What to consider when working with students with disabilities. View the Dominican powerpoint presentation on Universal Design for Offices from ADS in 2019.
Be mindful of others in the vicinity overhearing confidential information that is shared with you, especially students who disclose medical information to you. You may need a designated area to speak with students who would like to speak with any staff member in your office regarding confidential information.
Be prepared to have visitors and students with mobility challenges in our offices and buildings. Make sure there are no obstructions in any walkways (e.g. bulky chairs, cables, etc):
- Ensure there is plenty of room in offices and hallways, so that visitors and students in wheelchairs, canes, scooters, and crutches, can come into our offices.
- Report nonfunctioning elevators right away to facilities/maintenance.
- Report to facilities any spaces on campus where you see visitors, faculty, students, and staff members struggling to get from one place to the next. These spaces will often require a simple solution, such as a ramp or railing along the steps.
Be mindful of lighting in your area. When hallways and offices are too dark, people with vision problems can easily get hurt. However, if there are very bright florescent lights in your office, it can be harmful to people with migraines, sensitive eyes, and those prone to seizures.
Keep Office Spaces Sanitary
It can be detrimental to immune suppressed students and visitors (e.g. cancer, pregnancy, allergies to dust, etc) when our offices and buildings are not clean.
Here are important tips:
- Don't come to work if you think you may be contagious (because you could be putting someone's life in danger).
- Wipe down areas that visitors touch regularly (e.g. door handles, pens, arm rests, countertops).
- Avoid having strong scents in the area that can trigger migraines and other side effects.
- Some people have trichophobia, which is a fear of hair. So please use a lint roller regularly to remove hair, dust, and debris off of seating areas.
Flyers, Forms and Signs
All flyers, handouts, and forms should be in easy-to-read font. Whenever possible, use at least 14 point font and double space to accommodate those with visual impairments and reading disorders.
Make sure all signs are in easy to read font and that the font is big enough that people with visual challenges are able to read them with ease.
Also make sure there is a braille interpretation of your signage for students and visitors who cannot read visually.
- Offer to be a scribe
- Offer to read information out loud
- Do not touch them if they are bumping into things; instead give verbal direction
- Do not keep anything that can fall on them or they can bump into in the office
- Keep in mind the colors used on any forms and digital formats. Remember, many people who are colorblind cannot distinguish between red and green
- Speak slowly and clearly
- Let them see your lips moving when speaking
- Do not speak in a tone that is too low. If you are not sure if you are speaking loud enough to be heard, ask politely if you should speak louder
- For students and visitors who cannot hear at all, offer to write/type conversations. This can be done on a small white board or piece of paper. However, an electronic device is the best because it's faster to type messages and the writing is neat. It also allows the person who is deaf type their responses/messages clearly to you.
If you see someone struggling to read or write, offer to be a scribe and/or reader for them:
Most of the time, it's easy to tell if a person needs help writing/typing because they have a cast on their right arm or they are blind. However, keep in mind that there are people who also need help writing or reading because of other reasons, such as they didn't bring their reading glasses or they have arthritis, etc. And until they disclose this information, you'd never know! So always pay attention to facial expression and body language to see if some needs more assistance.
Be aware that what we say or how we treat people can effect them negatively. Some comments can be triggers for people with mental illnesses or those who have been victims of traumatic events.
Also, when offices are not accessible or do not offer spaces that have supports in the environment (such as a sitting area or a hand rail), cause suffering, especially those who have chronic fatigue or have bad knees.
If it is obvious that someone waiting in line is struggling to stand, offer them a seat and have the person behind them hold their space in line for them.
Here are a few examples of invisible disabilities:
- Chronic fatigue
- Prosthetic leg
- Chronic pain
- Mental illnesses (e.g. PTSD, bipolar disorder, etc)
Note that in the case of an emergency evacuation where elevators are not working, staff members must have a plan to get all mobility impaired individuals and individuals with vision impairments out of their offices and buildings safely. So please have a clear plan, so that every staff member knows what to do.
In dire emergencies, this means that some individuals will have to be carried out of the building, abandoning wheelchairs, canes and service animals.