Accessibility Considerations for Faculty

Moving Classes or Locating Alternate, Accessible Meeting Spaces

meeting at ssd officesNorthwestern University 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 the obligation to make classes and programs accessible and will make reasonable accommodations to do so. Examples of appropriate physical accommodations include changing the location of the room in which the class is held, removing fixed seating to allow wheelchair access, asking a professor whose office is not accessible to meet with the student in another setting, and so forth.

Staff from the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) will work with the faculty member, the student, Facilities Management, the Registrar, the academic department, and any other parties necessary to make reasonable and appropriate accommodations regarding physical spaces. Students have the obligation to notify the SSD office immediately of any physical barrier to their participation in a class or program so staff may arrange for modifications. If classrooms, facilities, or faculty offices are inaccessible, it will be necessary to find an accessible location or alternative course section that is located in an accessible location. All students with disabilities are given priority registration to help facilitate this process. If a class is in an inaccessible location, please use this direct link to our office email address, and we will work with the Office of the Registrar, the faculty member, and the academic department to find an alternative accessible location.

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 professors and possibly SSD to seek solutions. Most students will be aware of time restrictions and will schedule their classes accordingly. However, it is not always possible to allow enough time between classes.

The Presence of Service Animals in Class

Some students who are blind, deaf, or mobility impaired use service animals. The service animal will not disturb the class. Service animals are highly trained and disciplined. The greatest disruption a faculty member can expect may be an occasional yawn or stretch. It is good to remember that, 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.

Ensuring that Field Trips Are Accessible

If classes involve field trips to off-campus locations, provisions must be made for students with disabilities. Transportation to and accessibility of destination must be thoroughly investigated so the student with a disability can participate. Faculty members should consult with the student with the disability if there are any questions concerning the accessibility requirements. SSD can be contacted to provide resources to help make the trip accessible.