This handbook is designed to
provide first-contact student service
staff with basic skills to use when working with students with
Prepared by Kate Steinbach,
A Handbook for Working With
Students With Disabilities for
Student Service Staff
publication of the UWM Student
The mission of the Student
Accessibility Center (SAC) at the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is to create an accessible university
community for students with disabilities which fosters the development
of each student’s full potential. As a campus resource, SAC staff
work with students, faculty, and staff to promote an increased
of the abilities of all students and to ensure that they are regarded
the basis of ability, not disability.
Any UW-Milwaukee student with a
disability which restricts one or more
of life’s major activities may benefit from SAC services. While
people with mobility, sensory, communication, mental, or learning
affiliate with SAC, so too do people with basic health impairments
temporary injuries. Students are eligible for services through
if they are enrolled in the university and can provide documentation of
To ensure equal opportunity for
participation, the university works to
ensure both physical and programmatic access. This means more
than removing architectural barriers and providing interpreters and
readers. It also means making logical adjustments in the
that are necessary and feasible to ensure full educational opportunity
yet not altering the basic nature of the course content.
As a first-contact staff
member, you may be approached for assistance
from students with any or a combination of disabilities. Some
disabilities may be visually obvious to you. Others will not. It
will be helpful to all students if we, as a campus community, look at
ways to make our
offices and services universally accessible. This does not
mean drastic changes in how we do business or provide service, but an
awareness that all students may not experience college in the same way
we did. It is the goal of this publication to assist the campus
community to become comfortable when working with our increasingly
diverse student population and to assist them in reaching their goals
of success while on campus.
If a student meeting with you
discloses that they have a disability,
encourage them to contact
SAC as soon as possible to learn
what accommodations may be
available. The following tips are provided to ease what at times can
feel awkward. Relax. Ask the student what you can do to help make
the communication smoother. And remember, the student with a
disability is a student and disability does not mean inability.
TIPS FOR WORKING WITH STUDENTS
- Remember that an individual with a disability is like
anyone else, except for the special limitations of the disability.
- When talking with a person with a disability, speak
directly to that person, rather than through a companion or sign
language interpreter who may be present.
- Be yourself when you meet an individual with a disability
and talk about the same things as you would with anyone else.
- When introduced to a person with a disability, it is
appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use
or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. (Shaking
hands with the left hand is an acceptable greeting.)
- Do not assume that a person with a disability needs your
help. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted.
Then listen to or ask for instructions.
- Don’t be over-protective or over-solicitous, and don’t
offer pity or charity.
- Be patient. Let the individual set his/her own pace
in walking or talking.
- Treat adults as adults. Address people who have
disabilities by their first names only when extending the same
familiarity to all others present. (Never patronize people who
use wheelchairs by patting
them on the head or shoulder.)
- Listen attentively when you are talking with a person who
has difficulty speaking. Be patient and wait for the person to
finish, rather than correcting or speaking for the person. If
necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, a nod or a
shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having
difficulty doing so. Instead, repeat what you have understood and
allow the person to respond.
- Don’t make assumptions about the skills or deficiencies of
an individual with a disability.
- Don’t assume that an individual with a disability has other
limitations. For example, don’t raise your voice when speaking
with a visually impaired person.
- Often, the most difficult aspect of living with a
disability is the negative attitudes of others. It is important
to be aware of this situation when working with a student with a
- Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use
accepted, common expressions such as “See you later,” or “Did you hear
about this,” that seem to relate to the person’s disability.
- When meeting a person with a visual impairment, always
identify yourself and others who may be with you. When conversing
in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking.
- When giving directions to buildings on campus, be conscious
of accessible routes.
- Keep walkways clear of obstructions and overhangs, even
temporary ones; you never know when someone with a visual impairment
will visit. A space is not accessible if a person has to ask to
have an obstruction moved.
- Do not make the assumption that a map or note can be
read. Ask the student if enlarging the print size would be
helpful. If yes, simply use a photocopier to make an enlargement.
Try a 25% enlargement
and adjust as needed.
- Keep walkways clear of obstructions and overhangs, even
temporary ones; you never know when someone with a mobility impairment
A space is not accessible if a person has to ask to have an obstruction
- Be familiar with where the elevators are in your building.
- Be familiar with where the accessible entrances are to your
- When giving directions for traveling around campus, provide
an accessible route.
- When speaking with a person in a wheelchair or a person who
uses crutches, place yourself at eye level in front of the person to
facilitate the conversation.
- Never patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them
on the head or shoulder.
- Leaning or hanging on a person’s wheelchair is similar to
leaning or hanging on a person and is generally considered
annoying. The chair is part of the personal body space of the
person who uses it.
Deaf or Hard of Hearing:
- Don’t separate an individual with a disability from
his/her wheelchair or crutches unless she/he asks you to do so.
want them within reach.
- Speak directly to the hard of hearing person -- never
behind the back or over the shoulder.
- If there is bright light, have it on your face and not in
the hard of hearing person’s eyes. The hard of hearing student
may need to
watch your lips.
- Be patient. Assist the hard of hearing student to
feel relaxed in talking with you. Try not to show annoyance if
the student is
slow to understand and you must repeat.
- Don’t shout! Shouting distorts the pattern and rhythm
of speech and is tiring to you.
- Don’t cover your mouth with your hand or speak with a
cigarette between your lips. Both blocks sound and prevent the
hard of hearing student form having a clear view of your lip movements.
- For optimal communication, stand 3-6 feet from the hard of
hearing student when addressing him/her. Don’t lean into the
student’s ear. This can embarrass the student and also make it
difficult for the student to have a clear view of your lips.
- Many words and sounds look the same on the lips.
Don’t repeat a single word over and over if the student does not
Use another word or phrase to express the same thought.
- Speak as clearly and accurately as possible.
- Let your face show expression related to what you are
- Get the person’s attention before you speak. Don’t
hesitate to tap the shoulder of the hard of hearing person or wave your
hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and
to establish the person can read your lips. Not all people with a
hearing impairment can lip read. For those who do read lips, be
sensitive to their needs by placing yourself facing the light source
and keeping hands, cigarettes and food away from your mouth when
- Expect that some words will not be understood.
Only about 1/4 of the English language can clearly be seen on the
of hearing individuals use what they see on the lips, what they hear
the ear, and the context of what is being spoken about in order to make
sense of it all.
- Pronounce names with special care, especially in
- Change to a new subject at a slow rate so that the hard of
hearing student is aware of it.
- When a hard of hearing person joins the group, it helps to
inform the hearing impaired student of the topic being discussed.
This will provide the student with a contextual point of reference and
aid the student in following and participating in the group discussion.
- Deaf and hard of hearing individuals run the gamut of
intelligence just like hearing persons. Don’t treat hard of
hearing students as if they are unable to understand, or ignore them
because speaking with
them requires a special attentiveness. Your interest and patience
will enhance their educational experience.
- If the hard of hearing student appears to be struggling to
understand your message, offer to write the information out for
them. Ask if they would prefer this. Written communication
can be a helpful addition to spoken communication.
If the student is using a sign
language interpreter. . .
- If the student is deaf and does not have a sign
interpreter, providing response in written format may be your only way
to communicate at the
time. Print your message so that it can be easily read.
time for the student to write a response or additional question(s).
- Address the student, not the interpreter. The
interpreter is acting as a conduit for sharing information. Don’t
say, “Tell him that…” Do say, “Tom, the appointment is…”
- Keep a moderate rate. The interpreter will let you
know if you are speaking too quickly and need to slow down.
- Stay visible to the student. They may be lip reading
while using an interpreter.
- Position the interpreter so they can hear you clearly and
be seen by the student.
Hiring an Interpreter . . .
If you are in need of hiring an
interpreter for a student who is going
to be attending an event you are sponsoring, coming for an advising
appointment, or taking a campus tour, etc. contact Amy Hogle-Hunter in
the Deaf/Hard of
Hearing Office within SAC at
229-2344 or email@example.com . If an on-campus
interpreter is available, Amy will schedule the interpreter with a
fee-for-service agreement. Generally, an
on-campus interpreter is less costly than hiring from an outside agency
because SAC does not charge for travel time nor does it use a two-hour
minimum contract. If on-campus interpreters are all committed to
classroom assignments, Amy will refer you to an outside agency for
When possible, it is helpful if you contact Amy at least 2 to 3 weeks
advance of the date the interpreter is needed. Although advanced
is preferred, Amy may be able to accommodate your last minute request
- It is okay to address the interpreter directly with a
question/concern regarding them personally. For example, “Can you
hear me okay from that seat?”
USING A RELAY SYSTEM
Deaf, hard of hearing and
speech impaired people use Relay Systems to
call, and be called by, voice telephone users. A Communications
Assistant (CA) at the relay center, using specially designed
telecommunications equipment, voices to the hearing person what the
Text Telephone (TTY)
user types and types to the TTY user what the hearing person says.
To place a relay
Dial 7-1-1 to reach
Relay calls can be made 24
hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls
through the relay system are strictly
CA's relay conversations
verbatim (word-for-word) without any
editing. Either party may, however, request interpretation.
The CA would
then actually interpret between ASL (American Sign Language) and
Give the CA the number you wish to call.
The CA will dial that number and start relaying when someone answers.
Talk directly to the person you called, NOT the CA.
If you are speaking, remember the CA must type your words so speak
at a moderate pace.
Use “GA” (Go Ahead) when you are ready for the other person’s response.
USING A TTY
A TTY, also known as a TT or
Device for the Deaf), is a small device with a typewriter
Users type their words (to another TTY or to the relay), the words
on the TTY/TDD display screen. A personal computer with a modem
also be used as a TTY/TDD. (See Appendix B)
TTY/TDD on campus?
There are three pay phones
equipped with TTY/TDD machines on
campus. They are located in the lobby of the Library, the
Engineering and Applied Science building and Enderis Hall.
The following campus
departments are equipped to receive calls using
|Staff Interpreting Office
|Student Accessibility Center
PLANNING AN EVENT
When advertising an event,
include language in your literature that
indicates that the material can be requested in an accessible
format. This does not mean you must have alternative formats
available, but will make them available should they be
requested. Also, it is helpful to include wording
indicating that accommodations will be made with reasonable
notice. (See Appendix C)
Procedures for an emergency
evacuation are available on
the Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management web page at
Equal Access to Educational
Opportunities for Students with
Disabilities (A model resource manual); produced by the Office of
Equal Opportunity Compliance and Policy Students; University of
Wisconsin System Administration; 1994.
Information Accessibility: Ensuring Equal Access to Educational
Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (A Guidebook for UWM
Faculty, Staff and Administrators)
; prepared by Project IMPACT,
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1999.
Perspectives on Deafness;
developed and disseminated by the National
Center on Deafness, California State University, Northridge.
last modified January 12, 2005
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Last updated: July 15, 2005