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Video Clips of Situations with Special Populations AD/HD; Visual, Hearing & Mobility Impairments; Learning Disabilities, etc. How to Deal with Students with Limited English Proficiency Tips to Faciltiate Learning with Disabled Students Appropriate Language and Interactions Definition, ADA & the Law, Examples, Achievers with Disabilities Test your awarness about special populations

Defining Special Populations

The Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education defines Special Populations as:

  • individuals with disabilities

  • individuals from economically disadvantaged families, including foster children

  • individuals preparing for nontraditional training and employment

  • single parents, including single pregnant women

  • displaced homemakers and

  • individuals with other barriers to educational achievement, including individuals with limited English proficiency.

This definition is important because thousands of people who fit into one or several of the above categories attend community colleges in Texas. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in Texas, 6,910 special population students in Texas received associate degrees in technical fields during academic year 1998-99, while 9,016 received certificates.

The numbers rise and dip slightly each year but have stayed consistently high for the last several years. However, these numbers indicate that a significant portion of community college students have special needs. The goal of this module is to give community college workforce faculty the necessary tools to address these needs. Specifically, this module will focus on two categories of Special Populations: Americans with Disabilities and individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP).

Individuals with Disabilities

Which one of these individuals does not have a disability?

The truth is we all have abilities and disabilities. But sometimes it's not apparent. Let's see what the law has to say about the definition of a disabled person and the rights they have under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

ADA and the Law

The law behind the ADA is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The wording and content of the law are not complicated:

No otherwise qualified person with a [disability] in the United States shall, solely by reason of a [disability], be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

The portion bolded above needs a bit of definition. A person with a disability is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. An individual is considered to be a person with a disability if he or she has a disability, has a history of a disability, or is perceived by others as having a disability.

A qualified person with a disability is defined as a person who meets the requisite academic and technical standards required for admission to or participation in the postsecondary institution’s programs and activities.

What are common examples of disabilities?

Some examples of documented disabilities are:

  • blindness/visual impairment

  • cerebral palsy

  • deafness/hearing impairment

  • seizure disorder

  • orthopedic/mobility impairment

  • a specific learning disability

  • speech/language disorder

  • spinal cord injury

  • Tourette’s syndrome

  • traumatic brain injury

Most of us are aware of the above examples of disabilities, but what is less often known is that individuals with chronic illnesses are also protected. Examples of chronic illnesses are AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), arthritis, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and various psychological disorders.

Interesting Statistics

The following statistics came from the National Center on Education Statistics. They address disability and education for all students under 21 years of age.

  • Number of students, aged 21 and under, who received federally supported services for students with documented disabilities in 1977: 3,692,000

  • Number who received such services in 1996: 5,573,000

  • Percentage that this number increased between 1977 and 1996: 50.9%

  • Percentage increase in number of students with documented learning disabilities between 1977 and 1996: 223%

  • Percentage increase in number of students with documented emotional disabilities between 1977 and 1996: 54.7%

  • Percentage decrease in number of students with mental retardation between 1977 and 1996: 40.5%

  • Percentage decrease in number of students with documented hearing impairments between 1977 and 1996: 22.9%

  • Percentage of all students in 1977 with a documented disability: 8.3%

  • Percentage of all students in 1996 with a documented disability: 12.4%

  • Percentage of all students in 1977 with a documented learning disability: 1.8%

  • Percentage of all students in 1996 with a learning disability: 5.8%

Other interesting statistics can be found at the Texas Governor’s web site, specifically under the topic of the Governor’s Committee on Disabilities. For example, the percentage of all 1994 high school graduates who enrolled in postsecondary education was 70.4%, while the percentage of high school graduates with disabilities who enrolled was significantly lower at 62.8%. In 1995-1996, the percentage of male undergraduate students who reported having a disability was only 27.1%; for females, the reporting rate was higher but still low at 31.4%.

Of those disabled people who are a part of the workforce, a much higher percentage have college degrees than have less than a high school degree. Sixteen percent had less than a high school degree, but 50.4% possessed a college degree. Educational attainment is as much a key to success for a disabled person as it is for a non-disabled person. The percentage of severely disabled who have no high school diploma and are active in the labor force is 17.3%; 31.2% of those with a high school diploma are active in the labor force, and 52.4% of those with a college degree are active in the labor force.The statistics above are more than just numbers pulled together through research. They reveal much about a large part of the American public school population. For example, the number of students receiving federal aid for some type of disability has increased since 1977 by several million. It is worth noting that the number of students reporting disabilities has increased markedly, but too many still hesitate to report. And, like most other Americans, disabled students must have an education to participate in the workforce.Therefore, it is clear that these individuals must be accorded the same rights as those without disabilities, including the right to acquire an education. In order to accord them those rights, some special services should be available to all disabled persons who qualify.

Achievers with Disabilities

Determined and persistent individuals with disabilities have always been contributors to society when those around them saw past their disabilities and focused on their talents. In fact, many Texans whose lives you studied in your history books were disabled. The following individuals are only a few of the outstanding Texans with disabilities that we know of.

Erastus "Deaf" Smith was hearing impaired yet served as a scout during the Texas Revolution. Colonel William Travis considered Smith to be the “Bravest of the Brave.”

Thomas Ward lost a leg in the Texas Revolution and an arm when a cannon misfired during a San Jacinto Day celebration. He served as mayor of Austin and Commissioner of the General Land Office.

Criss Cole was blinded during World War II but served as an influential and conservation-minded Texas Legislator beginning in 1955.

Patsy Smith Moore was disabled as a result of childhood polio and served as the first woman judge of the 72nd District Court.

Source: Famous Texans with Disabilities

Most of us are aware of one of our country's most famous disabled Americans: President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Because of childhood polio, Roosevelt could not walk without assistance. However, he successfully served three terms as a US President (elected 4 times and died in office). Unfortunately, the lack of disability awareness forced him to hide his disability. Photos of him in a wheelchair were never published during his presidency.

Other well-known Americans with disabilities were:

Harriet Tubman, born on a slave plantation, developed epilepsy after being struck on the head by her overseer. After escaping slavery, she dedicated her life to freeing other slaves and to women's suffrage.

John Wesley Powell, a 19th century explorer, lost his right arm in the Civil War. Lacking even moral support from his parents, he became a science professor and explorer who founded the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology.

Judi Chamberlain was hospitalized in a state institution due to depression. The horrifying conditions and lack of legal rights she experienced as a psychiatric patient prompted her to found a Mental Patients Liberation Front and publish an important book on the topic.