Accessibility Considerations for Faculty

Moving Classes or Locating Alternate, Accessible Meeting Spaces

Northwestern has made a number of physical changes in recent years to make buildings on campus more accessible; however, there are many older buildings on campus that may not be accessible to students with certain physical impairments. The University has an obligation to make classes and programs accessible and will make reasonable accommodations to do so.

Examples of appropriate physical accommodations include relocating a class, shifting a student to an alternative course section in an accessible room, removing fixed seating to allow wheelchair access, moving a height-adjustable desk into a classroom, asking a professor whose office is not accessible to meet with the student in another setting, and so forth. Even if a student using a wheelchair can physically access the classroom, try to make sure their only seating option isn't in the back row; in a private conversation with the student, offer to move a desk or rearrange seating at a table so the student is part of regular classroom seating.

Students have the obligation to notify us immediately of any physical barrier to their participation in a class or program so AccessibleNU may arrange for modifications. All students with disabilities are given priority registration to proactively facilitate this process and reduce the likelihood of any disruptions to your course. If necessary, staff from AccessibleNU will work with you, the student, Facilities Management, the Registrar, the academic department, and any other parties necessary to make reasonable and appropriate accommodations regarding physical spaces. 

Laboratory Modifications for Students with Mobility or Visual Impairments

Classes taught in laboratory settings (science, language labs, arts, film and video, etc.) usually need some modification of the work station for students with mobility or visual impairments. Considerations include under-the-counter knee clearance for students who use wheelchairs, appropriate work and counter top height, sufficient horizontal working range, and adequate aisle widths. Working directly with the student is usually the best way to provide modifications to work stations.

Constraints Posed by Extra Travel Time Needed between Classes

If breaks between classes are short, a student with a mobility impairment may be a few minutes late. Often the student must wait for an elevator, take circuitous (but accessible) routes, wait for assistance in opening doors, and maneuver along crowded paths and corridors. If the student is frequently late, it is, of course, appropriate for the student to discuss the situation with you and possibly AccessibleNU to seek solutions. Most students will be aware of time restrictions and will utilize priority registration to schedule their classes accordingly. However, it is not always possible to allow enough time between classes.

Ensuring that Field Trips Are Accessible

If your classes involve field trips to off-campus locations, provisions must be made for students with disabilities. Transportation to and accessibility of the destination must be thoroughly investigated so the student with a disability can participate. Please consult with the student with the disability if you have any questions concerning their accessibility requirements. AccessibleNU can be contacted to provide resources to help make the trip accessible.

The Presence of Service Animals in Class

A reference to any approved service animal may be included in a student's accommodation email to you. Service animals will not disturb the class and must be permitted in class. Service animals are highly trained and disciplined. The greatest disruption you can expect may be an occasional yawn or stretch. As tempting as it may be to pet or speak to the service animal, the animal while in harness is responsible for helping and guiding its owner and should not be distracted from that duty.