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Inclusive, Socially Just Teaching: Students with Disabilities

Find resources to guide your approach to classroom approaches

Students come to us with a range of skills and abilities. "...disability is a difference in the way a person moves, communicates, feels, and/or processes information. It’s a difference in the way they complete the tasks of daily life. There’s nothing inherently positive or negative about disability. It’s a form of human diversity.” -- The Nora Project. 

Adler University seeks to facilitate an environment where all students thrive academically and professionally. Disability Services within the Office of Student Affairs serves and supports students with disabilities by creating an accessible learning environment, removing barriers that impede full participation, and fostering full inclusion across the Adler community.  

Disability is a broad category, and encompasses:

  • psychological and mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety, and PTSD),
  • medical and chronic diseases (e.g., HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, long COVID),
  • physical,
  • visual,
  • hearing,
  • sensory,
  • developmental (e.g., autism)
  • and learning disabilities (e.g., ADHD, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder).

Keep in mind that disabilities may be:

  • Visible or invisible,
  • Temporary or permanent,
  • Congenital (from birth) or acquired later in life.

Disabilities are fluid. Anyone of us may join the disability community at any time, due to an accident, health issue, genetics, aging, or many other scenarios. Disability is a normal part of the human experience; one in four North Americans has some type of disability.

  • Ableism is “a system that places value on people's bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence, excellence, and productivity.” -- Talila Lewis and Dustin Gibson

  • #SayTheWord: It is important as educators we use the term “disability” rather than euphemisms such as “special needs,” “differently abled,” etc. Read more about the psychological importance of Saying the Word “Disability.” Remember that shorthand terms like “ADA” or “504” are only representing laws, not an identity.

Find below some resources to help design and implement more accessible courses. We encourage you to use the strategies listed below to make your course material accessible to our students. This list is not exhaustive.

Create a more accessible environment

  1. If a student requests an accommodation, have you contacted contacted Disability Services ( for Chicago and Online Campuses, or Susanne Milner ( for Vancouver Campus to learn how to best address it?
  2. Does your syllabus have the required disability statement about accommodations? 
  3. Do you respect students with accommodations right to confidentiality? Meaning, you are not publicly identifying students with accommodations and not sharing letters of accommodations with fellow faculty members?
  4. Does your syllabus include flexible attendance and exam accommodations?
  5. Have you made your syllabus and reading list and text ISBN numbers available well before the course begins, allowing students time to locate accessible textbooks and/or reading material?
  6. Does your content include scholarship from disabled scholars? Do you use examples and cases of people with disabilities?
  7. Do you speculate about students with disabilities’ lack of motivation?
  8. If in person, does your classroom provide seating at the front for people who need interpreters or captioning?
  9. Are you providing options for students to ask you questions outside of class, understanding that some students would be more comfortable sending a note via email, some more comfortable speaking to you in person during office hours?
  10. Are you using Canvas’ accessibility features?
  11. Are course readings/materials, assignments, and evaluations of learning (quizzes, tests) in an accessible format (i.e., accessible electronic files, easily readable font, print can be made larger, photos include captions)?
  12. Are assignments structured so that all students can successfully complete them?
    • Alternative formats possible for submitting assignments, such as Talk to Text
    • Students have sufficient time to complete the assignment
  13. Are you using ableist slurs, even unintentionally? For example, “crazy,” “lame.” Learn more about ableist slurs.

Checklist From University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence

Students with Disabilities at Adler

Questions About Students with Disabilities at Adler?

Chicago & Online Campuses

Contact Disability Services within the Office of Student Affairs:; 312-662-4141

Review additional resources, FAQs, and more on Disability Services’ Adler Connect page.

Vancouver Campus

Contact Susanne Milner, Manager, Student & Alumni Services:; 236-521-2433.

Universal Design for Learning

"Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone--not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs." 

Multiple means of representation 

  • Offer alternative ways to see/hear the information including tangible objects and examples

Multiple means of expression and action

  • provide alternatives in rate or timing of tasks and alternatives for writing and responding
  • facilitate management of information

Multiple means of engagement

  • provide choice
  • different types of participation


Here are materials from Luis Perez's presentation from February 22, 2022 on University Design for Learning. A version is also uploaded below.

Find examples and more resources on the Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education website.

View this series of conversations that discussed UDL strategies used by Adler faculty. Discussions took place in 2023.