To achieve an accessible teaching and learning environment for students, there may be times where students will require supports that involve another person like a notetaker or ASL interpreter. As an instructor, you need to be aware of these supports and how to best assist individuals to facilitate a more accessible learning environment for your students.
Sometimes, you may have additional people in your classroom (both physical and virtual). For instance, an ASL interpreter may attend your class to sign for a Deaf student. Being welcoming to additional people in your classroom and being flexible are good first steps for further promoting accessibility.
Some students will have peer notetakers or make use of computerized notetaking software for your classes. Some tips to help students accessing notetaking support include:
- Sharing your course materials in advance. Sharing your PowerPoint presentations, hand-outs, online materials, and any relevant course documents in advance of a class can assist students and notetakers to fully prepare for your in-class time.
- Ensuring that you are speaking clearly and projecting your voice.
- Speaking at a reasonable pace but keeping in mind that notetaking and computerized notetaking may require a few seconds delay.
- Being prepared for potential interruptions and clarifications from notetakers in order to ensure they are accurately transcribing.
- Being willing to meet with students and notetakers for consultation and planning when needed.
Some students will require interpreters to fully access and participate in your class. If you have a student making use of an interpreter, keep these tips in mind:
- Be willing to share any class materials, PowerPoint slides, and handouts to students and interpreters in advance. This will help for preparation and context.
- Position yourself and the interpreter in the student’s line of sight for in-person classes. Check in with the student and interpreter to ensure your positioning is appropriate.
- Ensure your online classes allow for adequate video and screen sharing to assist the student and their interpreter. Check in with the student and interpreter to make sure your online learning platform is accessible.
- Avoid distracting movements or any movement that will block the student’s view of the interpreter and/or the interpreter’s view.
- Remember to speak in a clear voice with a reasonable pace, and speak directly to the student, not the interpreter. Remember that you are communicating with the student.
- Repeat questions and responses from others in the class so all information and dialogue is shared.
- Encourage only one speaker at a time to assist with ease of interpretation.
- Be open to interruptions by interpreters for clarification and questions.
- Be prepared to meet with students and interpreters for consultation and planning if needed.
Overall, being flexible and open-minded about the types of supports your students need is key for you as an instructor to facilitate an accessible classroom environment. Ensure that you are welcoming to extra people in your classroom and keep communication open with your students to check in about their needs.