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Making Online Education Accessible to All Students in Math at COD. Addressing Special Needs in Distance Education. By: Laura Sosnowski. All students have a right to equal education. …Says ADA, and other legislation But not all students enter education on equal ground.

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Making online education accessible to all students in math at cod

Making Online Education Accessible to All Studentsin Mathat COD

Addressing Special Needs

in Distance Education

By: Laura Sosnowski

All students have a right to equal education
All students have a right to equal education

  • …Says ADA, and other legislation

  • But not all students enter education on equal ground

Begin with the end in mind
Begin With The End In Mind

It can be difficult-to-impossible

to retro-fit your online course


you find out

what special needs

your students are dealing with


Special Needs?

....and how

can they

be addressed?


  • Blind

  • Blurry vision

  • Color Blindness

Suggestions for accommodating special visual need
Suggestions for Accommodating Special Visual need

Blind:Braille textbooks, or special computer equipment designed for the student with voice command instead of typing.

Blurry: Uncluttered screens, simple fonts, color cues to sort and highlight.

Color blindness: avoid known color ambiguity (red & green, green & brown, etc.) especially when using color to sort important information.


  • Deaf

  • ESL (difficulty understanding second language, especially online electronic sound and no lip reading)

  • Slow auditory processing

  • Difficulty with auditory comprehension

Suggestions for accommodating special hearing need
Suggestions for accommodating Special Hearing Need

Deaf: Add sign language for any message heard but not seen on screen.

ESL, slow processing/auditory comprehension:

  • Speak loud, clear, and not too fast!

  • Use simple, comprehensible language

  • Eliminate all distracting background noise

  • Attach a visual to every audio presentation with pause capability


  • Limited Motor ability

    • difficulty with or inability to type

    • Wheel chair, cane, etc.

  • Transportation

  • Medications

  • Seizures

  • Location (remote back hills,

    or international)

Suggestions for accommodating special physical needs
Suggestions for accommodating Special Physical needs

Limited motor ability: Minimize keystrokes, and screen navigation effort. Offer option for verbal responses via phone instead of discussion board.

Transportation/Location:Allow proctored tests to be taken at nearby, accessible locations. Seek student input on options. Students in exotic locations might require creative investigation of options for proctored tests!

Seizures: Avoid flashing text, rapid movement, or seizure inducing colors.


  • Poor memory skills

  • Poor study/organization skills

  • Learning disability

  • Emotional/Anxiety

Suggestions for accommodating special cognitive needs
Suggestions for Accommodating Special Cognitive Needs

Poor Learning Skills (memory, study, organization): The note organizers, homework procedure instructions and mnemonics you offer will help all students improve their academic and memory skills, should the student choose to implement them.

Emotional/Anxiety: The immediate, personal, compassionate feedback received from you helps all students less anxious. Your presence and dependable communication will as well. For special circumstances, flexible deadlines are sometimes in order.

LD: Cognitive LD’s are consistent throughout life and the student has been dealing with it for years. Offer office hour personal tutoring or recommend an outside tutor for additional help.

I need some information
I need some information!

  • What colors combinations to avoid for color blindness and/or avoiding seizures?

  • How will I learn sign language or where will I find someone to do it for me?

  • Are braille texts even available?

  • What to do about testing a student in Afghanistan? Use a notary?

  • Is there a good screen reader to recommend?

Some realistic questions
Some realistic questions:

  • Is one online instructor really expected to address all of these needs in every course?

  • How is one to access and

    provide accommodations for

    such a large array of needs?

More realistic questions
More realistic questions:

  • What does the College address for classroom teaching?

  • Should online instructors provide

    more special need solutions than

    the College classrooms do?

Some good questions i think
Some good questions, I think…

  • Arebad screen readers really the only option? If so what am I, a math instructor, supposed to do about it?

  • How will a student, who cannot type, write out algebra work?

  • How do the blind use the braille buttons on the drive-thru cash machine? How did they drive there anyway?

    In other words, is it unreasonable to expect that a blind student has some assistance?

Inventing a new wheel
Inventing a New Wheel?

  • Does the college have Reasonable Accommodation Standards or Procedures, or is each online instructor left to invent their own wheel?

  • If not, where can reliable information be found to help an instructor know what options and requirements to consider and implement?


  • If so, what are they? And how can I get a copy?

Let students help you help them
Let Students help you help them

  • Your student had special needs before he/she registered for your class, and has some of it worked out already.

  • Ask the student what

    you can do to help.

  • Probably best to ask for some documentation before you unjustifiably over-accommodate.

Helping students help themselves
Helping Students Help Themselves

  • The earlier you know the better. Syllabus should encourage a private email to the instructor to disclose special need on the very first day.

  • Be sure students are aware of

    college Access and Accommodation

    Department location, services,

    email, phone number and contact name.

Center for access and accommodations
Center for Access and Accommodations

Find out what special need accommodations might be available at the College of DuPage.

Jackie Reuland


The sky is the limit
The sky is the limit!

With knowledge and planning we can help all students become successful!