Support 2YC Students with Disabilities

This module was developed by Virginia McLaughlin, Sharon deFur, Elizabeth Auguste, and Amanda Armstrong. (2015). School of Education, The College of William & Mary.

Disability, or differing ability, is a natural part of human existence. As faculty or instructors, we are in a position to minimize challenges that a disability might create for our students who live with disabilities, and to then help these students change their college stories from struggling to success. As a community, the field of geoscience has demonstrated proactive leadership in the area of open access to all interested students. Major efforts include the development of the Consensus Statement Regarding Access and Inclusion of Individuals Living with Disabilities in the Geosciences (see below) published by the American Geosciences Institute, and the work of organizations like the International Association for Geoscience Diversity.

This website offers ideas and support for fostering access and inclusion of students living with disabilities, with particular emphasis on those studying geoscience at two-year colleges (2YCs).

AGI's Consensus Statement Regarding Access and Inclusion of Individuals Living with Disabilities in the Geosciences (June 2015)

The geosciences are central to understanding the interaction between the Earth system and humankind, and are vital to global economic and social development. As a community, it is important that we are inclusive, welcoming, and open to all members of society. The geosciences face challenges in securing the workforce necessary to meet the needs of the coming decades. To increase talent and diversity in the geoscience workforce, opportunities for more inclusive learning and professional development must be developed that enable all geoscientists to advance academically and professionally, including those living with disabilities.

The member societies of the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) are committed to promoting educational and career opportunities to all geoscientists through proactive efforts that engage individuals with disabilities and reduce barriers to full inclusion, in accordance with any relevant national regulations. Consequently, we, as the representative leadership of geoscientific professional societies and organizations, seek to embrace, empower, engage and sustain the participation and retention of individuals living with disabilities within all sectors of the geoscience community.

As an inclusive geoscience community, supportive of the needs of all current and future geoscientists, we agree to:

  • Encourage the development of flexible learning environments and inclusive curricula, including in the classroom, laboratory, and field that are conducive to developing the skills of geoscientists of all physical, sensory, or cognitive abilities.
  • Foster the participation and support the retention of geoscientists who live with disabilities in academic communities, our professional organizations, and the workforce.
  • Promote accessible pathways for students with disabilities to transition into geoscience careers that maximize their unique perspectives, competencies, and abilities.
  • As a representative society, ensure that career and professional development opportunities are made available to geoscientists with all abilities to support life-long growth, and by extension, promote inclusion and act as an example for other organizations.

Source: AGI website

Who are Students with Disabilities in Your Courses?

Regardless of the disability, each student has a unique set of strengths, talents, and needs. Understanding something about the range of disability and treating each student as an individual will help you support them toward success.

What are Your Legal and Professional Obligations?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in concert with other laws, directs college and university faculty to provide eligibility-based and reasonable accommodations to college students with documented disabilities.

What are Common Challenges and Successful Strategies?

Understanding challenges associated with disabilities in the classroom as well as potential strategies to help students learn will increase your confidence that your teaching can reach all students and contribute to their success in your course.

How Can You Design and Adapt Instruction to Make Your Courses Accessible?

Students with disabilities can be successful in college courses, programs, and careers when performance expectations are conceptualized inclusively. Your willingness to incorporate Universal Design practices will ensure access for a broad range of learners and minimize the need for additional individual accommodations. This webpage describes instructional adaptations you might make.


American Geosciences Institute. (2015). Disability consensus statement. Retrieved from

The International Association for Geoscience Diversity. (2015). The International Association for Geoscience Diversity. Retrieved from

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