Top 10 Ways to Make Your Classroom More Accessible

August means the start of a new school year! For teachers, this is a perfect time to consider Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This approach structures learning to meet the needs of every student in the classroom.

Check out our top 10 suggestions to make the classroom a more inclusive environment.

  1. Allot time in class for students to work on homework assignments with other students.
  2. Freely offer and make available feedback during both in-class work and tests.
  3. Make sure that students have the time to complete tests in class, with enough extra to doublecheck work and make necessary adjustments from your feedback.
  4. Provide alternative options for lessons and content, like Khan Academy for math or Sparknotes for English and reading comprehension. Try to only use videos with captioning available; besides the obvious benefits for students with hearing issues, captioning aids in comprehension across the board for all students.
  5. Record lessons and make them available both as an audio file and as a transcription with a speech-to-text program for easy playback for students working at home.
  6. When teaching, consider providing a note-taking template or writing notes on the board. These notes should be simple for students to write down and understand both in and out of the classroom. (We suggest Cornell notes, which provide excellent structure and organization of information.)
  7. Allow students to choose where they sit. Only intervene when necessary to prevent disruptive behavior or to move students with specific accommodations to where they can best succeed. For example, some students may find that they work best when they have the freedom to get up, stand, stretch, or fidget. In that case, those students may find the back of the room most beneficial.
  8. Outside of covering the material, consider taking the time to help students learn effective study and note-taking methods to help them excel in all aspects of education.
  9. Place a weekly calendar in a high visibility point in the classroom with due dates and daily lesson plans. This will not only help students stay on track with homework but will also keep them from being surprised by a quiz, test, or other assignment.
  10. Physical accommodations are vital in reducing literal barriers to learning in the classroom. We recommend leaving wide walkways and paths that can accommodate a variety of mobility disabilities. Even if you don’t currently have any students with mobility disabilities, students may develop them or have parents that already do.

To learn more and get more helpful tips and info about UDL, we suggest checking out these websites:

Common Classroom Accommodations and Modifications | Understood

How Teachers Can Make Their Classrooms More Accessible for Students with Disabilities | American University

UDL: The UDL Guidelines (

Three students write at their desks. The boy in the front is sitting in a wheelchair.

The IC’s ADA Celebration 2015 Award Winners

The IC’s 2015 ADA Celebration
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established in 1990 and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, in order to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and ensure equal access, opportunities, and participation throughout America. 2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of the historical signing of the ADA.
The Independence Center came together with the local community to acknowledge and celebrate this amazing achievement for American Civil Rights. The ADA Celebration honored Colorado and El Paso County community companies, organizations, and government entities that have made strides to help the Pikes Peak Region become more inclusive for people with disabilities. It also served to communicate the importance of these basic human rights and the future direction for The IC’s advocacy issues.
A special thanks goes to El Paso County AND the City of Colorado Springs for having proclamations in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, stating their continued commitment to complying with, and furthering, the Act. Merv Bennett, President of the Colorado Springs City Council, read the City’s proclamation at our annual event. And, Amy Lathen, El Paso County Commissioner, was representing at our annual event as well to represent the Board of County Commissioners’ ADA proclamation.

Award Winners

In addition, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The IC presented awards to the City of Colorado Springs’ ADA Office, El Paso County’s ADA Office, Accessible Communities Today (ACT) coalition, First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs, and Discount Tire Store at Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard for complying with and furthering acceptance of the ADA. Read below for information about why each was honored with this award.

  • Church

    First Congregational Church Awardees

    First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs was recognized for using capital campaign funds to add an elevator to the church, which also happens to be one of the oldest church buildings in the city, making these type of changes especially difficult. This elevator has allowed wheelchair access to areas of the building that were inaccessible before. Now, the entire building is 95% accessible. And what makes this even more special is that churches are exempt from having to comply with the ADA! Present at our annual event to accept the award were Reverend Dr. Benjamin Broadbent and Siri Everett.

  • City

    City of Colorado Springs Awardees

    The City of Colorado Springs was recognized for hiring an ADA Coordinator, Michael Killebrew, in March 2014. The City’s ADA office has also been installing a LOOP system in the City Council chambers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, conducting a self-evaluation of city operations, and has become one of the first cities west of the Mississippi to update the iconic person in the wheelchair symbol to a more action-oriented figure. Accepting the award were Michael Killebrew, Title II ADA Coordinator and Brett Waters, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director.

  • Church

    Discount Tire Store at Woodmen & Powers

    Discount Tire Store at Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard was recognized for acting quickly to an inaccessibility complaint. Within a three-week time span, Discount Tire Store had a transformer relocated, the inaccessible stairs and curbs were jack hammered out and replaced with a beautiful accessible entrance, and then they poured a circular driveway to allow for easier access to the building! Accepting the award at our annual event were Pat Cary, Regional Maintenance Manager and Jim Douglas, Store Manager.

  • El Paso County was also recognized for their efforts to further the ADA. Those present to accept the award were Rob Hernandez, ADA Coordinator; Jim Reid, Executive Director Public Services Department; and Amy Lathen, El Paso County Commissioner. Among their accomplishments are:

    El Paso County recipients

    • Hired an ADA Coordinator, Rob Hernandez, in August 2014
    • Added 3 videophones at the Criminal Justice Center and 6 more are in process for installation at 6 other county locations
    • Established the El Paso County ADA Advisory Committee which includes 10 county members and 5 opinion leader members from the community, such as Accessible Communities Today (ACT) coalition and The Independence Center
    • Completed a wheelchair accessible viewing area and other significant accessibility upgrades at the El Paso County Fairgrounds
    • Instituted an online ADA grievance procedure

ACT Members accepting their award

  • Accessible Communities Today (ACT) coalition were recognized for their work with local businesses, agencies, and government entities to help collaborate, educate, and bring awareness to others on issues surrounding the Americans With Disabilities Act. Present to accept the award were Sharon King, John Monteith, Charles (Rick) Orthwein, and Dave May.

Video of The IC’s 2015 ADA Celebration


The IC Helps with Video Phone Testing for El Paso County

Mathew Ruggles using the video phone at The El Paso County Citizens Service Center.

Mathew Ruggles using the video phone at The El Paso County Citizens Service Center.

The Deaf & Hard of Hearing program of The Independence Center is involved in making telephone communication more accessible to the deaf community in the Pikes Peak Region. Matthew Ruggles and Angela Tenorio, deaf and hard of hearing program staff at The IC, helped with testing the new video phones at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center in August 2015. Ruggles explained that the video phones help people with auditory disabilities have equal access to telephone communication. Video phones provide the ability for a person who is deaf to connect with a sign language interpreter via video. The interpreter then translates sign language to spoken voice to the person on the other end of the line. Phones are being installed in other El Paso County buildings such as the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center, the Citizens Service Center, and Department of Motor Vehicle locations. The IC continues to advocate for civil and governmental accountability with ADA compliance and is committed to providing expertise with disability access concerns when invited to assist by civil or governmental entities.

Building Remodel Creates More Accessible Center

Accessibility and accommodation were the foundation of this remodel, and seeing it come to fruition is rewarding for all stakeholders at The Independence Center.
“We bend over backwards on accommodating people, “said Andrew McAdam, Manager of Business Services at The Independence Center. “You need to respect everyone. And we need to be the place that starts that.”

How has the building become more accessible?

 What we’ve done

 How it helps

 Loop system  Makes the building environment easier to hear in for individuals with hearing impairments. The loop system was installed in the building, and a portable one was purchased as well, so we can go out in to the community and still maintain accessibility.
 Accessible furniture Desks with cranks allow for anyone in a wheelchair to adjust the height. All office chairs are fully ergonomic. Cabinets are lower, so wheelchair users can reach the top drawer.
 Lighting Installed all new fixtures in the building that provide a crisper light, making it easier for those with visual impairments to see.
 Hallway width We’ve maintained the width of the hallways, which are wide enough for 3 – 4 people to move through at once.
 Lower wall fixtures The light switches and thermostats are lower, so they are more accessible to everyone.
 Flooring The flooring installed in the building is specifically made to be durable, but very user friendly for those that are visually impaired so you won’t trip on it and it’s great for wheelchairs. Vinyl carpet was installed in all of the offices, which works well with wheelchairs as well.
 Alert system We created an alert system and speakers around the building so people that have hearing impairments can hear it in more places.
 Clocks There are high-contrast clocks in all offices, which are easier to read for those with visual impairments.
 Hired a driver for our accessible van This driver was hired to drive those who are unable to drive.

In addition to these changes, The Accessibility Store experienced some change in this remodel as well.
In The Accessibility Store, we’ve increased the things that we sell to reach further in to each of the disabilities,” McAdam said. “So instead of just having a cane, now we we’ve got a cane and widget to go with it. We’ve increased the number of games in there as well. It’s not just functional how to live day-to-day; it’s also about how to enjoy life day-to-day. We go away from just the and expanded it in to how can you really enjoy life.”
The Independence Center is the hub of the disability community in this region, and our building should reflect that. Our building is a shining model for access and for accommodating our customers and employees who have disabilities.

Want to see more?

Check our Facebook for pictures from our BBQ, celebrating the conclusion of the remodel here.