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Blog #3: DO I NEED ACCOMMODATIONS?

Updated: 6 days ago


Episode Summary:

A concept that goes hand-in-hand with disabilities is the area of accommodations. Once you figure out what your learning disabilities are, the next step is to understand how to address them successfully at school, work or home. This podcast is full of ideas how you can make that happen. For instance, this episode starts with brief definitions of accommodations, along with why they can be so important to you. We then delve deeper into LOTS of examples of specific accommodations that are illustrated further with scenarios. As you investigate your accommodations, don't forget to try any of the Tips and Tricks in this episode. These activities, along with the resources and links in this blog, will give you lots of new, valuable insights into how accommodations can change your life.


Definition of Accommodations:

"Accommodations are changes that remove barriers. . . and provide equal access to learning" (Lee, 2021). OR

"Accommodations are compensations" (Price, 2021).


Examples of Accommodations:

Here's a beginning list of accommodations for all kinds of disabilities:

  • written documents of all types, including: work documents, job applications, study materials or syllabi available in large type, in easy to read formats, or Braille versions

  • natural lighting

  • noise-cancelling headphones or a quiet place to work or study

  • screen readers, voice recognition technology, or amplified phones

  • TTY/TTD use for phone calls

  • accessible bathrooms, doors, and water fountains

  • use a tape recorder or a scribe during meetings or classes

  • clarify or simplify written directions

  • break larger assignments or work projects into smaller chunks

  • highlight important information in notes, documents, or readings

  • give as much practice as possible for essential tasks or assignments

  • provide a glossary or list of important vocabulary words or phrases

  • use of a scribe during note taking

  • repeat critical information, vocabulary, or ideas more than once

  • provide copies of lecture notes or work meetings

  • use graphic organizers

  • write down or repeat back to someone what you've just heard for clarification

  • give step-by-step instruction whenever possible

  • provide simultaneous visual and audio directions

  • periodically summarize key information on a whiteboard

  • oral versus written directions

  • use mnemonics or other memory enhancing strategies

  • seating close to teacher, instructor, or meeting leader

  • turn sideways or use lined paper for math problems

  • use peer-mediated learning/training whenever possible

  • flexible work times or work at home

  • find equivalent classes or course substitutions

  • assignment or project substitutions

  • extra time for assignments or projects

  • adjustable desks and labs for wheelchairs

  • spell and grammar checkers

  • substitute online for face-to-face classes

  • Universal Design and Instruction (UDI)

  • disability-related tutoring

  • calculator or formulas on flash cards

  • break information or assignments into smaller chunks

  • frequent breaks during long sessions

  • audio books or books on tape

  • dictate assignments or documents instead of writing them


Scenarios about Accommodations:

Read these brief scenarios and see if you can figure out which accommodation would be appropriate. (The correct answer is at the end.)


a) Susie's learning disability causes her to have problems with short-term auditory memory. That means she often doesn't remember what she hears, which can be a real problem when she's following various directions in her culinary classes at the local VoTech. What accommodations would help her?

[Answer: Repeat critical information more than once + provide simultaneous visual and auditory directions)


b) No matter how hard he tries, Bill just can't pass his college algebra class due to his dyscalculia. He consistently earns Cs and Ds on his tests, despite studying for hours beforehand. He has asked for extra tutoring, but clearly needs something else. What accommodations would help him?

[Answer: Extra time for exams + allow calculators during class/tests)


c) Juan is a whiz at numbers and wants to be an accountant. He excels in his accounting classes, but they are usually 2 hours long with only one break in between. Due to his ADHD, his attention starts to wander after a few minutes. What accommodation would help him?

[Answer: equivalent online class where he can take frequent breaks + tape lectures in face-to-face classes and listen to them later)


d) Allison is studying to be a Licensed Practical Nurse. Her classes, especially those in anatomy and nursing procedures, are full of important vocabulary and concepts. But when she goes back over her notes, they seem to be full of gibberish due to her dysgraphia. What accommodation would help her?

[Answer: scribe to take notes + laptop with a spell/grammar checker]


e) Tanisha is a secretary in a high pressure job with lots of deadlines. She has been called into her supervisor's office because she has problems quickly reading meeting notes, emails, and memos. The rest of her work is exemplary. What accommodations would help her?

[Answer: voice output on her computer + oral instead of written directions]


f) Andre loves animals and is a volunteer for the local animal shelter. He is highly motivated and often fills in for others at short notice, walking dogs, or working the desk as needed. Lately the manager has become frustrated with Andre because he gets confused about where and when he should be working. Due to his learning disability, he will sometimes even miss appointments entirely. What accommodations would help Andre? [Answer: graphic organizer + use a reminder app on his Smartphone ]


POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES:

Here's a list of some positive strengths and characteristics (Indeed Editorial Team, 2021; Mead, 2021; Morin, 2021) to get you started with Tip #1 below. Which describe you?

  • honest and trustworthy

  • caring, kind, and empathetic

  • Helps others

  • Shows loyalty

  • Works hard

  • Is resilient

  • Shows independence

  • Cooperates

  • Puts effort into making friends and keeping them

  • Is a good listener

  • Accepts differences in others

  • Asks for help when needed

  • Accepts personal responsibility for actions (good and bad)

  • Tells the truth and apologizes when needed

  • Has a good sense of humor

  • Study skills strengths

  • Understands and sets goals; can plan ahead

  • Is a self-starter

  • Stays focused on tasks

  • Tries different approaches/uses flexible thinking

  • Organizes thoughts and physical items like a backpack

  • Learns from mistakes and solves problems

  • Is creative/artistic

  • Dances. acts, sings, or plays a musical instrument

  • Plays sports or games (including video games)

  • Takes care of animals, children, or family members

  • Does community service projects

  • Dependable

  • Self-motivated

  • Team-oriented

  • Success-oriented

  • Optimistic

  • Communicates well

  • Problem-solver

Tips and Tricks for Episode #3

Tip #1: What am I good at?


Trick #1: Find Your Own Superpower

This tip has two parts. First, look at the Positive Attributes listed above and list the characteristics that apply to you. You can also ask yourself these questions as starters: Are you a compassionate person? Are you resilient despite the many hurdles you have faced--do you just keep bouncing back no matter what life throws at you? Are you resourceful and motivated in any situation? Are you a great spouse/significant other or parent? Can you fix anything? Are you a wonderful cook? Are you an amazing brother or sister? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you truly have super-powers!

Second, take that information and see how it applies to your life. To do that, dig out the Timeline that you made for Podcast #1. Now, think about the positive attributes that you found for yourself and re-visit your timeline. Then, get a highlighter and mark any times in your life on the lifeline when your super-power made a difference in your life. For example, there were times during my Doctoral studies, when I just didn't think I could write one more chapter in my dissertation. It was then that I used my sense of humor. I asked a friend to send me a new joke every day. When I got her email, I had to laugh--it helped so much to get my perspective back! What positive characteristic has made a difference for you?




Trick #2: Who is My Hero?

Thinking about your hero can give you wonderful insights about your own positive attributes. For instance, for me--it's Eleanor Rooseveldt. She was consistently independent, compassionate, smart, and personally committed to social justice. I hope that I have any of those qualities. For more information about her, google: https://www.heyeleanor.com/blog/16-reasons-why-i-love-eleanor-roosevelt

Here's some other examples you may want to think about: Michelle Obama, a movie star, an internet influencer, a musician, an athlete, your mom/dad, your coach, or any teacher/counselor. Even your pet dog, cat, or hamster can be your hero if they've taught you how to relax, to have a sense of humor and adventure, to love someone unconditionally, or to be brave in scary situations. Just pick someone and apply it to you!




Tip #2: Where Are My Safety Glasses (or accommodations)?


Trick #1: Journal About Your Own Accommodations

Think about the accommodations that you use everyday. For instance, do you use Google Maps or Mapquest to get directions? Do you use Skype or Zoom for class, social gatherings, or meetings? When was the last time you used a spell checker when you were writing an assignment or a work project? All of this technology is used by thousands of people everyday to make their lives easier. Keep in mind, however, that those same things are excellent resources for people with a variety of disabilities. For example, Mapquest is a great accommodation for someone with auditory or visual memory problems who is going somewhere for the first time. Both Skype and Zoom have been a windfall for people in walkers or wheelchairs who are asked to meet in inaccessible settings. Spellcheckers are a lifeline for folks with dyslexia or dysgraphia who struggle to write clearly worded, correctly spelled documents, papers, and other written materials.

Now, take a minute to explore what other accommodations you may use in your daily life that you may not be aware of. (If you're stuck here, go back to the list above to get you started.) Maybe you use mnemonics to remember someone's name. What about listening to audio books while you're driving or on the subway? Describe what you're currently using in your Journal. Or, if you don't use any accommodations right now, write about the type of support you wish you had for your LD or dyslexia.




Trick #2: Interview Others About Their Accommodations

Trick #1 focused on your own accommodations. Now use Trick #2 to find out how other people use accommodations as well. Take a few minutes to interview a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a teacher about resources they use and may not even be aware of. Here's some questions to get you started:

  • Do you know what accommodations are? (If not, share the definitions from this episode.)

  • Here's a few sample accommodations. What do they compensate for? Examples: An app to find your keys? An electronic bookmark when you're reading a book on Kindle? A day planner or graphic organizer when you have a series of doctor's appointments?

  • What is something that you use a lot in your daily life? (You can give a few examples from this episode.)

  • *Optional Activity: Give them the list of accommodations from this blog and ask the person: Which accommodations could you use? Why?

When you've completed your interview, write the results in your Journal. Compare the interview responses with your own accommodations and insights about your own disability.



SPECIAL SECTION: HOW TO GET ACCOMMODATIONS

Did you know that as little as 17% of college students with LD actually use the support of their Postsecondary Disability Office (Eden, 2020)? And only 4% of individuals with learning disabilities had accommodations in the workplace after using them in high school? (NCLD, 2011). If any of this is true for you, you're missing out on one of the best, most important "freebies" around. For instance, getting an LD diagnosis can be tricky and expensive. But, getting your accommodations is usually free and a whole different process. There are a few steps to do this under two seminal federal laws: The Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. Here's some things to think about when figuring out how to get your accommodations:


A. SCHOOL: Getting accommodations really depends on your age and the setting where you plan to use the accommodations. For instance, if you are in the K-12 school system or asking for accommodations in postsecondary education, you are covered under 2 different, but equally powerful laws: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEAA) or Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act (504). In other words, as long as you are in K-12 education, you should already have a diagnosis and an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) or ITP (Individual Transition Plan). These documents will include goals, objectives, accommodations, and related services specifically designed for your learning disabilities or dyslexia. It is both the federal and state responsibility of the school system to see that you receive your accommodations and on-going support in the classroom as needed. All of this is free to you and your family and involves individual dialogue with your school.

However, when you enter any postsecondary educational system (e.g., college, vo tech, university, etc.), you must become your own advocate. That means it is your responsibility to provide an up-dated LD diagnosis and ask for specific accommodations needed in specific classes or settings. While you are clearly covered under 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA), different schools often have different guidelines and processes to provide your accommodations. Moreover, each one should have a Disability Office or someone responsible for ADA implementation on staff, so this is the place where you start first. These folks will direct you about what you need to do next. Please also be aware that it is your decision whether to self-disclose your LD or not while in postsecondary education. Having said that, if you don't self-disclose, you cannot receive any accommodations.

B. WORK and COMMUNITY: If you need accommodations in the workplace or in a community setting, the picture changes radically. First, the legal safety net is focused on a different law: the ADA. Second, you are now definitely your own self-advocate--no one will provide you with accommodations, unless you speak up for yourself. As part of your request under the ADA, you must provide documentation of an LD diagnosis, along with clear suggestions of what specific accommodations you need and why you need them. Most people will start by going to their immediate Supervisor or Human Services personnel. However, don't be surprised if they don't know what you are talking about. (Many adults have told me that a big part of getting job accommodations is educating their employers first.)

Unfortunately, there is no one "right" way to get workplace accommodations. Each person with LD or dyslexia has to figure it out individually as they go along. Also, be prepared that you many encounter misunderstandings, stereotypes, or sheer ignorance as you advocate for yourself. Some adults have told me about the wonderful support they have received from supervisors or co-workers as they got and then used their accommodations. Others reported frustration, embarrassment, and resistance as they worked through the maze of their particular workplace. It varies widely--so be prepared for anything and be sure to use the resources listed below to help you get what you need.

Please also be aware that getting accommodations in the community (i.e. church or synagogue, YMCA, volunteer work, sports teams, doctor or dentist appointments, banking, hobbies, etc.) is a virtually unknown area at this time. Again, be prepared to be your own self-advocate and follow the steps above.

*Note: Future podcasts will be available later in this series to specifically tell you more about the laws and how you can use them effectively in various aspects of adolescent and adult life. It will expand on the extensive resources list below.


For more information, also check out these links and resources:

Articles, Links, and Resources:

  1. Brown, D. (2021). Job accommodations for people with learning disabilities. Job Accommodations for People with Learning Disabilities. http://www.ldonline.org/article/9942/ *Note: Dale Brown has been an outstanding leader in the area of learning disabilities and adults for over three decades. Check out any of her books for lots of valuable, practical information that you can use immediately at work and school.

  2. The Job Accommodations Network (JAN). You cannot go wrong with this website!

  3. LDOnline.

  4. Wrightslaw?? or something else for asking for accommodations......

References:

TRANSITION CONNECTION:


Here's 3 different activities that you can try:


a) Pick a trusted person (e.g., parent, sibling, favorite teacher, or friend) and describe your LD to them. Use the personal definition that you wrote for Podcast #2 as part of what you say. How do they respond? How do you feel? Now, tell them what type of accommodations you need and why. Again, what was the response and your feelings?


b) Ask your teacher or parent if you can look at your current IEP/ITP. See how your personal definition of your learning disabilities or dyslexia is reflected in the goals, objectives, and related services listed there. How does that apply to specific accommodations? Talk about this with your teacher or parent.


c) Google the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and look up "Learning Disabilities". Find 2 accommodations that might work for you on the website and explore them with your parent, teacher, or tutor for more information. If an accommodation makes sense to you, try it out in real life--What do you think?

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