Student Services

Resources for Instructors

Guidelines for Teaching Students with Disabilities

Teaching Strategies

Many teaching strategies that assist students with disabilities are also known to benefit students without disabilities. Instruction provided in an array of approaches will reach more students than instruction using one method. The following suggestions are designed to assist you in meeting the growing diversity of student needs in the classroom, particularly those related to disabilities.

Student First/Positive Language

Best practices guide us to formulate our statements so that we identify the individual before the impairment they experience: “student with a disability” instead of “disabled student”, or “young woman with a hearing impairment” instead of “deaf woman”. Avoid using “handicap” and instead incorporate “accessible” (e.g., accessible parking, accessible entrance) because it has a more positive connotation. Replace the words “wheelchair bound” with “wheelchair user” to emphasize what the chair makes possible rather than what it hampers. Avoid saying a student “is ADHD” or “suffers from a disability.”  Instead, say, a student “has ADHD” or “has a disability”. There is variability in how people talk about their own disability; if you’re unsure how a particular student would like theirs addressed, ask them what terminology they are most comfortable with.   

Disclosure of a Disability

Keep in mind that there is a range in how comfortable students feel about discussing their own disability status. Even someone with a very apparent physical/sensory impairment (e.g., a student who is blind or a person who uses a wheelchair) may not appreciate being identified as an “expert” in a related discussion in class.  At the other extreme are those who would actually feel disrespected if not asked to personally comment. Solution? Wait to take your cue from the student’s spontaneous contributions in class or privately inquire about his/her position before drawing into an open discussion.


Information concerning a student's disability should be disclosed only to those with a legitimate "need to know". Disclosure of a student’s disability should only be made with a written consent from the student permitting you to discuss information regarding their disability with others or in consultation with the Office of Disability Services. Please do not discuss or refer to a student's disability or need for accommodations in front of other students or another member of the Marquette community. A student does not need to disclose the nature of disability to Faculty or staff unless by choice.

Service Animal Etiquette

Resist the urge to interact with a student’s service animal, and enforce this rule in your classroom. Privately the dog receives much affection from its owner and may be petted by anyone the owner permits, but in public, it is “on duty”, and should be focused on performing its trained task, or waiting for its handler’s cues.

Accommodations may change throughout the term

Understand that a set of accommodations may continue to evolve after the semester is underway. Despite the efforts of ODS, obstacles (and therefore student needs) may not be entirely predictable when the notice is first generated. The interaction of the demands of your course and a particular student’s limitations means that minor adjustments will occasionally be necessary. You will receive an addendum to the original notice if the change is substantial, but you are free to fine-tune the accommodations to increase accessibility, with the student’s input, at any time. Your flexibility is both needed and appreciated.

Teaching Students with Specific Types of Disabilities

If you have further questions, contact the Office of Disability Services, by email ( or by phone at (414)288-1645 for more information.



Our Mission

Marquette University's Office of Disability Services is dedicated to providing equal access within the classroom setting, through the determination of appropriate accommodations, for students with documented disabilities. ODS promotes accessibility awareness through collaboration with campus partners, the development of student self-advocacy, and through consultation with the broader community. Guided by the university's mission, we strive to support the Marquette community in their efforts to educate all students on campus.