Feature Articles

Supporting Students and Employees with Chronic Pain

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Chronic pain is a general term used to describe long-lasting pain that persists beyond normal recovery periods or occurs alongside another condition. It can be on-and-off or continuous, and is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if it substantially limits a person’s daily activities. Chronic pain can be caused by a wide variety of things, including injury, illness, mental health disorders such as PTSD, ongoing conditions like cancer, autoimmune disorders such as arthritis or Crohn’s disease, and more – there are even cases of chronic pain where no obvious cause or trigger is present. Here, we will describe chronic pain and discuss some best practices for supporting and accommodating students and employees who live with it.

The symptoms of chronic pain can differ a great deal from individual to individual, and, by extension, the limitations it imposes on their day-to-day life. Limitations can include fatigue, sensory issues, difficulty sitting or standing for long periods, intolerances of certain stimuli, and, of course, pain itself. Chronic pain also has a high comorbidity with mental health disorders, so someone dealing with chronic pain may...

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Supporting Effective Communication for Hard-of-Hearing and Deaf Individuals

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A woman provides CART service on a call.

Clear and efficient communication is essential for everyone in any workplace or classroom, as it lays the foundation for understanding, collaboration, and inclusion. For deaf/HH employees and students, it’s especially important because clear communication facilitates equal access to information and fosters a sense of belonging within their professional and academic environments. Here, we’ve assembled a handful of resources that can help you ensure that deaf/HH individuals can fully participate, contribute, and thrive in their educational and professional pursuits.

Communicating with Deaf Individuals

The National Deaf Center (NDC) provides a brief but clear overview on the day-to-day experience of being deaf/HH in their article, Communicating with Deaf Individuals, in addition to direct tips for communicating. The former in particular adds helpful context to approaching how to communicate best in any circumstance. This article emphasizes that communication is achievable in all circumstances, including when accommodations are not available.

Effective Communication

For further detail on the ADA’s requirements, see their article entitled Effective Communication on their website....

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Accessibility Newsletters

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With today's digital technology and inclusive practices rapidly evolving, staying informed about the latest advancements in accessibility can be both crucial and challenging. Accessibility newsletters serve as invaluable resources, delivering curated content and updates directly to your inbox, catering to a diverse audience interested in fostering inclusivity in education, the workplace, and digital spaces. By providing insights into emerging trends, best practices, and legislative developments, these publications empower individuals and organizations to create environments and materials that accommodate everyone. Here, we will look at five newsletters from the accessibility community.

Job Accommodation Network

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) newsletter is a valuable resource for individuals and organizations seeking insights into workplace accommodations and accessibility. As a service of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, the JAN newsletter offers a wealth of information on accommodating employees with disabilities, navigating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and promoting an inclusive work environment. Subscribers can expect...

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Mobile Apps for Accessibility

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It’s very rare nowadays to be far from a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, and we use them for just about everything – staying in touch with others, taking photos and notes, looking up directions, checking the hours of operation of our favorite restaurants, playing games, and catching up on social media, to name just a few. One of the biggest bolsters to the mobile device experience is applications (apps), which can add features or enhance existing ones. This goes for accessibility, too! Here, we’ve gathered a list of some mobile apps that make the day-to-day world more accessible by providing valuable assistance to people with disabilities, many of which may be helpful for your disabled students and/or employees (and maybe even you, too). All of the apps below are free, though some offer additional in-app purchases.

Envision

Envision is an app for iOS and Android is designed for those who are blind or visually impaired. It’s a straightforward app that uses a smartphone or tablet’s camera to articulate visual information to speech. But it’s not just limited to text – it can read handwriting and even recognize different objects. Envision is broken out into three main...

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Featured Resources from DeafTEC

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DeafTEC, or the Technical Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, is an AccessATE partner and ATE grantee. DeafTEC, as their name suggests, strives to make STEM fields more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing (HH) people, and to increase the number of deaf/HH individuals in highly-skilled technician jobs. DeafTEC also serves as a resource on STEM programming for schools and educators with deaf/HH students, and for potential and current employers. While their focus is very clearly on deaf/HH people, many of the materials provided by DeafTEC can be easily adapted for other disabilities, or even utilized to simply accommodate various learning or work styles. Here, we will highlight a few of their many resources.

Universal Design for Instruction

Universal design is defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” It is one of DeafTEC’s favorite principles on which to build accessible materials, classrooms, and workplaces. Their Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) resource discusses the application of these principles to various aspects of...

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Resources for Advocating for Dyslexic Students

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Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects an individual’s ability to read due to difficulty identifying speech sounds and their relation to written letters and words. It is one of the most common learning disorders - estimated by some as affecting 20% of the population - yet often goes undiagnosed and unaddressed, especially in teens and adults. However, dyslexia is considered a disability under the ADA that should receive reasonable accommodations. Here, we’ve assembled some resources that advocate for people with dyslexia and that can help you and your dyslexic students get the accommodations they need.

International Dyslexia Association

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a non-profit organization devoted to serving individuals with dyslexia, their families, and professionals. The IDA offers a wealth of information about dyslexia, including handy fact sheets, infographics, and success stories. They offer a free dyslexia handbook that, though geared primarily toward families, contains a great deal of useful information for educators. The IDA also has a directory of providers throughout the country, resources for teacher preparation and CERI (Center for Effective...

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Feature Tools from CAST

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CAST logo

One of AccessATE’s primary partners is CAST, the Center for Applied Special Technology, an education research and development nonprofit working to expand learning opportunities for all. CAST is perhaps best known for being instrumental in developing and promoting Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an educational framework supporting the development of flexible learning environments. However, CAST also offers other valuable resources beyond UDL. Here we will highlight a few of CAST’s other online tools that you might utilize to make your curriculum, classroom, lab, or other learning environment more accessible.

Clusive

Clusive is a web-based reader that helps students in grades 5 through 12 engage in independent reading, bolstered by a number of features to make reading accessible. Clusive has flexible display options, including adjustable text size, spacing, font, color, and contrast. For students with visual impairments, there is text-to-speech software, for which students can select their preferred reading speed and voice. Clusive also features built-in prompts that support note-taking and highlighting, check comprehension, provide a glossary and language translation, and...

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Best Practices for Accessible Education

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A team of three educators work together to develop an accessible curriculum.

For many around the country, the school year has come to a close, and preparations for next year have already begun! AccessATE has published a number of articles and tip sheets about making education accessible for a wide variety of people and disabilities, but here we will take a higher-level perspective and review some best practices for making education accessible for students with disabilities. You might use this as a means of brushing up on the subject or a jumping-off point for ideas on how to expand or improve your existing accessibility efforts, so you can go into the next school year with confidence in your curriculum’s ability to reach everyone effectively.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people. This is achieved by ensuring that all educational materials, activities, and assessments accommodate diverse learning needs, which involves providing multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement. UDL allows students to access information and demonstrate their knowledge in various ways. For more details, we recommend our partner CAST’s page about...

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Recommended Listening: Five More Disability Podcasts

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A woman in a wheelchair and a man sit together at a table and record a podcast together.

Per our previous post on disability podcasts, there are a wide variety of podcasts about life with disabilities, by people with disabilities. An important step in understanding how to mentor, employ, or otherwise assist a person with a disability is to understand their perspective and their needs. The podcasts below offer just that – accounts from people with disabilities that describe their experiences with work, education, social situations, and other aspects of their daily lives.

Disability Matters with Joyce Bender

Hosted by disability rights advocate Joyce Bender, Disability Matters covers a wide range of disability-related topics, including employment, technology, and advocacy. Bender interviews guests with disabilities and experts in the field to provide insights into disability issues and solutions. The podcast seeks to increase awareness and promote a more inclusive and accessible world for people with disabilities, recently covering topics such as disability employment policy, accessible transportation, and disability in the arts. In addition to being available on Bender’s website, Disability Matters is also available Apple Podcasts, VoiceAmerica, Spotify, Audible,...

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Job-Seeking Resources for Graduating Students with Disabilities

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JAN logo

College graduation always feels like it sneaks up faster than we all expect, and for many colleges and universities throughout the U.S., it’s just a few months away! Graduating and transitioning from school to the workplace can be an intimidating experience for students with disabilities, and the first step in that transition – job-seeking – can feel especially daunting. Here, we’ll review some of the job-seeking resources available through the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), which you can share with your graduating student(s) with disabilities if they feel like they may need some additional help in kicking off the process of starting their careers.

Beginning to look for a job can get overwhelming – there are so many different companies, job listings, locations, and minute details to sort through. To ease some of this stress, JAN suggests starting with their simple list of Do’s and Don’ts of Looking for a Job. Some of the items in the list may seem obvious when you look at them, but they’re the sorts of tips that can get lost under the mountain of listings and applications we often find ourselves sorting through while job-hunting. JAN also has much more detailed guidance in the...

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