What are attitudinal barriers? For the purpose of this manual, “attitudinal barriers” are defined as “a way of thinking or feeling which results in behavior that limits the potential of students with disabilities from being independent individuals.” Myths act as barriers to students with disabilities because the majority of these “popular beliefs” are false and immediately limit the student with the disability by putting up barriers to his/her options in life.

All students with disabilities are pleasant (nice).

The student with a disability who approaches a faculty member with a threatening attitude demanding “special attention” and tells the faculty member “if you do not meet my demands I will sue you” obviously is not behaving in a socially appropriate manner. The student with a disability who is pleasant (and socially appropriate) would approach the faculty member in a cordial manner and ask for cooperation in obtaining appropriate accommodations. There is a fine line between manipulation and accommodation. The student with a disability is a student first (and is expected to meet the requirements for a student) and has a disability second (and will need accommodations accordingly).

Disability is a constantly frustrating tragedy. Students with disabilities are courageous, brave, and inspirational by being able to overcome their handicaps.

Disability is an inconvenience. Most students with a disability do not sit around and ponder their disability all the time. They simply carry on with their lives as normally as they can. Students with disabilities cannot be stereotyped any more than can other groups. Each student has an individual personality and, as such, each student with a disability will deal with his/her disability differently.

Ignoring the student’s disability will make that student feel more comfortable.

This usually has the opposite effect. The student with a disability might very likely interpret this response as ignoring him/her. A student with a disability should be dealt with primarily as a person (student) and secondly as a student with a disability.

Faculty cannot fail a student with a disability.

Special accommodations may be necessary, but the faculty member should use equivalent criteria in grading students with disabilities. If a student with a disability is not doing passable work, he/she should be graded accordingly.

The student with a disability has a “right to fail.” Not failing a student with a disability who has earned a failing grade is doing a disservice to that student.

Wheelchair use is a tragedy.

Wheelchair users do not lead lives of unhappiness and despair because they do not walk. Because of all the architectural barriers which still exist (stairs, narrow doors, etc.), wheelchair use is sometimes an inconvenience. For the most part, a wheelchair offers someone freedom to move around and “participate in life.” A wheelchair does not change a person’s personality or necessarily change a lifestyle. Wheelchair users are employed in all fields. They are mechanics, race car drivers, farmers, as well as office workers and university professors.

Students who use wheelchairs are confined to them.

They do not come as a kit – student and chair. Not all students who use a wheelchair are paralyzed, and some are more mobile than others. Therefore, do not be surprised to see a student who uses a wheelchair transfer to a regular seat, stand up, or use crutches. On the other hand, some students are totally dependent on their wheelchair for mobility. (In case of an emergency, such as a fire, leave the wheelchair and carry the student if stairs must be used. Remember, do not use an elevator.)

Students who are blind cannot appreciate the arts because they cannot see movies, plays, etc.

As long as there is dialogue, music, or other nonvisual elements, a person who is blind can appreciate the arts.

All students who are blind know Braille.

A good number of students who are blind do not know Braille. A substantial number of students go blind later in life, and Braille is very difficult to learn and master.

Students who are deaf cannot speak.

Many students who are deaf have varying degrees of speech ability, from very intelligible to very incoherent, depending on their degree of deafness and/or age of onset of deafness. One should keep in mind, however, students who are deaf cannot automatically control the tone and volume of their voices because they cannot hear themselves speak.

All students who are deaf know sign language.

There are two schools of communication among the hearing impaired community: Manual and Oralist. Those who believe in Manual or Total Communication use sign language combined with voice or mouth movements. Oralist do not use sign language. They rely very heavily on lip reading and speech. They frown upon the use of sign language, and they emphasize the development of understandable speech. It is an insult to try to use sign language with a very strict Oralist. The different degrees of deafness and the age of onset of a hearing loss will determine whether the use of sign language is beneficial.

All students with hearing impairments read lips.

All of us, to some extent, rely on lip reading to understand our language. At best, an individual who is practiced in lip reading can understand only 30-40% of spoken sounds by watching the lips of a speaker. As with any other skill, the ability to read lips varies among individuals. Keep in mind that body language and facial expressions also help to communicate a message. Students who are hearing impaired understand best when the speaker looks directly at the student when speaking.

Students who are deaf cannot appreciate the arts because they cannot hear music, movies, etc.

Throughout history, individuals who were deaf have participated in and contributed to the performing arts (Beethoven is a good example). Captioning of movies and other audio-visual media is becoming more and more common, which is helpful to students with a hearing impairment. As long as there is rhythm and visual images, those students with residual hearing, and even those who are totally deaf, can be valued patrons and performers of the arts.

Students with a learning disability are mentally retarded.

By definition, students with learning disabilities must be of at least average intelligence.

Learning disabilities can be cured or solved at puberty.

Learning disabilities are life long conditions, but may appear more prevalent in different situations. Students with learning disabilities need to develop coping strategies to compensate for these conditions. Many college students have been using compensatory techniques which need to be reworked when they encounter more complex tasks.

Students with learning disabilities just aren’t working hard enough.

These students are generally working longer hours than their peers. Because of the learning differences, more time and effort is required to complete the same amount of work. For this reason, they may be encouraged to take a lighter course load.

Students with learning disabilities cannot do college-level work.

With appropriate accommodations these students can successfully complete course requirements at the college level. Some courses may present difficulties for particular students, but other courses can demonstrate these students’ strengths.

Students with learning disabilities never amount to anything.

Many successful individuals have been suspected of or confirmed as having a learning disability. Among the better known are Albert Einstein, Winston Churchhill, Vincent Van Gogh, Agatha Christie, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Students with dyslexia cannot read.

Dyslexia is the inability to use language effectively. This disability may impact reading, writing, speaking, listening, or verbal processing. A student may be stronger in some of these areas and weaker in others. The reversal of letters may be indicative of a visual processing problem.

All learning disabilities are the same.

Major types of learning disabilities fall into two categories: 1) academic learning disabilities, which may include difficulties in reading, writing, or mathematics, and 2) cognitive learning disabilities, which may include perceptual skills, memory and retrieval skills, reasoning abilities, or oral language. A learning disability is like a fingerprint, and each individual has his/her own learning styles and needs.