A Guide to Disability Resources for Remote Learning

by Stephanie Thurrott

Students with disabilities face unique challenges with the shift to remote learning at colleges and universities across the country. Whether you’re an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student, you may be wondering how the supportive services and accommodations that you’ve grown accustomed to will work in the distance-hybrid model.

Azusa Pacific University understands this and has gone to great lengths to pivot its accommodations and services for disability resources. The offerings should better help students navigate their coursework, leverage cutting-edge technologies, and access needed support.

“These are extraordinary times,” said Carmen Varela, director of APU’s Office of Accessibility and Disability Resources (ADR). “Our service delivery model is grounded in principles of justice. And we have a commitment to care for all our students, so we want to make sure that you have the equal opportunity to participate in your education and that you’re being cared for while you’re studying at APU.”

If you’re curious to learn more about the strategies APU has put into place to support its students, here’s what you need to know.

Remote Options for Accommodations

To learn how APU is shifting accommodations and services for disability resources, start with the ADR Student Guide site. This is a user-friendly site where you can find a comprehensive guide to academic accommodations, a Zoom recording of the Fall 2020 Question and Answer Session, and more information about assistive technology, study tips, advice for speaking to your professors, and more.

“We’ve worked really hard to make sure that it’s comprehensive,” Varela said. “It covers testing, assistive technology, note-takers, captioners, scribes—almost everything we could think of.”

Additionally, APU is offering remote versions of accommodations that are traditionally offered in person, including:

  • Notetaking. ADR has partnered with an artificial intelligence note-taking service called Otter, which can record and transcribe live conversations. If you have notetaking accommodations, you can get a license for the Otter app through ADR. The app records your online class lectures, so you can see a live transcription of what the professor says in real-time, as well as go back and read it again later to highlight important points. Otter also automatically makes a list of important keywords in the transcript.
  • Academic Coaching. Graduate assistants can communicate with you online to help with organizational skills, study tips, notetaking, scheduling, communication, time management, and self-advocacy.
  • Tutoring. If you need help with a specific course, you can connect with the university’s Tutoring Center, which is offering drop-in and one-on-one peer tutoring virtually.
  • Writing Center. For help with papers and other written coursework, you can schedule an online appointment with a writing coach at the Writing Center.
  • Accommodated Testing. If you have extended testing time as an accommodation, notify your professor so they can schedule it. Also, if you’re approved for a reader or a scribe, you can have your exams remotely proctored through Zoom.

Professors are generally eager to help students with disabilities succeed. If you feel that your professor isn’t implementing your accommodations, you should reach out to them or connect with them during office hours to talk about your needs. If that doesn’t resolve your concern, don’t hesitate to contact ADR.

Accommodations for Students with COVID-19

If you contract COVID-19, the ADR staff can help you identify what types of additional accommodations you may need. Some people have mild cases while others have more serious symptoms, so accommodations are individualized. You might need flexible attendance, extended time on assignments, or note-taking assistance, for example. Don’t hesitate to be candid about your condition and ask for the help you need.

How to Get Started

If you haven’t requested accommodations for your disability, you can download and complete the Request for Accommodations form. You’ll need to return that form along with verification of your disability from a medical professional. Then, you’ll schedule an intake meeting with someone from the ADR to talk about what accommodations you might need for the semester.

If it’s difficult to get an appointment with your medical provider because of COVID-19, let the ADR staff know so they can help. You can apply at any time—you don’t need to wait until the start of a semester. Keep in mind that accommodations aren’t retroactive, so apply as soon as possible.

Veterans with disabilities should follow the same process as other students for identifying what accommodations they need and applying for them. Veterans may also qualify for VA benefits and California rehab benefits, so it’s worth having a conversation.

More Information for Students with Disabilities

There are many other accommodations that can be made for students and support networks they can tap into, both within and outside of Azusa Pacific. Here are some great resources to help students with disabilities connect with additional information:

Do you have additional questions about other resources that can help while you’re studying remotely? Contact the Office of Accessibility and Disability Resources to learn more.