University of Wisconsin–Madison

U-CLaSS: “What students with disabilities want instructors and peers (with and without disabilities) to know.” (Apr 2019)

April 2019’s U-CLaSS (Undergraduate Chat, Learn, and Share Space) allowed students to talk with faculty about ways to improve faculty-student relations at UW-Madison.

The topic of April 2019’s U-CLaSS chat was “What students with disabilities want their instructors and peers (with and without disabilities) to know.”

The event was sponsored by the UW-Madison Teaching Academy and the McBurney Center.


Top Eight Things Students with Disabilities Want Instructors to Know 

1. We don’t have to be registered with the McBurney Disability Resource Center to receive reasonable accommodations. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Wisconsin State Statutes, and UW-Madison’s policy (Faculty Document 1071) mandate that students with disabilities must be reasonably accommodated in instruction and campus life. We don’t have to be registered with McBurney to receive our legally mandated rights.

2. Many of us have less visible disabilities. The majority of students with disabilities on this campus (and every campus) have chronic health conditions (e.g., Crohn’s disease, Lupus) and psychiatric disabilities (e.g., depression and anxiety) that are often considered less visible disabilities.

3. Disabilities, especially less visible ones, can be unpredictable. We’re not lazy, and we want to do well in our classes. But our courses need to be structured for our success.

4. We wish instructors would make their course structure and requirements transparent to us, and all students, before we register for their classes. Instructors could do that by posting their course syllabus, even a previous semester’s syllabus, in the Student Center/Faculty Center).

5. We like it when instructors pro-actively engage with us. We’re not scary. So, consider reaching out to students who self-identify as having a disability at the beginning of the class, at least once during the semester, and at the end of the semester, to make sure the students’ access needs are being met. We prefer communicating asynchronously (via email) because it’s less taxing.

6. We’ve found that Teaching Assistants are often the point of contact for students with disabilities. Therefore, TAs need training in the legal and societal aspects of disabilities.

7. We’d like instructors to use better modes of assessing student engagement than in-class spoken participation or classroom response devices and apps (e.g., clickers and Top Hat).”

8. We think instructors need alternate modes of collaborative work than the typical outside-of-class group work.