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Teaching & Accommodating

Please also see "Faculty Guidelines for Working with Students with Disabilities."


General Strategies for Optimizing Learning: 

Many teaching strategies that assist students with disabilities are also known to benefit students without disabilities. Instruction provided in an array of approaches will reach more students than instruction using one method. DSS offers the following suggestions to assist instructors in meeting the growing diversity of student needs in the classroom, particularly those with disabilities. DSS welcomes any additional strategies instructors have found helpful. DSS will review these and include selected strategies in the next edition of this guide. 


During registration: 

  • Make class syllabus and list of required texts available by request to students; this allows time for students to obtain materials in alternative formats and to begin reading assignments.
  • Be available to discuss class content and your teaching style.
  • If available and appropriate, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide for optional student use.
Early in the semester:    
  • Place a statement in your syllabus and make an announcement at the first meeting of the class such as: "Any student who may need an accommodation due to a disability, please make an appointment to see me during my office hours. A letter from Disability Support Services authorizing your accommodations will be needed." This approach preserves students’ privacy and also indicates your willingness to provide accommodations as needed.
  • Because many students with disabilities need additional time to process and complete assignments, convey expectations at the beginning of the course (e.g., grading, material to be covered, due dates) in written and oral format.
  • Announce reading assignments well in advance for students using taped materials or other alternative formats. To record an entire book takes an average of six weeks; DSS can produce the materials in installments when informed of the sequence in which the materials will be used.

General strategies for teaching and presenting: 

  • Begin class with a review of the previous lecture and an overview of topics to be covered that day; give questions the students should be able to answer by the end of the lecture. At the conclusion of the lecture, summarize key points.
  • Highlight major concepts and terminology both orally and visually. Be alert for opportunities to provide information in more than one sensory mode.
  • Emphasize main ideas and key concepts during lecture and highlight them on the blackboard or overhead.
  • Speak directly to students; use gestures and natural expressions to convey further meaning.
  • Diminish or eliminate auditory and visual distractions.
  • Present new or technical vocabulary on the blackboard or overhead, or use a handout.
  • Use visual aides such as diagrams, charts, and graphs; use color to enhance the message.
  • Give assignments both orally and in written form; be available for clarification.
  • Provide adequate opportunities for participation, questions and/or discussion.
  • Provide timelines for long-range assignments.
  • Use sequential steps for long-range assignments; for example, for a lengthy paper, 1) select a topic, 2) write an outline, 3) submit a rough draft, 4) make necessary corrections with approval, 5) turn in a final draft.
  • Give feedback on early drafts of papers so there is adequate time for clarification, rewrites, and refinements.
  • When possible, use a textbook with an accompanying study guide.
  • Provide study questions and review sessions to aid in mastering material and preparing for exams.
  • Give sample test questions; explain what constitutes a good answer and why.
  • To test knowledge of material rather than test-taking savvy, phrase test items clearly and economically. Be concise and avoid double negatives.
  • Facilitate the formation of study groups for students who wish to participate.
  • Encourage students to seek assistance during your office hours and to use campus support services.

Points to remember: 

  • When in doubt about how to assist, ask the student directly and check the Accommodations Letter provided by Disability Support Services. If you still have questions, call a DSS counselor at 240-567-5058 (Rockville Campus), 240-567-7767 (Germantown Campus), or 240-567-1474 (Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus).
  • Flexibility may be necessary when applying attendance and promptness rules to students with health-related or mobility difficulties. Please discuss any concerns that arise with the student and, if necessary, with a DSS counselor.
  • Confidentiality of all student information is essential. At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability, unless the student makes a specific request to do so.
  • The Student Code of Conduct regarding disruptive behavior applies to all students. Clearly state behavioral expectations for all students; discuss them openly in your classroom, on your syllabus, and with individual students as needed.
  • If you require assistance or guidance concerning a student with a disability, please contact a counselor from DSS.



Accommodations make it possible for a student with a disability to learn the material presented and for an instructor to fairly evaluate the student’s understanding of the material without interference because of the disability. 

A student needs official authorization before receiving accommodations. The student is responsible for providing the DSS office with current documentation from qualified professionals regarding the nature of the disability. After talking with the student and, if necessary, the instructor, the DSS counselor determines appropriate accommodations based on the nature and extent of the disability described in the documentation. The DSS counselor then constructs an Accommodation Letter specifying authorized accommodations. The student is responsible for delivering the Accommodation Letters to the instructors and talking with them about arrangements for academic accommodations based on the contents of the letter. The process of requesting and receiving accommodations is interactive; all people involved—the student, the instructor and the DSS counselor—have a responsibility to make sure the process works.

Examples of reasonable accommodations which students with disabilities may require:  
  • Use of interpreters, scribes, readers, and/or notetakers
  • Taped classes and/or texts
  • Enlarged copies of notes, required readings, handouts and exam questions
  • Extended time on exams
  • Quiet, distraction-free environment for taking exams
  • Use of aids, such as calculators or desk references, during exams
  • Use of computers in class or access to computers for writing assignments and exams
  • Taped or oral versions of exams
  • Alternative methods of testing, such as demonstrating mastery of course objectives by means of a research paper, oral presentation, etc.
  • Increased frequency of exams to provide additional feedback to students
  • Preferential seating in the classroom

If testing accommodations are necessary, students are responsible for discussing the arrangements with their instructors. Instructors at the Rockville Campus should then make arrangements with the Assessment Center (CC014) or, if specified in the Accommodations Letter, the DSS Learning Center (CB116/240-567-5224). On the other campuses, instructors should contact the designated DSS counselor to determine the best method of accommodation. 

The need for notetakers will be documented in the Accommodations Letter. Students who cannot take notes or who have difficulty taking adequate notes, can be accommodated in a number of ways, including: taping lectures, using an in-class volunteer notetaker, and/or providing an outline of lecture materials. The student may ask the instructor for assistance in finding a classmate who would volunteer to provide a copy of lecture notes. Instructors can also be of great assistance in quality assurance by occasionally reviewing copies of the notes, especially early in the term, and giving feedback to the notetaker. The notetaker may copy notes at DSS or use carbonless paper, available to the student with a disability at no cost from DSS or for a minimal fee at the Montgomery College Bookstores.

Additional Resources: 

"Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students With Disabilities," California Community Colleges, 8/1999

 Disability-Related Resources

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