Faculty Design Accommodation Strategies and Universal Design



New Mexico Highlands University Mission

Statement and Pertinent Laws  
Overview of Research    
Universal Design of Instruction Examples
Applicable for all Classrooms

Accommodations for Low Vision
Accommodations for Blindness  
Accommodations for Learning Disabilities 
Accommodations for Hearing Impaired
Accommodations for Mobility 
Accommodations for Health Impairment
Accommodations for Speech Impairment
Accommodations for Psychiatric Disability 
Sample Accommodation Request
Disabilities Statement for the Syllabus
Procedures for Testing Accommodations
Testing Accommodation Form   
Sign Language Interpreters

Accommodation Strategies and Universal Design

Students with Disabilities Program


One of Highlands’ goals is to develop a learner centered environment that promotes the improvement of learning and personal development of students from first year courses through degree program, the Office of Accessibility Services helps assist in reaching this goal by providing academic support services and accommodations to New Mexico Highlands University students to ensure equal opportunity for all students and to assist faculty whenever possible.

Pertinent Laws

The following are federal and state laws which require that institutions like San Juan College do not discriminate against persons with disabilities in either the delivery of services or in employment. These laws are designed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to succeed — not an advantage over students without disabilities.

  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides that, “No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” This is federal civil rights legislation. The major impact on faculty and staff is that if accommodations determined appropriate to prevent discrimination based on disability are not implemented, students have recourse through federal agencies as well as the court system.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides that, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706 (20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits or, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Again this is federal civil rights legislation. The Rehabilitation Act impacts recipients of federal funds. In addition to the impact described above for the ADA, institutions risk loss of federal funds.
  • ADA Amendment Act of 2008’s purpose is to clarify congressional intent concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) by rejecting several holdings by the Supreme Court that narrowed the definition of a disability, and providing clarification and guidance to courts and agencies on the interpretation and enforcement of the ADA.
  • Goals of Law are to provide “… the right of an otherwise qualified person to be free from discrimination because of race, religion, national origin, gender, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability is recognized as and declared to be a civil right. This right shall include, but not be limited to … The right to the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage or amusement.”
  •  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) provides for “… the privacy of student education records … Generally, schools must have written permission from the … eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record.” Faculty need to be aware that unless there is a demonstrated need to know disability information, they should not share information about the disability with others. In seeking advice from a department chair or others within the academic department on implementation of accommodations, it may be necessary to disclose information specific to a student with a disability. In general it is best to seek advice from within the academic department without sharing names.

New Mexico State Statute Annotated, 1978
Section 28-7-2. Policy.

It is the policy of this state to encourage and enable the blind, the visually handicapped and the otherwise physically disabled to participate fully in the social and economic life of the state and to engage in remunerative employment. Section 28-7-3. Equal right to use public facilities.
A. The blind, the visually handicapped and the otherwise physically disabled, have the same right as the able-bodied to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, public facilities and other public areas.
B. The blind, the visually handicapped and the otherwise physically disabled, are entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of all common carriers, airplanes, motor vehicles, railroad trains, motor buses, streetcars, boats, or any other public conveyances or modes of transportation, hotels, lodging places, places of public accommodation, amusement or resort and any other places to which the general public is invited, subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law and applicable alike to all persons.
C. Every totally or partially blind person shall have the right to be accompanied by a guide dog, specially trained for the purpose, in any of the places listed in this section without being required to pay an extra charge for the guide dog; provided that he shall be liable for any damage done to the property or facilities by the dog.
D. The attorney general, district attorney or any handicapped person, may file an action in the judicial district when a building has been built or altered and the work has not been accomplished in accordance with Section 104 and Section 106 of the current uniform building code, other applicable publications and established handicapped (handicap) standards. The building official shall notify those applying for a permit that they must comply with established standards. Any interested person may appeal the granting or denial of a waiver to the district court where the building is located. If the court finds the building owner was required to comply with the handicap access standards of the uniform building code and has failed to comply with such standards within a reasonable period of time, then the party filing [an] action shall recover the court costs, attorney’s fees and appropriate injunctive relief to remedy the violation. It is with all issues and not just confidentiality that state statutes must be considered.

Overview of Research

The term “universal design” refers to practice of designing and delivering products and services that are usable by people with widest range of functional capabilities.  Universal design is defined by the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University as “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.” (http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/ud/ud.html).It is desirable that products and services are directly usable without requiring additional assistive technologies.  If this is not possible, then they should be made more usable with commonly used assistive technologies.

With the goal of providing guidance in the design of environments, communications, and products, a group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers collaborated to establish seven principles of universal design.  They are as follows:


Principles of Universal Design


  • Equitable Use
  • Flexibility in use
  • Simple and intuitive use
  • Perceptible information
  • Tolerance for error
  • Low physical effort
  • Size and shape for approach and use

When universal design principles are applied to teaching, an inclusive and equitable learning environment is created.  Applying universal design concepts in course planning will assure full access to the content for most students and minimize the need for specific accommodations (Burgstahler, 2000).

Universal design principles in education can apply directly to lectures, classroom discussions, group work, handouts, web-based instruction, labs, fieldwork, and other academic activities.  Consider the following examples that faculty may apply to curricula (Burgstahler, 2000).


Universal Design of Instruction Examples
Applicable to all classrooms

  • Below you will find examples of teaching techniques in the classroom, laboratory, examinations, and field work that benefit all students, but are especially useful for students who have disabilities. It is good to create an environment that respects and values diversity.  The disabilities statement that is placed on all New Mexico Highlands University syllabi is a great way to invite students to meet with you to discuss disability- related accommodations and other learning needs.
  • Select course materials early so that students and the campus Disabled Student Services office have enough time to translate them to audio-tape, Braille, and large print.
  • Make syllabi, short assignment sheets, and reading lists available in electronic format (e.g. disk, electronic mail, www).
  • Face the class when speaking.  Repeat discussion questions.
  • Write key phrases and lecture outlines on the blackboard or overhead projector.
  • Assure that all classrooms, labs and fieldwork are in locations accessible to individuals with a wide range of physical abilities and disabilities.
  • Use multiple modes to deliver content (including lecture, discussion, hands-on activities, internet-based interaction, and fieldwork).
  • Provide printed web-based materials which summarize content that is delivered orally.
  • Face the class and speak clearly.
  • Use captioned videotapes.
  • Provide printed materials in electronic format.
  • Use accessible web pages (text description of graphics).
  • Provide printed materials early so that students can prepare to access the materials in alternate formats.
  • Create printed and web-based materials in simple, consistent formats.
  • Provide effective prompting during an activity and feedback after the assignment is completed.
  • Provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate knowledge.
  • Make sure equipment and activities minimize sustained physical effort.
  • Take the student on a tour of the lab in which he/she will be working.  Discuss safety concerns.
  • Assign group lab projects in which all students contribute according to their abilities.
  • Arrange lab equipment so that it is easily accessible.
  • Give oral and written lab instructions.
Examination and Fieldwork
  • Assure that exams test the essential skills or knowledge needed for the course or field of study.
  • Some students will require extra time to transcribe or process test questions; follow campus policies regarding extra time on examinations.
  • Consider allowing students to turn in exams via electronic mail or diskette.
  • Ask student how he/she might be able to do specific aspects of field work.  Attempt to include in field work opportunities, rather than automatically suggesting non-field work alternatives.
  • Include special needs in requests for field trip vehicle reservations.

If classroom material is presented in a Universal Design format, much of the information is already accessible for students. However, there will be times that students need something more specific.  For these times, the following lists of typical accommodations are organized according to type of disability.

Accommodations for Low Vision
  • Seating near front of class; good lighting
  • Large print books, handouts, signs, and equipment labels
  • Printed materials on computer disk, and/or on a web page, and e-mail
  • TV monitor connected to microscope to enlarge images
  • Assignments in electronic format
  • Software to enlarge screen images
  • Software to adjust screen colors
Accommodations for Blindness
  • Printed materials on computer disk, and/or on a web page, and e-mail
  • Describe visual aids
  • Audio taped, Braille, or electronic notes, handouts, and texts
  • Raised-line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials
  • Braille lab signs, equipment labels; auditory lab warning signals
  • Adaptive equipment (e.g. talking thermometers and calculators; tactile timers)
  • Computer with optical character reader, voice output, Braille screen display printer output
  • Increased time on tests

Accommodations for Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Note-taker and/or audio taped class sessions
  • Captioned videos
  • Textbooks on tape
  • Visual, aural and tactile instructional demonstrations
  • Course and lecture outlines
  • Assignments given in advance
  • Computer with speech output, spell checker, and grammar checker
  • Extra exam time, quiet testing arrangements
Accommodations for Hearing Impairments
  • Interpreter, real-time captioning, FM system, note-taker
  • Captioned videos
  • Electronic mail
  • Visual aids, visual warning system for lab emergencies
  • Written assignments, lab instructions, demonstration summaries
  • Repeat questions and statements from other students during class

Accommodations for Mobility Impairments
  • Note-taker/lab assistant; group lab assignments
  • Classrooms, labs, and field trips in accessible locations
  • Adjustable table, equipment located within reach
  • Extra exam time, alternative testing arrangements
  • Access to on-line research resources
  • Class assignments and materials in electronic format
  • Computer with special input device (e.g. speech input, Morse code, alternative keyboards)
Accommodations for Health Impairments
  • Flexible attendance requirements
  • Extra exam time, alternate testing arrangements
  • Note-takers and/or taped class sessions
  • Assignments in electronic format
  • Electronic mail
  • Internet accessible services and/or resources
Accommodations for Speech Impairments
  • Listen carefully to what the person is saying; if you don’t understand, ask student to repeat
  • Relax and take as much time as necessary to communicate
  • Ask questions that require short answers or a nod of the head when appropriate
  • Written communication
  • Electronic mail

Accommodations for Psychiatric Disabilities
  • Tape recorder, note-taker
  • Set classroom behavioral standards at the start of the semester
  • Preferential seating near door
  • Tests, assignments in alternate formats
  • Extended time for taking tests
  • Separate, quiet room for testing
  • Review academic and behavioral expectations in regular meetings with student


Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), an Association of international, multicultural professionals committed to full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities. www.ahead.org

The Faculty Room
Professional development resources for postsecondary faculty and administrators

Disabilities, opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT)

It is a good idea to read this statement to your students while you are introducing the syllabus.

NOTE: “In accordance with federal law, it is university policy to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). If you believe that you have a physical, learning, or psychological disability that requires an academic accommodation, contact the Coordinator of Accessibility Services by phone at 505.454.3188 or 454.3252, via e-mail at desquibel@nmhu.edu, or visit Room 108 of the Felix Martinez building on the Las Vegas campus. If you need the document upon which this notice appears in an alternative format, you may also contact the Coordinator of Accessibility Service,” David Esquibel, student adviser/coordinator of Testing and Accessibility Services.


If you wish to use the Advising/Counseling Center for testing, please arrange it with David Esquibel, Accessibility and Testing coordinator, at least 72 hours prior to the test.  Tests can be hand delivered, electronically sent, or delivered by inter-campus mail.  Extra time on tests also includes final exams.
Please remember this information is confidential and should be filed accordingly. If you have any questions, feel free to talk with the student or contact me at 505.454.3252 or atdesquibel@nmhu.edu.  Thank you for your cooperation.
Procedures for Testing Accommodations


ADA law requires students with certain documented disabilities can receive testing accommodations.   In order for students to receive this accommodation, they need to have given the instructor an accommodation notice from Office of Accessibility Services.  This insures that student meets ADA requirements.  We do not accommodate students just because they feel they need accommodations!

If the instructor and the student agree to test in the Learning Technologies Lab there are some procedures that have to be done before testing is allowed.

  1. The student picks up a Testing Accommodation Form from the Office of Academic Support and takes it to the instructor.  This form lets the test technician know what the instructor will or will not allow during the testing session (notes, etc…).  There are also places to indicate how the test will be delivered to Accessibility Services (by the instructor, or by the student, in a sealed envelope) and how the instructor wishes to have the test returned to them.
  2. The instructor and student need to agree on a date and time for the student to take the test.  The student must schedule this day and time with the test technician no less than two days before the test.  No same day testing is allowed unless it is special circumstances.
  3. Return the Testing Accommodation Form to the staff in the Office of Academic Support.  Make sure you schedule your test when you return the form.

This form is not complicated and only takes a minute or so to fill out.  We will not allow the student to test in the lab unless we have this form.

We designed this form to protect the integrity of the tests the instructors administer and we are very careful to follow the instructor’s directions.  Students are monitored while being tested.

If you have any questions concerning these policies and procedures, please do not hesitate to give me a call or send me an e-mail.


David Esquibel
Accessibility and Testing Coordinator
Phone: 505.454.3252


Sign Language Interpreters

The Disabilities Office will try to notify you when you are going to have a sign language interpreter accompany the student for your class.  Things to keep in mind when there is an interpreter present are these:

  • Seat the interpreter near where you will be speaking since the student needs to be able to see you and see the interpreter at the same time.
  • Address the student when you are talking directly to him and not the interpreter.
  • Allow the student the chance to answer questions and participate fully in class.  The student will respond in sign to the interpreter and the interpreter will speak for the student.
  • When you need to meet privately with the student, know that you can request the interpreter be present.  The college pays for this service.
  • Treat the student like all the students in your class.  If you want to recommend tutoring services, career services, etc., go for it!
  • If you are doing small group work, the interpreter and student can figure out the best arrangement.
  • When in doubt, ask the student what will work best.


e-mail form to eldoramorris@nmhu.edu
ATTN:  Accessibility Services
FAX:  505-454-3469