Accessibility for Instructors: Case Studies

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Case 1: Essential Requirements

This situation occurs during the pandemic when public health requires social distancing, but some on-campus activities are permitted (imagine what it might be like in a hybrid semester).

Sally-Sue (she/her) is a second-year student who is taking two courses and is registered with SAS. She cannot come to campus due to a medical condition that results in chronic pain, fatigue, and a compromised immune system.

“Course A” (0.5 credits) is a 2000-level core course, and a pre-requisite for subsequent courses in Sally-Sue’s program. It has an online lecture component that Sally-Sue can access from home and SAS has been able to arrange for appropriate exam accommodations. There is also an in-person lab component worth 20% of her final grade. The lab involves using specialized equipment that would not be available to a remote learner.

Sally-Sue has asked to be exempted from the lab component of the course and proposes reweighting of the other assessments. The instructor of her other course has reweighted a couple of assessments, including class participation and a presentation.

  1. What steps would you follow to consider whether you could support Sally-Sue’s request to be exempted from the lab?
  2. What alternatives to reweighting assessments might be worth exploring?
  3. If you concluded that you could not grant Sally-Sue’s request to wave the lab component, how would you communicate this?

Participant engagement via padlet.

Case 2: Disruptive Student Conduct

One of the components of “course B” is an assignment that requires students to engage in problem-solving using concepts from the course. 

When the instructions are circulated to the class, Thomas Top-hat (he/him) has several questions. His first question seeks clarification about the expected format of the final product. He then asks a series of questions about how to figure out the solution to the problem. This starts to make the instructor, Dr. Knowledge (she/her), uncomfortable as it seems like Thomas is looking for too much guidance that would undermine the problem-solving element of the assignment.

Each time Dr. Knowledge responds to a question, Thomas immediately fires back with a follow-up, which does not allow for other students in the class to pose their questions. It feels like the conversation is getting away from Dr. Knowledge, whose non-verbal cues suggest she is getting irritated.

Eventually Dr. Knowledge indicates that she would like to give other students an opportunity to ask questions too. Thomas looks hurt and says: “I was just trying to understand what I have to do.” There is an awkward tension in the room as the conversation shifts to include other students.

  1. From a disability perspective, what might be going on for Thomas in this situation?
  2. If you were Dr. Knowledge, how would you follow-up after class? What would you ask or say?
  3. Is there anything about how an assignment or classroom discussion is setup that might increase (or decrease) the chances of a difficult/awkward conversation with a student?

Second participation opportunity via padlet.

Case 3: Assessments In-class vs. at the Exam Centre

“Course C” (0.5 credits) is a 3000-level core course and uses a traditional on-campus lecture format. Rather than a midterm, the course has 4 small tests spread across the semester. The tests are worth 15% each and are completed in the first half of regular class meetings. Following each test there is a short break and then a lecture.

Madison Maine (they/them) requires a distraction-reduced environment for tests and exams as well as extra time. They therefore write in the SAS Exam Centre.

On the date of the second test, Madison shows up at class during the break having completed the test in the exam centre as expected. A couple of hours later, Madison emails the instructor to express concern about the test. The student points out that the test in the exam centre was a series of short-answer questions, whereas the class wrote a version that exclusively used multiple-choice questions. They (Madison) also feel the short answer questions assessed more obscure concepts than what the rest of the class was expected to know.

Madison feels they have been treated unfairly and wants to know what can be done to remedy the situation.

  1. What risk(s) is the instructor facing?
  2. As an instructor, how would you approach talking to the student about their concerns?
  3. What remedy (if any) would you consider?

Final participation opportunity via padlet.