Instructional Guidelines & Strategies

Northwestern University is required to make public the services it offers to students with documented disabilities. To assist Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in notifying students about the office, which will also assist students and faculty, SSD asks that faculty adhere to these instructional guidelines and strategies. They will likely benefit not just students with disabilities, but all students.

List of Instructional Strategies by Disability Type - Although faculty will generally not know what disability a student in his/her class has, many find it helpful to reference these instructional strategies to assist students with the most common types of disabilities that students at Northwestern experience.

Perhaps the most important instructional guideline recommended by the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) is to include a statement on your syllabus inviting students with disabilities to meet with you during office hours to discuss accommodation need. You may also want to make an announcement during the first class to this effect.
Any student with a disability requesting accommodations must register with Services for Students with Disabilities (ssd@northwestern.edu; 847-467-5530) and request a professor accommodation notification through SSD, preferably within the first two weeks of class. All information will remain confidential.

Recommended Statement to Include in Your Syllabus Regarding Students with Disabilities

In addition, the following recommended guidelines will facilitate the process of students with disabilities in your classes obtaining appropriate, timely accommodations and create a learning environment that benefits all students:

  1. Keep all disability-related material strictly confidential. At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability, except at the student's express request. All disability information that the student gives to the faculty member is to be used specifically for the arranging of reasonable academic accommodations.
  2. Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (i.e., avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  3. Make available a detailed course syllabus prior to registration. Essential requirements of the course should be clearly stated.
  4. Announce reading assignments well in advance for students who are using audio materials or other alternative formats. It may take a week to convert a book to e-text or to have it delivered from Learning Ally (an audiobook library).
  5. Start each lecture with an outline of material to be covered. At the conclusion of class, briefly summarize key points.
  6. Teach in a multi-modal format to reach all learning styles. Combine visual and auditory modalities when presenting lecture material and then create experiential learning through group work and hands-on application of the material.
  7. Provide an adequate opportunity for questions and answers including review sessions.
  8. When in doubt about how to assist any student, ask him or her.

Instructional Strategies By Type of Disability

two men and a woman listening to a presentation, click to enlarge

SSD benefits from input from faculty regarding essential requirements of their classes in determining instructional strategies and reasonable accommodations for students.

Some of the following conditions are readily apparent, while others are not always visible to an observer. This section presents an overview of disabling conditions and the instructional strategies one can implement to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities.

Keep in mind that accommodation notifications do not specify the type of disability a student has, and it is not appropriate to ask the student for this information. The following strategies will nevertheless likely be helpful.