Campus Develops Guide to Teach Students With Disabilities
New Manual Offers Suggestions to Faculty On How to Approach Course Work
By Tamara Keith and D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
He has cerebal palsey and cannot control the movement of his arms. They are strapped down to the railings of his battery-operated wheelchair.
But that doesn't stop the 20-year-old junior from getting his professors' attention. "I just jump in. I'm very good at that," Berk said.
At the beginning of each semester Berk makes sure his professors know about his disability to preempt any potential misunderstanding.
"I don't give them the chance," he said. "What I've always done is meet with my professor as soon as possible and, not only tell them what I need, but also get to know them and establish a relationship. That's really how you make things work for you."
Disabled students like Berk will now have help explaining their needs to professors. The campus's Disabled Students' Program has created a manual on teaching students with disabilities that will be distributed to all Berkeley faculty.
The manual's author, Caroline Summer, said she hopes it will help make campus classrooms more disability friendly.
"There are many things the faculty may not be aware of regarding the needs of disabled students," she said. "By increasing their disability awareness, faculty can improve the educational experience for both disabled students and themselves."
Teaching the disabled involves much more than just making sure a classroom is wheelchair accessible. The campus's nearly 900 disabled students have diverse needs. Their disabilities include mobility, visual or hearing impairments, chronic illnesses, psychological disorders and learning disabilities.
The manual, "Teaching Students with Disabilities," describes the various disabilities that teachers may encounter and offers suggestions on how to approach the course work for these students.
According to Summer, the publication was created at the request of both instructors and students.
"Faculty requested it because they want to know how to better teach disabled students," said Summer. "The students wanted it because they want their professors to understand their disabilities but feel more comfortable with the information coming from an objective source."
Berk was one of those students.
"I think it will be a big help," he said. "The bottom line is, it promotes awareness, and that's the most important thing."
Berk said the manual will make it easier for disabled students to approach their professors.
"With or without this book, you need to go talk to your professors because everyone has different individual needs," he said. "But, the fact that professors will know that people have those needs is a big help."
The Academic Senate will be mailing copies of the manual within the next few weeks. For information, call Caroline Summer at 642-0518.