Faculty Tips

Psychiatric Disabilities

Utah Valley University is required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide reasonable accommodations to students with a documented physical or mental impairment which rises to the level of a disability (substantial limitation of one or more major life activities).

If a student provides you with a letter from the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) stating that the student has a disability, it is important that you not announce to the class that the student has a disability. If the student chooses to disclose his/her disability, that is the student’s decision to make.

If a student comes to you and asks for accommodations based upon a psychiatric disability, ask the student to provide you with a letter from OAS. Please do not grant accommodations based upon a disability without a letter from OAS. It is OAS’s role to review psychometric evaluations and determine what, if any, accommodations are appropriate for students with psychiatric disabilities. Please implement only those accommodations that are listed on the Letter of Accommodation from OAS and refrain from adding additional accommodations for the student.

Tips for Positive Communication

  • Stress the importance of good study habits and effective time management.
  • Give timely feedback to the student; errors need to be corrected as soon as possible.
  • Give praise when merited; it builds confidence.
  • Expect behavior that is consistent with the student code of conduct.
  • Provide clear direction regarding behavioral expectations and be consistent with all students.
  • Be willing to clarify class information expectations as needed.
  • Express acceptance and reassurance.
  • Don’t attempt a therapeutic relationship, and don’t share personal stories.
  • Keep all information confidential.
  • Focus on the accommodations, not the disability.

Students Who are Blind, Legally Blind, or Have a Visual Impairment


Vision impairments can result from a variety of causes. A person is considered visually impaired when corrected vision is no better than 20/70.

Eighty to ninety percent of legally blind people have some measurable vision or light perception. They may be able to see large objects but have great difficulty reading or threading a needle. The term “blindness” should be reserved for people with complete loss of sight. “Visually impaired” is the better term used to refer to people with various gradients of vision.

Blind Students

Most students who are blind use a wide variety of accommodations such as readers, digitally scanned books, enlarging devices, and sometimes Braille materials. Students may also use raised-line drawings that are usually produced in our Assistive Technology Center.

Some blind students will need early access to your presentation material and/or access to electronic copies of notes from class.  They can listen to these or convert them into a Braille format later.

When a visually impaired student is present in the classroom, it is helpful for the instructor to verbalize as much as possible and to provide tactile experiences when possible.  Phrases such as “This way means it is a positive and this way means it is a negative” and “This is always where this number goes” and “This country is located here and looks like this” are meaningless statements to a student who cannot see the examples. If the instructor can verbalize what they are referring to, this can help all students, especially the student who is blind or visually impaired. This provides equal access for all students and provides students who are blind or visually impaired with the same information as the sighted students.

Students who are blind or visually impaired will likely need testing accommodations.  The test can be sent to the Proctor Exam Center (PEC) via Chi Tester (The PEC can provide a person to read the test and/or give them longer time) or the test may need to be sent to the Assistive Technology Center, (ATC) Michelle Jones at michellej@uvu.edu, 801-863-6174. The ATC may enlarge the test or reformat the test into Braille. When a test needs to be converted into an alternate format, please allow extra time for this to occur.  These arrangements should be listed on an accommodation letter and given to you by the student. If you have any questions, feel free to talk privately with the student, or call the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) at 801-863-8747.

Service Dog

Some students who are blind use service dogs that are specifically trained and well disciplined. If a service dog is disruptive by displaying bad behavior in class.  Please seek advice first if you feel that the dog should be removed from class.  Please do not pet a guide dog. It is important to remember that the dog is “working” and is responsible for its owner and should not be distracted from this duty while in their harness.

Possible Accommodations

  • Discuss classroom and testing accommodations with the student as early as possible in the semester.
  • Contact the Student Disability Services office to verify if a student’s vision impairment and request accommodation letters if there is question about eligibility
  • Alternate format textbooks are available, but sometimes they may take a few weeks to process.
  • Student may record lectures
  • Student may use a digital enlarging device to access written information given in class.
  • Provide appropriate written and verbal descriptions to accompany any visual aids, diagrams, films, or videos that you might use in class
  • Verbalize what you are writing or demonstrating. An electronic copy of your class material may need to be sent before class.
  • Use high contrast in your presentations and handouts.
  • Access seating at the front of the classroom
  • The use of readers, scribes, adaptive computer software, and magnifying equipment may be needed for tests. The Proctor Exam Center PEC, can fulfill most of these accommodations.
  • Tests may need to be in large print or in Braille format. The Assistive Technology Center (ATC), will be available to help implement this accommodation.  Please send the test in a Word format – without extra formatting! Contact the ATC in advance if this is needed, 801-863-6174.
  • Allow extra time for taking tests and/or testing in a distraction reduced setting.
  • Wait to see what accommodations are needed. Don’t assume! Talk with the student, they are the expert! Be confidential and discreet.
  • Contact the Office of Accessibility Services if you have any questions 801-863-8747.

Etiquette for Working with People in Mobility Devices

10 Things to Keep in Mind When Interacting with People with Mobility Impairments

People use wheelchairs for different reasons. Some people whom use wheelchairs can and do walk or stand - often with the use of a cane, braces, crutches or a walker.  Using a wheelchair some of the time may be a means of conserving energy or getting about more quickly.

When interacting with people with a mobility impairment, keep these things in mind:

  1. Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder. Speak to them in a normal tone of voice.
  2. If you want to offer help, do so in a respectful way. Say, "Is there something I can do to be helpful?" rather than, "I better help you with that. You'll never be able to do it yourself."
  3. After you have asked the person who uses the wheelchair if he/she wants some help, wait for the answer. Do not assume your assistance is wanted or needed.  For example:  Ask a wheelchair user if he/she wants to be pushed BEFORE doing so. If the person declines your offer, understand that some people prefer to do things independently.
  4. Never move mobility devices like canes, crutches, walkers or wheelchairs unless specifically asked to do so. Three-wheeled scooters are considered wheelchairs. If a person transfers out of a wheelchair and asks you to move it, do not move it out of the person’s reach.
  5. Sit, squat or kneel when you are talking with a person who uses a wheelchair, otherwise, the wheelchair user may not be able to see you.  If you cannot sit down, remember the taller you are the further away you should stand.
  6. Do not lean against or hang on someone's wheelchair. Keep in mind that people who use wheelchairs treat their chair as an extension of their bodies.
  7. You should speak directly to persons using the mobility devices and not to their friends or companions, but feel free to include any companions in the conversation.
  8. When giving directions, consider distance, weather conditions and surfaces such as stairs, curbs or inclines that may pose challenges.
  9. If the service counter at your place of business is too high for a wheelchair user to see over, step around it to provide service
  10. If you offer a seat to a person with a mobility limitation , keep in mind that chairs with arms are easier for some people to use.