Accessibility

Towson University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution. The university does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity in its programs and activities.

ADA/504 COMPLIANCE

The university complies with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, and other applicable federal and state regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. The Rehabilitation Act and the ADA require that no qualified person shall, solely by reason of disability, be denied access to, participation in, or the benefits of, any program or activity operated by the university.

Under Section 504 and the ADA, the term “disability” means, with respect to an individual, (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Students with Disabilities

While nearly everyone has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way, there are unique challenges for students with disabilities. In the 2019-2020 school year, 10% of TU students were registered with Accessibility and Disability Services (ADS) to receive academic accommodations. According to an ADS student survey conducted at the end of the Spring 2020 semester, 65% of students indicated that their disability symptoms impacted them more after changing to the virtual learning environment than in the classroom. When TU students with disabilities were asked to identify the biggest barrier to remote learning, students most frequently gave the following responses:

  • Difficulty focusing or paying attention to remote instructions or activities
  • Keeping track of assignments and staying organized
  • Needing instructors to be available to answer questions promptly
  • Better understanding of course information and expectations face to face
  • Need for longer time needed to complete assignments
  • Exacerbation of mental health symptoms
  • Personal motivation to complete coursework remotely

Disability is a broad term and covers many different types of physical and mental impairments. Disabilities can include visual impairments, hearing impairments, dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, PTSD, mobility impairments, diabetes, HIV, and several other medical conditions. Disability impacts each individual differently, so there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to assisting and supporting students with disabilities. However, it is important to be cognizant of the impacts of COVID-19 on students with disabilities in order to create a healthy and inclusive learning environment for all students.

In addition to the challenges of remote learning for students with disabilities, medical conditions and related concerns are also heightened. For students with medical conditions requiring access to medical supplies and medications, COVID-19 can magnify concerns about supply shortages and/or access to the necessary medications required for their disability. In addition to access to medical care, being considered part of a high-risk population due to an immunodeficiency during a pandemic can also amplify feelings of anxiety.

Given the physical distancing guidance for COVID-19, there also can be increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. These feelings of isolation may be elevated for individuals who are considered high risk and have to try to avoid being around the general public. This too can cause additional anxiety, if, for instance, it prevents someone from being able to work and earn a living. The mask requirement can also create feelings of social isolation for individuals with disabilities. For instance, the Deaf community or individuals with hearing impairments may rely on lip reading or facial expressions to communicate. Similarly, individuals with PTSD may not feel comfortable in a space where everyone is wearing a mask.

Certainly navigating a pandemic is anxiety-inducing for most people. However, as noted above, there may be additional anxiety for students with disabilities. Prior to the pandemic, the largest population of students seeking accommodations through ADS were those with mental health related disabilities (anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.). Many of these students are likely experiencing increased symptoms and may require additional flexibility and support during this time.

For some students with disabilities such as learning disabilities, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder, the virtual environment is not optimal for learning. Routines and learning strategies that were previously effective for students, may no longer be available when classes are held remotely. Given that navigating education remotely is a new experience for many people, it may leave students with disabilities unclear about what accommodations may help them succeed in the changed learning environment.

As there are numerous disabilities with varying symptoms, there is a wide range of considerations to support our students with disabilities. However, it is important to be mindful of these realities in order to create an inclusive and supportive environment to best promote learning during this time.

Best Practices to Help

Although COVID-19 poses several unprecedented challenges, it also poses an opportunity to improve accessibility overall. TU wants to empower its faculty and staff to be prepared to support and assist students with disabilities through these challenging times and in the future.

One of the best ways to help support students with disabilities is to be considerate and approachable. It is important to exercise flexibility, be available for questions, and allow reasonable leniency with due dates as it may take students longer to complete assignments in online environment. Additionally, setting clear course expectations and providing more assignment reminders than typically would be provided in the classroom may alleviate some course anxiety and benefit all students.

Creating accessible course content will also benefit students with disabilities . Things such as captions for audio or video recordings are necessary for students requiring them as a disability. However, captions can benefit all students during this time. For instance, if a student does not have a quiet environment to review audio content, captions can help a student follow the material.

Finally, incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into your course planning will benefit all learners. UDL is an educational approach that has three main principles:

  • Multiple means of representation of information
  • Multiple means of student action and expression
  • Multiple means of student engagement (UDL in Higher Ed, 2017)

UDL is a useful framework to develop educational environments that given all individuals an equal opportunity to learn (CAST, 2012). For more information on UDL and to connect with the UDL-Professional Network at TU, connect with the Faculty Academic Center of Excellence at Towson.

Contact Information

If you have questions or concerns regarding course accessibility, you may contact  or anyone of the people designated below: 

Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity (University Wide)
Lauren Evens
ADA Coordinator & ADA, Civil Rights, and Title IX Compliance Specialist
Phone: 410-704-0203
Email: 

Accessibility and Disability Services (Students)
Susan Willemin
Director of Accessibility and Disability Services
Phone: 410-704-2638
Email:

Office of Technology Services (Technology Accessibility) 
Matthew Wynd
Director, Information Technology Support Centers
Phone: 410-704-6187
Email: 

Office of Human Resources (Employees)
Nathan Barker
Employee & Labor Relations Manager
Phone: 410-704-6015
Email:

Facilities Management (Physical Accessibility)
David Mayhew
Director of University Architecture
Phone: 410-704-4459
Email: