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UCF inclusive education director Adam Meyer discusses how the pandemic is impacting students with disabilities

Adam Meyer, UCF’s director of inclusive education and student accessibility services. Photo: Zoom screenshot / WMFE
Adam Meyer, UCF’s director of inclusive education and student accessibility services. Photo: Zoom screenshot / WMFE

This conversation is part of our statewide series “Class of COVID-19,” looking at how the pandemic has affected education for the most vulnerable students in Florida.

Across the globe, the pandemic has caused a major shift in how classes are taught. But how has this shift impacted students with disabilities? 

Adam Meyer, UCF’s director of inclusive education and student accessibility services, joins Intersection to discuss how COVID-19 has affected the students he works with and caused professors to rethink how their courses are designed. 

Meyer’s office helps provide accommodations for students, from extended time for exams to captioning videos.

Meyer says deaf and hard-of-hearing students have been impacted the most by the pandemic because classes have shifted to an online format. This has caused a “massive growth” in the need for captioning services.

“It's been a lot to manage,” Meyer says.

Meyer says that ultimately, students with disabilities are facing many of the same struggles as any other student during the pandemic. 

“There have been a lot of challenges and additional stress at many fronts for all students,” he says. 

Despite the struggles, Meyers says there have been benefits to virtual classes. His office works with students with chronic health conditions. In previous semesters, these students may not have felt physically well enough to attend class. Virtual classes offer these students greater accessibility. 

“They can comfortably sit in bed, sit on the couch at home and participate in class without having to physically go there,” Meyers says. 

He says the pandemic has caused professors to rethink how to design their courses moving forward.

Meyers says a concept called “universal design for learning” is gaining traction within higher education. Under this principle, courses would be designed with multiple modes of instruction and assessment from the onset, ultimately alleviating the need for accommodations. 

“Accommodations [are] always sort of seen as a last resort or as a reactive step to addressing a component of class that wasn't designed from an equal access standpoint initially,” Meyers says. “I do hope that there will be ways to see that we can make classes more accessible through different approaches as we continue to move forward from this.”

For more on how the pandemic has affected education check out the Florida Public Media series, “Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis For Florida's Vulnerable Students." Find the whole project — and sign up for our limited-run newsletter — at  classofcovid.org.