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Accessibility Resource Center

Tips for Working with Students with Disabilities

Accessible Communication Tips:

  1. Speak directly to the person rather than at a companion or sign language interpreter who may be present.
  2. Offer to shake hands when introduced. People with limited hand use or an artificial limb can usually shake hands and may offer the left hand if the right is incapacitated. 
  3. If you offer assistance in anyway, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen or ask for instructions.
  4. Always identify yourself and others who may be with you when meeting someone with a visual disability. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking. When dining with a friend who has a visual disability, ask if you can describe what is on his or her plate.
  5. Treat adults as adults. Address people with disabilities by their first names only when extending that same familiarity to all others. Avoid patting individuals in wheelchairs on the head or shoulder.
  6. Do not lean against or hang on someone's wheelchair. Be mindful that people with disabilities treat their chairs as extensions of their bodies.
  7. If possible, place yourself at eye level when speaking with someone in a wheelchair or on crutches.
  8. Listen attentively when talking with people who have difficulty speaking and wait for them to finish. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, or a nod of the head. Never pretend to understand; instead, repeat what you have understood and allow the person to respond.
  9. Gently tap a person who has a hearing disability on the shoulder or wave your hand to get their attention. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. If so, try to face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes, and food away from your mouth when speaking. If a person is wearing a hearing aid, do not assume that they have the ability to discriminate your speaking voice. Never shout -- just speak in a normal tone of voice.
  10. Relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions such as "See you later" or "Did you hear about this?" that seem to relate to a person's disability.

Universal Design for Learning

The Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) promotes Universal Design for Learning on the Chico State campus. Universal Design for Learning is the process of making course concepts accessible and skills attainable regardless of learning style, physical, or sensory abilities. It is an intentional approach to design, anticipates a variety of needs, and broadens usability to the public. It is economical for the University and respects human diversity.

For more information:

For specific questions or information, please feel free to reach out to ARC at arcdept@csuchico.edu.