Partnerships Work: Create More Access for ESL Students with Disabilities

woman teaching ESL in front of class including student in wheelchair.
ESL programs must prioritize building effective partnerships with local disability support organizations or with the university disability office.

Even though U.S. law protects all students from discrimination when Applying to ESL Programs, students are getting turned away or discouraged if a program states they are “not prepared” to best serve these students. Often the students are not digging deeper because they want to attend a program that is prepared and can offer accessible teaching methods. Instead students Learn English Online and miss out on the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and language.

When it comes to effective teaching methods and curriculum, it needs to be about universal design and inclusion.

It’s not about expecting some other ESL program somewhere to create customized and special teaching methods, which if it was happening (which it isn’t) would be limiting options and segregating ESL students with disabilities. In some cases, supplemental teaching on braille, for example, would be beneficial.

The solution is both simple and complex. ESL programs must prioritize building effective partnerships with local disability support organizations or with the university disability office. Since universities understand the value of having English training on their campus, then all students must have equal access to these opportunities. 

How to do it logistically and fiscally may look different at each location, but time needs to be put towards addressing this inequity.

Creating this partnership will not only offer a training opportunity for staff and administrators, but also set an example for all ESL students, with and without disabilities, to know what is possible for people with disabilities in their country because of what they witnessed in their U.S. classroom. 

Collaborating with learning disability specialists at my previous job provided an equal opportunity for one of my students who was then accepted to graduate school. Partnerships work. 

How will you create the connection and collaboration?

Questions along the way? Contact our Information and Referral staff for how to make your ESL programs more inclusive and your ESL students with disabilities more prepared for arrival and for achieving their goals.   

Author: 

Monica Malhotra