UDL and Accessibility Strategies in the Classroom Using Faculty Learning Communities

Handouts Media

Presented at 9:15am in Westminster I on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.



  • Scot Atkins, Associate Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Sara Schley, Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Stephanie Cawthon, Professor, University of Texas

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Intermediate
  • Type of session: General Conference


This paper describes strategies resulting from a project on enhancing access, engagement and success of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students in post-secondary courses. Strategies resulted from a process of pairing faculty with DHH student mentors for a semester of observation and reflection, and from participating in faculty learning communities


While professors have latitude in determining how they teach, they do not routinely plan for specific needs of either students with disabilities or students who have varying communication backgrounds. This paper reviews efforts at a large university in the US with a diverse population of students to encourage and engage faculty in pedagogical innovation. The ultimate goal of this project is to create an Accessibility Toolkit for faculty teaching students in mainstreamed settings by partnering faculty with Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) student mentors in faculty learning communities (FLCs), identifying classroom access challenges, and developing strategies to address the challenges.

While there are examples of other student/faculty partnerships in pedagogical innovation (e.g., Cook-Sather, 2018; Cook-Sather, Bovil, & Felton, 2014), this is the first to focus on access and inclusion challenges, and to partner faculty with students with disabilities. This presentation will include ex


  1. The importance of including students in development of accessible learning in the classroom.
  2. Faculty Learning Communities is a way for faculty to share best practices in accessibile learning.
  3. Key learning strategies were developed through partnerships of faculty and students.

Disability Areas

All Areas, Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Scot Atkins

Dr. Atkins is an associate professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the NTID Business Studies department. Atkins teaches and tutors students who are studying business and entrepreneurship at the Saunders College of Business at RIT. In addition to being involved in the current NSF project focusing on accessibility in the classroom, Atkins is currently working on several research initiatives in conjunction with the Simone Center on Entrepreneurship and Innovation regarding Deaf Entrepreneurship. Currently, Atkins is a co-PI on a supplemental grant under the National Science Foundation’s I-Corp Site grant. The focus of that supplemental grant is to start a national contest to promote entrepreneurship among deaf college students. Atkins scholarship work focuses on entrepreneurship in the deaf community and employment of deaf people.

Atkins received the “Pre-Tenured Teaching and Tutoring Award” from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT (RIT/NTID). He is a coPI on the NSF-funded grant for this work:

Collaborative Research: Accessible STEM Instruction with Deaf Students: Supporting Faculty in Pedagogical Exploration and Innovation, NSF-DUE Award #1625581.

Sara Schley

Dr. Sara Schley is a Full Professor in the Master of Science of Secondary Education and Director of the Research Center for Teaching and Learning at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (Rochester Institute of Technology). Her current research focusses on working with faculty to improve access and inclusion of students with disabilities in postsecondary classrooms, and involving student mentors in the process. Other work has concentrated on managing diverse classroom linguistic modalities and languages (deaf, hard of hearing, hearing; ASL, English) in the college classroom. She has years of experience mentoring faculty on classroom pedagogy as well as mentoring students on the research process, including classroom observations, 1:1 meetings between faculty and students, working with large longitudinal databases and managing multiple data sources, and both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research. She is the PI on the NSF-funded grant for this work:

Stephanie Cawthon

Dr. Stephanie W. Cawthon is the Director of the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes, OSEP-funded Technical Assistance and Dissemination project that promotes positive postsecondary outcomes for deaf individuals. She is an Associate Professor in Educational Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin with a long history of scholarship in issues related to accessibility and equality for deaf individuals in education and employment. She is a coPI on the NSF-funded grant for this work: Collaborative Research: Accessible STEM Instruction with Deaf Students: Supporting Faculty in Pedagogical Exploration and Innovation, NSF-DUE Award #1625581.