Academic Access

Participation in inclusive college courses provides many benefits to everyone involved such as improved employment outcomes, increased community engagement, meaningful learning alongside college peers, and added diversity and acceptance (Kelley & Westling, 2019; Kleinert, et al., 2012). It is important to proactively collaborate with university faculty members, course instructors, and academic supports to expand learning opportunities to a wider variety of students and also support them in providing the most meaningful outcomes and shared learning experiences.

News & Features

This webinar shares details on specific strategies used by one university that offers training and support to course instructors to facilitate inclusive and challenging college experiences, collaboration with the disability services office to identify accommodations, and providing individualized coursework adaptations as needed.  ...Read more
This presentation highlights findings from a qualitative study of faculty perspectives on inclusive courses in higher education on topics such as recruitment, orientation, faculty support, and stud ...Read more
This video, produced for the 2019 Annual CEC Meeting, highlights the growth in postsecondary options for students with intellectual disability (ID) over the last 15 years. The overall message of this video is to educate all viewers that college is possible for students with ID, and the importance of setting big goals. ...Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Will students with ID get anything out of college coursework?

Absolutely! Students with ID and many others are eager to learn and they often select classes that contribute to career or personal interests. You might, however, observe that the student’s overall learning styles and processes do not exactly match their peers. College courses and life experiences with their peers play a pivotal role in students being motivated to live and work as independently as possible. As the course instructor, it can be very rewarding having a small influence in the student’s success and providing a supportive living and learning environment for all students to achieve the most they can for their future.

Are college faculty obligated to provide modifications for students with intellectual disability in their courses beyond receiving eligible accommodations through Disability Services?

No. Requesting modifications (or alternate assignments rather than accommodations) is not required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which outline the civil rights protections for students with disabilities in college. Colleges and faculty members are not required or mandated to modify coursework or assignments. Faculty may however voluntarily offer to make curricular changes to their course materials or assessments if they would like to do so. To learn more visit:

What does auditing a course mean for a course instructor?

Auditing usually means students are participating in the class but do not receive a grade or credit. The purpose of auditing courses is usually for academic exploration and self-enrichment. When auditing, students have more flexibility around their participation in all course assignments. Sometimes students auditing may elect not to participate in assessments or exams. Ideally, you as the faculty member for the course still provide meaningful feedback to the student about their work in the class, and offer as typical an experience as possible to auditing students – for example they should be expected to participate in class like other students, be part of group work in the classroom, and participate in class assignments to the greatest extent possible.

The ability to audit a course may depend on space availability and approval of the instructor and their academic dean or supervisor. Instructors usually have to approve or sign forms for students to audit courses. While audit fees can vary, there is a cost to auditing courses at most colleges.

How can course instructors give feedback to students with intellectual disability in their classes?

Although some students auditing courses are not eligible to receive official grades, giving encouragement and genuine feedback to all college students is encouraged beyond numeric grades whether they are auditing a class or taking it for credit. As their instructor, ultimately, don’t hold back. Give earned feedback, but as for all students, concrete suggestions on how to improve are very constructive. Generally, setting goals for steadily improving throughout the semester should be the primary purpose with overall grades being relative, instead of absolute measures.

How can course instructors best partner with the student and program staff and/or disability services?

Many students with ID are eager to advocate for themselves and their accommodations. Initially, however, they may need a little support. Program staff are typically eager to support you as the course instructor and to collaborate with Disability Services to assist as needed with accommodations, assistive technology, information and resources on Universal Design, working to help with modifications as instructors choose to do so, and discussing any classroom challenges or brainstorming potential solutions together. Don’t be afraid to contact the student’s support team members as you are not alone in this new journey.

Other questions?