Teaching Students with Disabilities


Center for Accessible Education

A-255 Murphy Hall

(310) 825-1501
(310) 825-9656 FAX


Dear Faculty,

Students with disabilities at UCLA are capable individuals who experience some limitation that calls for adaptation of materials, methods or environments to facilitate their most successful learning. Each student's level of functioning and compensation skills may vary widely even if they are within the same disability group. That is why it is best to meet with the student to discuss his or her learning needs. Understanding and support are critical to the educational process as it relates to the student.

Our Faculty Guide is designed to be used as a reference when working with a student with a disability. It is meant to facilitate a student-faculty interaction that will lead to a successful learning experience. You may have a student who is having difficulty in your class who you would like to refer to the CAE. If you have concerns about knowing the most appropriate way to make a referral to the CAE, especially if the student has no visible signs of a disability, please feel free to contact a CAE Disability Specialist to consult. Once a student is referred, a CAE Disability Specialist will meet with the student to determine how best to assist them.

Ed McCloskey, Director
Center for Accessible Education


Federal law and State and University policies require the University to provide students with disabilities academic adjustments to permit them full access to their academic program. According to these laws, "no otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity of a public entity."

"Qualified" with respect to post-secondary educational services, means "a person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the educational program or activity, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices; the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers; or the provision of auxiliary aids and services."

"Person with a disability" means "any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities (including walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working)."

Disabilities Covered by Legislation

Disabilities covered by legislation include (but are not limited to) AIDS, Cancer, Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes, Epilepsy, head injuries, hearing impairments, specific learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, loss of limbs, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, psychiatric disorders, speech impairments, spinal cord injuries, and visual impairments.


The CAE encourages students with disabilities to discuss their learning needs and possible adaptations, personally, with their professors. Nevertheless, a concern of many students, particularly those with unobservable disabilities, is confidentiality. Should you need to inquire about the nature of a student's disability or what constitutes an academic adjustment based on the student's disability, please contact CAE, and we will seek permission from the student to discuss this matter with you. Notetakers employed by the CAE are asked not to identify the student they serve. It is essential that the privacy and confidentiality of students registered with the CAE be maintained.


Support Services

To have full access to the classroom, the Center for Accessible Education (CAE) provides educational support services to students with documented permanent and temporary disabilities and provides information to faculty about support services. The philosophy and mission of the office is to encourage independence, to assist students in realizing their academic potential, and to facilitate the elimination of physical, programmatic, and attitudinal barriers.

The CAE is available to serve as a resource in developing free, appropriate, instructional adjustments. In addition to the classroom, accommodations are provided in all academic environments, such as internships, laboratories, Education Abroad programs, fieldwork, fieldtrips, and research involvements.

Depending upon the disability-related needs of each student, CAE provides the following support services:

Test Proctoring
Tutorial Referral
Sign Language Interpreters
Real-Time Captioning
Disability Management Counseling
Learning Disabilities Specialists
Peer-Mentor Program
Support Groups
Adaptive Computer Technology and Equipment
Special Materials
Mobility Assistance
On-Campus Van Service
Disability Parking
Priority Enrollment
Housing Assistance


A student with a disability may need alternative test-taking conditions. Depending upon the student's disability-based need, appropriate testing accommodations may include:

  • the exam printed in large print or Braille
  • private testing area
  • additional time for the exam
  • one-on-one assistance, such as the proctor reading the test questions and/or writing the student's responses
  • administering the exam at the hospital
  • alternative test formats, such as oral examinations, essay questions in lieu of multiple choice
  • the use of a computer to write an exam; and/or
  • the use of assistive aids, such as an electronic speller, dictionary, or calculator.

Faculty are encouraged to work closely with the student, and with CAE to establish acceptable testing procedures that will allow each student to demonstrate his or her knowledge without reflecting the disability. The integrity of the test is always maintained in this process. Alternative testing may take place in the CAE Proctoring Center in A242 Murphy Hall, or in appropriate departmental areas designated by the faculty member administering the test.

"Proctoring/Test-Taking Request" Form

The specific accommodation must be articulated on the "Proctor/Test-Taking Request" form. Students must submit the request form at least ten (10) days in advance of the exam for faculty authorization of specific accommodations and test conditions. The proctor form should indicate the start time and end time for the student with the disability, as well as the locations of the pick up and the return of the exam. The instructions must be fully completed and signed by the Professor or teaching assistant prior to the test. Upon completion of the exam, the proctor will obtain a department signature on the form recording the return of the exam. If there is a question regarding the validity of a student's request, or any other concerns, please contact CAE at x51501, x52651


Many students with disabilities, such as those with sensory, manual dexterity or auditory processing deficits require notetaking assistance to compensate for their disabilities. Faculty assistance is frequently needed to identify a volunteer notetaker who would be interested in sharing lecture notes and who takes comprehensive and legible notes. Faculty are asked to make an announcement in their class to locate a suitable notetaker. Interested applicants are referred to the CAE at Murphy A255 with a sample of their class notes. For each class, the person chosen receives a stipend at the end of the quarter. The notetaker can be another student in the class or the TA; in some instances, a professor may choose to give the student a copy of his or her own notes.


Students with disability-based learning difficulties are often referred to campus tutoring services for assistance in their classes. A CAE Disability Specialist is available to meet with the tutor and the student to discuss teaching strategies that reflect the unique learning style and disability-based needs of that student.


Accommodations are always based on the specific, documented needs of each student with a disability. A student who is deaf, for example, may require a sign language interpreter to facilitate communications. Similarly, a student with a learning disability may require a quiet testing area with extended time in order to compensate for slowed processing of information and attentional difficulties. The following suggestions have been made by faculty and students to assist learning:

  • If you have a student with a disability in your class, get to know that student as a person. Ask him or her what learning strategies have been helpful in the past, and what you can do to facilitate their learning in your class. All students benefit when understanding teachers take the time to meet with them to discuss their particular learning needs.
  • As with all students, course objectives and grading standards need to be clearly articulated at the beginning of the quarter. While there may be alternative ways in which a student may learn in your class, the academic integrity of the course is always maintained.
  • Include a statement on the syllabus inviting students to discuss their academic needs with you. For example, "If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me as soon as possible".
  • Students needing an academic accommodation based on a disability should contact the Center for Accessible Education (CAE) located at (310) 825-1501 or A255 Murphy Hall. When possible, students should contact the CAE within the first two weeks of the term as reasonable notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. For more information visit www.cae.ucla.edu
  • When talking with the student, inquire about his or her special needs in the lab, in fieldwork, and on fieldtrips, as well as in the classroom. Contact CAE to determine the appropriate disability-based adjustments. If students are not registered with CAE, suggest that they do so.
  • Select course materials (e.g. syllabi and reading lists) early so that students can address their learning needs prior to the quarter. Students may need to order taped or large print textbooks or to arrange for electronic format computerized reading programs or Braille.


A learning disability affects the manner in which individuals take in information, organize it, retain it and express the knowledge and understanding which they possess. Although students with learning disabilities at UCLA have intellectual abilities comparable to all other students, they may have serious deficits in reading, spelling, mechanics of writing, and/or quantitative reasoning. Typically, students with learning disabilities also have difficulty with organizational skills, time management, and test-taking skills, particularly under timed conditions.

Notable individuals such as Woodrow Wilson, Albert Einstein, Nelson Rockefeller, Thomas Edison and Hans Christian Anderson were able to make significant contributions despite their presumed learning disabilities. The major underlying disorders in basic psychological processes include difficulties in perceiving information, retaining what is heard or seen, and in expressing what one knows through oral or written language.

Suggestions for Classroom Adaptations

Students with learning disabilities process information more efficiently in a sequential, structured learning environment. We all comprehend and integrate information better when we know what to expect, when information is presented in logical sequence, and when important concepts are summarized and reviewed.

If possible, begin each class with a review of the previous lecture and an overview of the topics to be covered. Emphasize important points, main ideas, and key concepts during the lecture and in the summary at the close of the class. Provide a suggested time line when making long-range assignments and suggest appropriate checkpoints.

Multi-Sensory Presentation:
Another effective teaching strategy involves the presentation of content in more than one modality. For example, a student who has difficulty processing information auditorily may understand and remember the material more thoroughly if it were shown on an overhead projector or in a "hands-on" activity to supplement the lecture. Present material both orally and in writing.

Visual Clarification:
To compensate for visual-perceptual difficulties, make sure that handouts, printed material and chalkboard writing are visually clear and well sized.

Auditory Learning and Reinforcement:
Some students learn best by listening; allow your lectures to be audio-taped. When syllabi are available prior to the start of the quarter, students can begin the readings before the class begins and/or arrange for textbooks to be scanned or taped.

Promoting Understanding
It is helpful to explain technical language, foreign vocabulary or specific terminology. Provide study questions for exams that demonstrate the format to be used on the exam. Monitor the student's understanding of new concepts by encouraging participation, questions and discussion.


Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a neurologically based disorder that impacts upon learning and behavior. Specifically, the disorder may involve attention deficits, impulsivity, hyperactivity, mood swings, low stress tolerance and difficulty in following rules. It is a hidden disability which often impacts upon an individual's performance in the early school years, college and throughout life. When hyperactivity is combined with attention deficits, the condition is referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Current medical research believe that differences in chemistry in the parts of the brain which control inhibition may cause ADD and may be inherited.

Academic adjustments may include testing areas with reduced distractions, breaks, extended time for exams to compensate for poor concentration, and notetakers. Students with ADD can be assisted in their academic program by presentation of a structured, sequential instructional program and assistance with time-lines, organizing, prioritizing, clear guidance as to expectations, and specific instructions.


Students with visual impairments range from limited or distorted vision to totally blind. They are usually unable to read from a blackboard and/or read standard sized print. Students with visual impairments often make an advance request for syllabi, textbooks, or class assignments. This is important so that they can order tape recorded textbooks or make arrangements with CAE to have their printed material scanned or brailled.

It is important to maintain the classroom environment to allow a student with a visual impairment to learn its arrangement. The student may also request preferential seating in your class.

If you have a student with a visual impairment in your class, be sure to identify yourself when greeting the student, and let the student know when you are leaving. Speak directly to the student, not through a third person. Convey in spoken words whatever you put on the board. Face the class when speaking and repeat discussion questions.


Hearing impairments vary from mildly hard of hearing to profoundly deaf.

Hard of Hearing Students
A hard of hearing student may use an assistive listening device. This is a wireless microphone unit that is used by the teacher and transmits a clear signal to the student so that he or she may hear the lecture without static or interference.

Deaf Students
Deaf students may have Sign Language Interpreters who customarily sit at the side of the instructor. Arrange with the interpreter and student for seating positions that are convenient for all concerned. Notetakers are provided because it is difficult for a deaf student to watch an interpreter and take notes simultaneously. Some deaf students may request Real Time Captioning which allows the students to read the words of the professor on a computer while the lecture is being delivered.

For a student who lip reads, get the student's attention and face the student while speaking. Avoid bright lights behind you which will cause a glare, interfering with lip reading. Provide the interpreter or real time captionist with copies of any handouts to be distributed during class.

Communication (hearing impairment):
During class speak normally. Should the lecture or discussion rate became too fast, the student will advise you. For group discussions, ask that one person speak at a time and that the students raise their hands to request recognition. Use captioned films, when possible, and let the interpreter know if you plan to use visual aids in a darkened room. Special lighting may be needed to illuminate the interpreters hands and face.

It is a natural tendency when using an interpreter for the first time to speak to the interpreter instead of the deaf student. Communication precedes more smoothly if you virtually ignore the interpreter. Look directly at the deaf student in the same way you would speak to anyone else.


Students with mobility impairments may have muscle weakness, reduced stamina, lack of muscle control, or total paralysis.

Be sure that your classroom is barrier-free and accessible. Keep this in mind, also, when planning site visits and field trips. For wheelchair users, organize the room so that students may move about easily. For students who walk with difficulty, provide a seat they can get in and out of as independently as possible.


Students with disabilities have the legal right to access a college education with disability-based support services designed to facilitate successful completion of their academic program. Staff from the CAE are always willing to provide information and suggestions for teaching strategies to assist learning. While academic adjustments are meant to make learning most successful, academic standards of the program are not compromised. Students with disabilities are responsible for their own learning. They are very much like other students; they are here to learn. With the collaboration of all individuals involved: faculty member, student, and CAE staff, the achievement of that goal can be realized.

Center for Accessible Education
University of California, Los Angeles
A-255 Murphy Hall, Box 951426
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1426

(310) 825-1501 (Voice)
(310) 825-9656 (Fax)

OSD Faculty Guide 07/01/16