ask for instructions.
    5. Treat adults as adults. Address people who have disabilities by their first names only when extending the same familiarity to all others.
    6. Leaning on or hanging on to a person’s wheelchair is similar to leaning or hanging on to a person and is generally considered annoying. The chair is part of the personal body space of the person who uses it. Never patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder.
    7. Listen attentively when you’re talking with a person who has difficulty speaking. Be patient and wait for the person to finish, rather than correcting or speaking for the person. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Instead, repeat what you have understood and allow the person to respond. The response will clue you and guide your understanding.
    8. When speaking with a person who uses a wheelchair or a person who uses crutches, place yourself at eye level in front of the person to facilitate the conversation.
    9. To get the attention of a person who is deaf, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to determine if the person can read your lips. Not all people who are deaf can read lips. For those who do lip read, place yourself so that you face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when speaking.
    10. Relax. It’s okay to use accepted common expressions, for example to invite a person in a wheelchair to “go for a walk” or to ask a blind person if he “sees what you mean.”  Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re unsure of what to do.


Center for Independent Living web site: http://www.cilberkeley.org/

Facts on the ADA, Accommodations and Disability, IAM, University of Kansas, p. 8-11. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education; and “Words with Dignity” from Para-Quad.

“Ten Commandments of Etiquette for Communicating with People with Disabilities,” National Center for Access Unlimited, 155 North Wacker Drive, Suite 315, Chicago, IL 60606.

Special Considerations for Working with Students with Specific Disabilities

In a recent US study spanning one academic year, 707,000 students with reported disabilities enrolled in 2-year and 4-year degree-granting postsecondary institutions. The types of disabilities they reported were:

    • Specific Learning Disabilities – 31%
    • ADD or ADHD – 18%
    • Mental Illness/Psychological or Psychiatric condition – 15%
    • Health impairment/condition, including chronic conditions – 11%
    • Mobility limitation/orthopedic impairment – 7%
    • Difficulty hearing – 4%
    • Difficulty seeing – 3%
    • Cognitive difficulties or intellectual disability – 3%
    • Traumatic brain injury – 2%
    • Autism Spectrum Disorders – 2%
    • Difficulty speaking or language impairment – 1%
    • Other impairments – 3%

Source: Students With Disabilities at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions (NCES 2011-018), U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2011

A disability may or may not affect the participation of a student in your class.

Flexibility and effective communication between student and instructor are key in approaching accommodations. Although students with similar disabilities may require different accommodations, it is useful for faculty to be aware of typical strategies for working with students who have various types of impairments. With this basic knowledge, you will be better prepared to ask students to clarify their needs and to discuss accommodation requests.

Most students with disabilities will benefit from instructional strategies that are described in the “Universal Design of Instruction” section of this handbook. For suggestions on working with students with specific disabilities, please see additional links listed on the left of this page. You can also go to the University of Washington web site: www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Strategies/Disability/


“An Institutional Perspective on Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education,” National Center for Educational Statistics, Postsecondary Education Quick Information System, August 1999 as found on the University of Washington DO-IT web site: www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Strategies/Disability/

Faculty Handbook from Diablo Valley College

Acquired Brain Injury


Acquired Brain Injury means a deficit in brain functioning which is non-degenerative and is medically verifiable, resulting in total or partial loss of one or more of the following: cognitive, communication, motor, psycho-social, and sensory perceptual abilities. (Administrative Code Title 5)


It is estimated that every 21 seconds in the United States someone sustains a head injury.  College age students are in a high-risk age group for this type of injury; two-thirds of all acquired brain injury (ABI) cases occur among persons aged 15-24.

Some students with acquired brain injury have mobility problems that will require accommodations.  Many do not, so their disability may not be readily apparent.  At the same time, these students are often painfully aware of the fact that they do not learn as easily as they did before their injury, and this can cause great frustration.  Some of the cognitive deficits persons with head injuries may experience are difficulties with concentration, memory, reading, word finding, problem solving, judgment, time management and abstract reasoning.  The most common lasting effect of ABI is in the area of memory.  You may find that such students do well on test items that require them to recognize answers (multiple choice, matching) but have problems with questions requiring total recall (fill in the blank, short answer, etc.)  DSPS counselors who work with head injured students encourage them to talk with their instructors about the accommodations they may require.

The College of Alameda offers cognitive skills classes and vocational rehabilitation classes to students recovering from acquired brain injuries.  Many also enroll in mainstream classes.

Attention Deficit Disorder


Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD) is a chronic neurological condition characterized by problems with attention, focusing and persistence and often, but not always, hyperactivity. ADD/ADHD must be diagnosed by a medical doctor, psychiatrist or licensed psychologist and sometimes medication is prescribed.


Although difficulties with attention and focusing may interfere significantly with a student’s learning in the classroom, students with ADD/ADHD can also be very bright, creative, artistic, humorous, passionate, hard-working, and visionary.  Some well-known people who have ADD/ADHD, or who are believed to have had ADD/ADHD, include Robin Williams, comedian and actor; John F. Kennedy, president; George Burns, comedian;  Orville Wright, co-inventor of the airplane;  Harry Belafonte, singer and actor; Danny Glover, actor;  Pete Rose, baseball player; Tom Smothers, comedian.

Although characteristics vary from one individual to another, students with ADD/ADHD may have difficulty in one or more of the following areas:

Classroom Skills

    • Paying attention when spoken to, maintaining concentration.
    • Listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time.
    • Filtering out background noise or visual stimulation.
    • Maintaining focus in one-to-one meetings.

Study Skills

    • Organizing and developing ideas for written compositions.
    • Sustaining attention. May appear restless, fidgety.
    • Following instructions.
    • Coping with frustration. For many students the harder they try the worse their symptoms become.

Social Skills

    • Coping with tasks of daily living.
    • Completing projects. Work performance may be inconsistent.
    • Making decisions with sufficient planning and forethought rather than impulsively.
    • Delaying gratification and stimulation seeking.
    • Considering the impact of comments before they’re said.


Many of the suggestions in Universal Design of Instruction will assist students with ADD/ADHD, as well as specific suggestions found in the Learning Disabilities section of this handbook.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also referred to as Autism, is a developmental disability characterized by impairments in social interactions and communication, as well as a pattern of repetitive or obsessive behaviors and interests.

Symptoms can vary from mild to severe and cause limitations in social, academic, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning and frequently limit the student’s ability to access the educational process.

What Might  ASD Look Like in the Classroom?  

ASD, encompassing a spectrum of disorders,  may look very different for each student.

Students may:

    • appear inattentive or bored
    • exhibit ritualistic and repetitive behaviors
    • have trouble staying on topic and maintaining conversations
    • interpret words literally
    • be highly knowledgeable in subject areas of interest
    • display unusual or atypical emotion when stressed
    • have poor awareness of body space
    • have difficulty manipulating small objects
    • lack organizational skills
    • focus intently/exclusively on one task at a time
    • have difficulty working in groups
    • be task oriented
    • be motivated by strong interests
    • have difficulty understanding expectations until they are explicitly detailed
    • have excellent (or very poor) visual-spatial skills
    • experience difficulty with sensory input (e.g. flickering lights, noises, smells, etc., can be very distracting)

Blindness and Low/Partial Vision


Blindness and low vision are defined as a level of vision that limits the student’s ability to access the educational process.  This may include a total or partial loss of vision.


Only a small minority of people are actually totally blind; most are considered “legally blind”. Even with correction, a legally blind person’s best eye sees less at 20 feet than a normal eye sees at 200 feet. Difficulties experienced by many individuals with visual impairments may include: recurring eye strain while reading, inability to read standardized print, inability to read poor quality print or certain colors of print, and sensitivity to bright light.

Students who have been blind since birth, or shortly after, have no visual memories. Their concept of objects, space, and distance may be different from those who became blind later in life. Mobility skills of individuals may vary, depending on the age of onset of blindness and the quality and extent of mobility training and mobility talent. Some students who are blind will use braille with competence, but many do not use it. Most students with visual impairments can acquire information through listening. Some students who are blind are competent typists, but their written communication and spelling skills sometimes reflect their natural dependency on audio transmission of information.

Suggestions for Assisting Students with Visual Impairments

Treat the student with a visual impairment very much as you would any other student. Use words like “see” without being self-conscious.

If you are in a room alone with a blind person try to remember to explain what you are doing, such as shuffling papers. Tell him/her when someone comes in the room or when you leave the room.

Identify yourself so the student knows of your presence.  Don’t ask him/her to guess who you are by your voice.

Talk in a normal and friendly tone of voice.  The fact that the student cannot see is not an indication that s/he cannot hear well.

It is never impolite to ask if the student needs or would like assistance.

When using visual aids in the class, try to be as descriptive as possible. Words like “this” or “that” can be confusing. Consider making copies of overhead materials or diagrams so that the student can later ask an assistant to describe the information in detail to understand the material better.

A student may use a Guide Dog. These dogs have been trained to guide people who are blind, to keep out of the way, and to be quiet. These working dogs should not be treated as pets and should not be petted while working.

When relocation of a class is necessary, a note on the chalk or door is not adequate. It would be helpful to have a sighted student wait for the visually impaired student to arrive.

In guiding a student who is blind, permit him/her to take your arm.  Never grab your student’s arm.

Walk at a normal pace.  Hesitate slightly before stepping up or down.

Be explicit in giving directions to your student who is blind.  Use “right” or “left” according to the way your student is facing.

When assisting a student to a chair, simply place your hand on the back or arm of the chair.  This is enough to indicate the location.

Never leave a student who is blind in an open area.  Lead the student to the side of the room or to a chair or landmark from which s/he can obtain a sense of direction.

A cordial handshake substitutes for a friendly smile when meeting or leaving.

”Talents” are often merely the development of latent mental resources or the result of great persistence. It can be frustrating after such hard work for others to refer to one’s sensory abilities as a “sixth sense” as it does not acknowledge the tremendous efforts expended.

For a student who is blind, it is critical for faculty to select and submit their textbook choices for purchase on time. It may take as long as eight weeks for a textbook to be read on tape or to order it from the publisher on disk. It would be helpful when you talk with publisher representatives to ask if the text you have chosen is available in an alternative format (i.e., on tape, large print, braille, CD-ROM, computer diskettes).

Because of the time necessary to have books read aloud or to review tapes, students often require extra time to complete required materials, especially when library research is involved. Please keep in mind that last minute assignments can present a problem due to preparation and reader scheduling.


Suggestions partially from Ali Padash, Blind/Visually Impaired Support Services, at American River College

Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

“Sometimes I hear all of a conversation and other times only part of it. Yet, people think I’m not paying attention. While walking down the street, someone calls me from the corner. When I don’t respond, she thinks I’m unfriendly. I ask someone for directions, but can’t see his lips because the sun is in my eyes. When I can’t follow what he is saying, he walks away and thinks I’m stupid.”

(Excerpted from an essay written by a student who is moderately hard of hearing.)


There are three terms that we have all heard and sometimes confuse. The generic term Hearing Impairment is used to describe all types of hearing defects, ranging from a minute loss to profound deafness. Hearing impairment is the most prevalent chronic physical disability in the United States with over 13 million individuals being affected. More specifically, Hard-of-Hearing is a condition where hearing is limited to varying degrees; sometimes a hearing aid can enhance the understanding of speech.  Some types of hearing loss can distort or eliminate consonant sounds which can affect communication to an even greater degree.   Deaf/Deafness is a condition in which perceivable sounds have no meaning for ordinary life purposes. Hearing aids may enhance awareness of vibrations such as horns and sirens, but not speech.

Suggestions for Helping Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Your Classroom

Lighting is very important when communicating with a deaf or hard-of-hearing person. Do not stand in front of a window or bright light when talking. Try to talk where there is adequate, well distributed light.

Be sure to face the individual when talking. Speak slowly and do not over exaggerate your lip movements.

Keep your hands away from your face.  Facial activities such as vigorous gum chewing, or biting your lips prevent clear communication.

Using facial expressions, gestures, and other “body language” is helpful in conveying your message.

Be aware that individuals who can hear make the best lip readers. Only 30 percent of the English language is readable on the lips.  Among students with extensive training in lip reading, only 25% of speech can be understood. It takes a great deal of concentration to lip read.

If you see a student with a hearing aid, this does not mean that the student can understand verbal language.  The student may require an alternative form of communication, such as an interpreter, note taker, or use of other assistive listening devices.

When using an interpreter to communicate with a student, address the student directly.

Many students who are hard-of-hearing do not hear tone of voice. Some expressions, such as sarcastic statements, might be misleading if taken literally.

Since conversation is a two-way street, receiving messages is as important as sending them.  Do not hesitate to ask the individual to slow down or repeat when you do not fully understand.

Occasionally the student might have to ask you to restate what you said to make sure he or she completely understands you.  Rephrase your statement rather than repeating the same words again.

Use open-ended questions that need more than a “yes” or “no” answer.  Do not assume that the person who is deaf understands if he nods his head.  Open-ended questions assure that your information has been communicated.

Faculty members should not hesitate to write notes when necessary to communicate with a student.  Remember to keep the notes simple and direct.

A student who is deaf or hard-of-hearing depends on visual cues to supplement what s/he does not hear.  Seating is an important consideration.  The student will need to be near the front so that his/her view is not obstructed.

If a student has a unilateral hearing loss, s/he should be seated so that maximum use of the good ear is permitted.
Because of a time lag between the spoken word and the interpretation, the student’s contribution to the lecture or discussion may be slightly delayed.

Students may have some speech and/or language impairments.  Although this does not affect a student’s ability to learn new information, some difficulty in the acquisition of new vocabulary may lead to reluctance to participate in class.

Assumptions should not be made automatically about the student’s ability to participate in certain types of classes.  For example, students may be able to learn a great deal about music styles, techniques, and rhythms by observing a visual display of the music on an oscilloscope or similar apparatus or by feeling the vibrations of music.
Most students will be able to take tests and evaluations in the same way as other students.  Some may need additional time in order to gain a full understanding of the test questions.

It has been found that if the test is written, some students do better if an interpreter reads and translates the questions to the student in sign language.  Other students may prefer to read tests themselves.  If the method of evaluation is oral, the interpreter can serve as the reverse interpreter for the student.

Avoid orally administrated exams requiring written answers.

The primary form of communication with the Deaf community is sign language.  In view of this, many persons who are deaf or have profound hearing loss since birth or an early age have not mastered the grammatical subtleties of their “second language,” English.  This does not mean that instructors should overlook errors in written (or spoken) work.  However, they should know that this difficulty with English is not related to intelligence but is similar to that experienced by students whose native language is other than English.

Interpreters/Real-Time Captioners
Some of the students will attend classes with a sign language interpreter.  The interpreters will usually situate themselves in front of the class to interpret lectures and discussions.

Interpretation will be easiest in lecture classes and more difficult in seminar or discussion classes.  Because class formats are so varied, it is recommended that the professor, interpreter, and student arrange a conference early in the course to discuss any special arrangements that may be needed.

Some students will attend class with a Real Time Captioner who transcribes the lecture.  It is helpful if the instructor provides a list of technical vocabulary for the student and captioner or interpreter so they can keep up with the lecture.

Please ensure that videos used in the classroom are closed-captioned as required by law.  The student may have difficulty watching a film and an interpreter at the same time.

An interpreter’s proficiency level decreases after 20 minutes. Students will have a two interpreter team for most classes.  The interpreters will take turns and support one another.

Intellectual Disability


Intellectual disability (ID) is defined as significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior that affect
and limit the student’s ability to access the educational process.

An individual may have an intellectual disability when:

    • the person’s functioning level is below average intellectual ability; and
    • the person has significant limitations in adaptive skill areas as expressed in conceptual, social, academic and
      practical skills in independent living and employment; and,
    • the disability originated before the age of 18

As an open-entry institution, College of Alameda students with Intellectual Disabilities may enroll in general college classes through the same process as any other student.


At the College of Alameda, the College to Career Program, funded by a grant from the Department of Rehabilitation,  serves persons with intellectual disability.  The goals of the C2C program are to improve employment outcomes for persons with intellectual disability (ID) and to expand the range of jobs available to persons with ID,  with emphasis on areas of job growth.

C2C program accepts 20 students per year.  The program includes on-campus instruction; off-campus internships related to students’ employment goals; and job placement with follow-up as needed.  Students also participate in campus activities to improve social and communication skills needed for success in getting and retaining a job.

Learning Disability


According to the Title 5 regulations which govern the California Community Colleges, the definition of a learning disability is as follows:

“Learning disability in California Community College adults is a persistent condition of presumed neurological dysfunction which may also exist with other disabling conditions.  This dysfunction continues despite instruction in standard classroom situations.  Learning disabled adults, a heterogeneous group, have these common attributes:

    • average to above average intellectual ability;
    • severe processing deficit;
    • severe aptitude-achievement discrepancy(ies); and
    • measured achievement in an instructional or employment setting.”

COA’s Learning Skills Program provides diagnostic testing, appropriate classroom and test accommodations, instruction, and other support services to help students with learning disabilities meet their academic and vocational goals.  To determine if diagnostic testing is appropriate, you may want to provide the student with a copy of the “Self Quiz Regarding Diagnostic Testing”  found in Appendix D.


Learning disabilities affect the manner in which individuals with average or above average intelligence receive, process, retain and/or express information.  A learning disability is NOT to be confused with generalized low ability.  Learning disabilities are invisible, but may affect a student’s performance in reading, writing, spoken language, mathematics, orientation in space and time and/or organization.  The areas of difficulty will vary from one student to another.

Many individuals, particularly older adults, with learning disabilities aren’t aware of the reasons for their difficulties in learning.  School failures may have been attributed to their being “dumb” or “lazy.”  Others may have been able to use their strong memory, good people skills, or some other strength to carry them through their high school years.  However, when they get to college and try to learn algebra, read a biology textbook, or take notes from a complicated lecture, they discover that it is much harder to get around their learning problems without help.

Following is a partial list of well-known individuals who have achieved success in spite of having learning disabilities.  (Printed with permission: Fortune Magazine (C) 2002 Time Inc. All rights reserved.)

    • Charles Schwab – CEO Charles Schwab
    • John Chambers – CEO Cisco Systems
    • Scott Adams – creator of the Dilbert comic strip
    • James Carville – political consultant
    • Dr. Fred Epstein – brain surgeon
    • Henry Winkler – actor, director
    • Cher – singer, actor
    • Whoopi Goldberg – comedian, actor
    • Bill Hewlett – co-founder Hewlett-Packard
    • Bruce Jenner – Olympic gold medalist
    • Nolan Ryan – baseball Hall of Famer
    • Nelson Rockefeller – former Vice President of U.S.

Based on biographical information, there is also strong evidence that the following individuals had learning disabilities:

    • Winston Churchill – Prime Minister of England
    • Leonardo da Vinci – artist, inventor, Renaissance man
    • Thomas Edison – inventor
    • Albert Einstein – theoretical physicist, developer of the Theory of Relativity
    • General George S. Patton – commander of the U.S. Third Army, WWII
    • Woodrow Wilson – 28th President of the United States
    • Auguste Rodin – sculptor; creator of “The Thinker”

A college student who has a learning disability may have difficulties in some of the following areas, although the areas and level of difficulty will vary from one individual to another.

Study Skills

    • Time management
    • Organizing notes and other materials
    • Following directions


    • Understanding word problems
    • Memorizing basic facts
    • Differentiating operational symbols
    • Working with numbers in a column


    • Spelling
    • Sentence structure, grammar


    • Comprehending and retaining material read silently
    • Identifying important points in a paragraph
    • Reading rate
    • Reading multi-syllable words

Oral Language

    • Expressing ideas orally
    • Describing events in proper sequence
    • Attending to spoken language

Suggestions for Helping Students with Learning Disabilities and All Students Succeed

In addition to the strategies described in “Universal Design of Instruction”, the following tips may be helpful in working with students with learning disabilities.

    • Teach contextually to allow students to see how skills can be applied to “real life.”
    • Administer a learning style inventory to the entire class.  You could then distribute to students the Learning Strategies for Different Learning Styles found in Appendix C so they can see which approaches work for them.
    • Allow time for students to work in small groups to practice, to solve problems, and to review work.
    • Give feedback.  Errors need to be corrected as quickly as possible.
    • Remember to read aloud material on the board or on transparencies.
    • Permit use of a calculator when mathematical disability is severe.
    • Permit the use of a dictionary for essay exams.
    • Give less weight to spelling when that disability is severe.
    • Encourage students to use a word processor with spell check capability.
    • Encourage students to dictate best ideas into a tape recorder before writing a report.

“Dyslexic Achievers: Who’s Who with Dyslexia,” Fortune Magazine, May 13, 2002
Directory of Learning Resources for Learning Disabilities, 1979-80.

Mental Health Disability


According to Title 5, Mental Health Mental Health disability is defined as a persistent psychological or psychiatric disability, or emotional or mental illness that limits the student’s ability to access the educational process. For purposes of this subchapter, conditions that are not described and/or excluded in the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) or the  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are not covered in this category.


In the past few years, community colleges have been seeing more students who have a history of a mental health disability. While the vast majority of these students are stable and show no symptoms, others may have fluctuations in behavior and performance. Some may experience medication side effects or develop problems at college because they have ceased taking their medication or take their medications inconsistently. Other students may be experiencing emotional difficulties for the first time. It is important to remember that these students have as little control over their disabilities as do students with physical disabilities.

As is the case with students with other invisible disabilities, students with mental health disabilities are often hesitant to disclose their disability. They may go to great lengths to hide their difficulty due to fear of the stigma that often comes with disclosure.

It has been the experience of the SAS staff that students with mental health disabilities are not disruptive. Usually, students with this type of disability who self-identify with DSPS have been in therapy or are under medical treatment.

Mobility Disability


Mobility Disability is a disability which causes a significant limitation in locomotion or motion functions which indicates a need for accommodations.  Mobility impairments include students using wheelchairs, crutches, braces, walkers, or canes to move about; however, not all students with mobility impairments require mobility aids.

Suggestions for Helping Students with Mobility Impairment and Other Physical Disabilities to be More Successful in Your Classroom


If it seems that a student may have to miss a special meeting, conference with you, or other such events because of an inaccessible location, please move your conference or meeting to an accessible location.

Lateness and Absences

Students with mobility impairments may also require more time to get to and from classes because the accessible travel routes are sometimes roundabout. They are dependent on the elevators being in operating order, and they have more difficulty making up for time lost when an earlier class is held over time.

Other reasons for these students occasionally being late are waiting for assistance in opening doors and maneuvering along crowded paths and corridors. If a student who uses a wheelchair or has another mobility-related disability is frequently late, it is appropriate to discuss the situation with him/her and seek solutions. Most students will schedule their classes with ample time between them; however, this is not always possible.

Students who rely on attendant care or mobility assistance may sometimes experience a disruption in their schedules that are beyond their control.
Some students are susceptible to physical problems which can require them to be absent during a prolonged course of medical treatment. If this occurs, the student is responsible for notifying his or her instructor of the situation.

Some individuals with mobility impairments have disabilities that involve unavoidable personal hygiene problems that may cause them to be absent from class without advance notice. Such problems occur infrequently, but should be given due consideration by faculty members.

Field Trips

If a class involves field work or field trips, ask the student to participate in the selection of sites and modes of transportation. Students may be able to transfer to automobiles and to furniture. Some who use wheelchairs can walk with the aid of canes, braces, crutches, or walkers. Special arrangements will have to be made for field trips when students have difficulty transferring from a wheelchair to other vehicles.

Classroom Considerations

Classes taught in laboratory settings will usually require some modification of the work station. Considerations include under-counter knee clearance, working countertop height, horizontal working reach, and aisle widths. Working directly with the student may be the best way to provide modifications to the work station.

Students who may not be able to participate in a laboratory class without the assistance of an aide should be allowed to benefit from the actual lab work to the fullest extent. The student can give all instructions to an aide — from what chemical to add, to what type of test tube to use, to where to dispose of used chemicals. The student will learn everything except the physical manipulation of the chemicals.

Classes in physical education and recreation can almost always be modified so that a student in a wheelchair can participate. Classmates are usually more than willing to assist, if necessary. Most students who use wheelchairs do not get enough physical exercise in daily activity, so it is particularly important that they are encouraged, as well as provided with the opportunity, to participate.

Other Tips

Because a student sitting in a wheelchair is about as tall as most children, and because a pat on the head is often used to express affection toward children, some people are inclined to reach out and pat the person in a wheelchair on the head. Students usually find this to be demeaning.

A wheelchair is part of a person’s body space. Do not lean on the chair; it is similar to hanging or leaning on the person.

When talking to a student in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, sit down if convenient.

Most students who use wheelchairs will ask for assistance if they need it. Do not assume automatically that assistance is required. Offer assistance if you wish, but do not insist, and be willing to accept a “No, thank you” graciously.

Other Health Conditions and Disabilities

Students with other health conditions and/or disabilities that affect a major life activity and disabilities and which limit the student’s ability to access the educational process are considered to be eligible students with disabilities.  They will require accommodations based on the limitations of their individual condition.  If you have questions or considerations for any student please call the SAS office at 510-748-2328 or email us at SAS.Alameda@peralta.edu for more information.

Some examples of Other Health Conditions and Disabilities:

Cardiac Disorders

Additional considerations are generally not needed for students with cardiac disorders except when the course requirements involve an unusual amount of physical activity or if medical complications arise that cause them to miss class.

Chemical Dependency

These are students who are in recovery and have been verified as having a chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol.  Past substance abuse can affect learning.


Students with diabetes generally require no classroom accommodations. Occasionally they may need to snack during class. Students generally schedule time to eat before strenuous physical activity. Problems such as diabetic coma and insulin shock may occur when there is an imbalance of insulin, food, and energy expenditure. If a student seems dazed, confused, or is unresponsive, please call the Campus Security emergency number, 510-466-7236, to assist the student. These symptoms may be a sign of diabetic shock.

Multiple Sclerosis and Muscular Dystrophy

A student with these conditions may have symptoms that are invisible but they may affect the student in a multitude of ways. The symptoms have a tendency to come and go, but they continue to progress. Understanding the fluctuations that may occur in the student’s behavior makes it easier to understand variations in classroom performance.

Short of Stature

Students of short stature will have in-classroom access problems similar to those of a student in a wheelchair.

Speech Disorders

Speech disorders can range from problems with articulation or voice strength to being totally non-vocal. They include stuttering (repetition, blocks, and/or prolongations occasionally accompanied by distorted movements and facial expressions), chronic hoarseness (dysphonia), difficulty in evoking an appropriate word or term (nominal aphasia), and esophageal speech (resulting from a laryngectomy). Many students with speech disorders will be hesitant about participating in activities that require speaking.

Seizure Disorders

Seizure disorders, commonly known as Epilepsy, are caused by groups of neurons in the brain which signal abnormally.  Epilepsy is not contagious and is not caused by mental illness or mental retardation.  There are many possible reasons for seizure activity in the brain – from illness, chemical poisons, or brain injury such as trauma or stroke, to abnormal brain development.

There are two basic categories of seizure, partial and generalized, and many different types of seizures in each of these categories.  Partial seizures occur in an isolated region of the brain and the person may not lose consciousness or have convulsions.  This type of seizure can be mistaken for substance abuse or daydreaming and inattentiveness.  Generalized seizures are the result of abnormal neuronal activity in many parts of the brain and may cause loss of consciousness, falls, or massive muscle spasms.

When counselors in SAS see students with  seizure disorders we advise them to make their particular disorder known to their instructors, to the Health Services Coordinator, and to Campus Security.

What To Do If You See Someone Having a Seizure

If you see a student or instructor having a seizure with convulsions and/or loss of consciousness, first ask someone to notify Campus Security at 510-466-7236, then here is how you can help:

    1. Roll the person on his or her side to prevent choking.
    2. Cushion the person’s head.
    3. Do NOT put anything in the person’s mouth.
    4. Do NOT restrict movement unless the person could be hurt.
    5. Remove any sharp objects from the immediate area.
    6. Check for “Medical Alert” bracelet or neck wear.
    7. Stay with the person until the seizure ends or help arrives.

Seizures are considered to be a medical emergency only if one of the following conditions exists:

    • The person is pregnant.
    • The seizure happens in water.
    • The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
    • The person does not wake up and resume breathing.
    • A second seizure follows.
    • The person is injured during the seizure.

After the seizure ends the person will be tired, weak, and groggy.  There may also be a headache or confusion.  Some steps need to be taken to assure a safe return home.

If you see someone having a non-convulsive seizure, remember that his/her behavior is not intentional.  The person may wander aimlessly or make alarming or unusual gestures.  You can help by following these guidelines:

    • Remove any dangerous objects from the area or the path.
    • Don’t try to stop the person from wandering unless in danger.
    • Don’t shake the person or shout.
    • Stay with the person until s/he is completely alert.

Appendix A – Legal Foundations for Academic Accommodations

Section 504, ADA, Board Policy 5.24, Section 508

Passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 insured that students with disabilities had access to higher education. This was civil rights legislation, its intent similar to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibited discrimination based on gender. “Under Section 504, individuals with disabilities are protected from exclusion, disparate treatment, and harassment on the basis of their disability.”

A person with a disability is defined as any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.

Section 504, which is still in effect, placed the responsibility of access to higher education primarily on public institutions which received federal funds.

In July of 1990, the disability movement in the United States picked up momentum with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the ADA, “no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity.”  In practical terms, the ADA merely extended the existing rights of students with disabilities to institutions that did not receive federal funds.  However, because the ADA  covers all aspects of disability in society including employment, education, telecommunications, private sector services, public sector services, transportation and more, it has raised awareness of disability issues.

In July 1994 the Peralta Trustees adopted Board Policy 5.24. In that document the Peralta District “commits itself to a policy of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination for students with disabilities. It is the policy of the District to accommodate requests involving academic adjustment consistent with local, state, and federal laws and regulations.”

On August 7, 1998, Congress amended Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (19 U.S.C. 794d) to expand the federal government’s responsibility to provide electronic and information technology which is accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act specifically covers federal agencies but has an impact on the greater public.

Section 508 requires federal departments or agencies that develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, to ensure that the electronic and information technology is accessible. Section 508 requires that individuals with disabilities seeking information or services from a Federal department or agency have access to, and use of, information and data comparable to that provided to individuals without disabilities.

For example, the U.S. Department of Education, the IRS, and other government Web sites must provide access for blind users who use speech output systems. If any video clips are used they must have captions and descriptions. Visual images should also be audio-described so that people who are blind or deaf have equal access.

Section 508 became effective in June 2001. Although Section 508 specifically covers federal agencies, Ralph Black, General Counsel in the State Chancellor’s Office, provided Legal Opinion M 01-17 to the colleges on June 11, 2001. It states that Section 508 also applies to California Community Colleges. In 2002 SB 105 (Burton) was signed into law; it requires that all state agencies comply with Section 508. Thus, districts are required to adopt policies and procedures to ensure that all electronic and information technologies are accessible to persons with disabilities.  Before the district or college can legally purchase any software, hardware, operating system, telecommunication product, or other electronic or information technology, there must be policies and procedures in place to ensure that persons who use adaptive technology can access the information or program.   In addition,  all college and district web sites must be designed in such a way so that they are accessible to persons who use adaptive technology, such as screen readers and braille displays.

To sum up, federal and state legislation and local Board Policy require that we accept otherwise qualified students with disabilities into our academic programs. We should work with students to identify and implement accommodations that will grant them access to educational opportunities. DSPS staff will assist you in  understanding the effects of disabilities on the learning process. With your cooperation, accommodation strategies can be determined and implemented successfully.


L. Scott Lissner, “Legal Issues Concerning All Faculty in Higher Education,” in Accommodations– or Just Good Teaching?, p. 12

San Diego Mesa College Instructor Handbook, p. 1.

Appendix B – Technology Available in the Adapted Computer Learning Center


    • Dragon Naturally Speaking (user speaks in phrases as results are displayed on the screen)
    • Inspiration (software for brainstorming and displaying concepts in a mind map format)
    • JAWS (screen reading software)
    • Kurzweil 3000 (scan and read software to assist persons with reading difficulties)
    • ZoomText (screen enlargement program)
    • As well as a variety of cognitive skills software used in the Improving Cognitive Skills class.

Alternative Keyboards/Input Devices

    • Large Print Keyboards

Devices for Students with Visual Disabilities

    • Tactile Graphics Toaster
    • CCTV


    • Adjustable Chairs and Tables
    • Big Keys Plus
    • Headphones
    • High-Speed Scanner
    • Network Laser Printers

Full Internet Access

Microsoft Office

Appendix C – Learning Strategies for Students with Different Learning Styles

Strategies for Visual Learners


    • take notes while listening whenever possible
    • highlight important points in your notes with colored pens
    • make drawings or diagrams
    • write out as much as you can when studying
    • write in your textbook, marking important words or concepts


    • read assignments and previous notes before each class
    • ask for written instructions
    • use 2 or more books to get additional explanations


    • tape lectures; reset the counter at the beginning and write down  the counter number of places in the lecture that are unclear
    • sit near the front of the classroom to avoid distractions
    • pay close attention to the instructor


    • make and use flashcards
    • use computer programs that illustrate the topics
    • use workbooks and supplemental handouts

Strategies for Auditory Learners


    • take part in class discussions
    • restate, in your own words, concepts you are learning
    • explain what you are learning to anyone who will listen
    • ask lots of questions in class
    • ask the instructor to repeat important ideas


    • sit in the front of the classroom to avoid distractions
    • listen carefully to lectures; try to follow the ideas in sequence
    • tape lectures and listen to them over and over
    • reset the counter at the beginning and write down the counter number of places in the lecture that are unclear
    • record key concepts, formulas, explanations and listen to them often
    • listen for “key” words that the instructor emphasizes or repeats


    • read your notes and texts out loud
    • read into a tape recorder and play it back
    • find a classmate who takes good notes and ask if you can share them
    • after you read an assignment,  immediately say aloud what you have learned

Strategies for Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners


    • use computers and workbooks
    • use  your fingers and toes if it helps to solve math problems
    • make new concepts concrete by using measuring cups, toothpicks, marbles, paper clips, rulers, etc.
    • use a calculator
    • use or build models to help you understand new concepts


    • work as many problems as possible
    • as soon as you learn how to do a problem, do another one right away
    • try to solve problems in different ways to decide which works best for you
    • rewrite class notes


    • shift positions often
    • walk back and forth or rock in a rocking chair while reading your assignments
    • while you exercise or do other physical activities, review what you are learning
    • study on an exercise bike; move both your arms and legs
    • use computer programs that illustrate the topics
    • use workbooks and supplemental handouts

Appendix D – Student Self Quiz Regarding Diagnostic Testing

College of Alameda’s Learning Skills Program provides assessment to determine if students are eligible for learning disabilities services.  What is a learning disability?

First of all, people with learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence.  A learning disability is NOT the same as overall low ability.  However, because of differences in the way the brain processes information, there may be significant discrepancies between the person’s intelligence and how s/he performs in a school, or job, setting.

Learning disabilities are invisible, but may affect a student’s performance in reading, writing, spoken language, mathematics, orientation in space and time and/or organization.  The areas of difficulty will vary from one student to another.

Many individuals, particularly older adults, with learning disabilities aren’t aware of the reasons for their difficulties in learning.  Perhaps they thought of themselves as “dumb” or “lazy” because their teachers or families gave them those labels. Others may have been able to use their strong memory, good people skills, or some other strength to carry them through their high school years.  However, when they get to college and try to learn algebra, read a biology textbook, or take notes from a complicated lecture, they discover that it is much harder to get around their learning problems without help.

There are many well-known individuals who have learning disabilities and who have achieved success.  They include Whoopi Goldberg, Cher, Charles Schwab (CEO of the investment company), Albert Einstein, Scott Adams (cartoonist and creator of Dilbert), and many others.

If you are struggling with your class work, you can answer the following questions to see if taking the Learning Disability assessment would be a good idea.

Would you answer yes to any of the following questions?

    1. Even though I am successful at my other courses, am I avoiding math, or English, or critical thinking because I think I can’t do it?
    2. Can I learn when I read the textbook but have trouble learning from a lecture?
    3. Do I need more time for tests than other students?
    4. Do I read so slowly that I am always behind in my reading assignments?
    5. Am I having trouble with algebra because I don’t know fractions or the multiplication tables?
    6. Do I have trouble organizing my time, my notebooks, and/or my written essays?
    7. Do I know the information for a test when I study with my study group but get a bad grade on my tests anyway?
    8. Is spelling so difficult that I cannot find the words I need in the dictionary?
    9. In math, do I mix up the arithmetic signs (such as + – x)?
    10. Do I have trouble working with numbers in columns?
    11. Do I have trouble taking notes and understanding later what I wrote?

If you answered Yes to one or more of the questions, you may be eligible for learning disability assessment.

To find out for sure, do the following:

    • Call (510) 748-2328 or email SAS.Alameda@peralta.edu and make an appointment to talk with a SAS counselor. If Learning Disability Assessment is appropriate for you, the counselor can help you enroll in Learning Resources 296, Diagnostic Learning. You must also be registered in at least one other College of Alameda class.
    • For online appointments, log into your SAS Zoom appointment using the link provided in your confirmation at your appointment time.  For on-campus appointments (when they resume) appointments will be held at the SAS office in D-117.
    • Come to the Diagnostic Learning class during your scheduled time.

Appendix E – Resources for Current Employees with Disabilities

Peralta Community College District  Resource:

If you are a current PCCD employee who has a disability and may require reasonable accommodations in order to perform your job, the PCCD Office of Risk Management is responsible for handling requests for accommodations from current employees as outlined in PCCD AP 3411

Reasonable Accommodation forms and procedures for employees can be found at the Office for Risk Management’s Reasonable Accommodation page.

Outside Resource:

The Job Accommodation Network is a free resource available for you to research and determine potential effective accommodations based on disability or limitation. https://askjan.org/a-to-z.cfm


SAS thanks our former DSPS Coordinator, Helene Maxwell, who took on the task of writing this handbook as a sabbatical project.  SAS attempts to review and update this handbook regularly, and thanks you for your patience and feedback if you find errors or links that need updating.  Such feedback can be submitted by email to the SAS Coordinator, or stop by DSPS in D-117

Note: Because these sources explicitly allow use of their materials for educational non-commercial purposes, sources are cited at the end of each page rather than use quotation marks.

others programs and services