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April 2, 2001

New position website address
disability issues

By Eric Rangus


While Emory has policies and procedures to assist students with physical and other disabilities, students with learning disabilities have been more difficult to accommodate because the challenges they face are more subtle.

That’s where Wendy Newby comes in. In September, Newby was hired as the first director of faculty resources for disabilities, a position intended to provide faculty with information about disabilities, the law and its application to higher education, as well as best instructional practices for students with (and without) disabilities.

“I’m trying to move the nature of what I’m doing away from [being] strictly about students with disabilities and extend it to all students who are diverse learners,” Newby said. “All of us learn differently. A faculty member has a natural way of teaching. And it may be very effective for most students using this natural approach, but there may be some students who will benefit from some alternative approaches.”

Newby is associated with the Center for Teaching and Curriculum, and her position is supported by both Emory College and the University Advisory Council on Teaching.

Newby said faculty requested her position be created because they wanted someone to serve as a guide in dealing with students with disabilities.

“We’re getting an increasing number of students who have learning issues related to disabilities or other kinds of instructional needs as a result of problems adjusting to college levels of instruction,” Newby said. More than 400 Emory students, in fact, have documented disabilities.

She noted many states define a learning disability as “a discrepancy between IQ and achievement.” Most often, learning disabilities are identified in childhood and students have compensated for them. “By virtue of their being here [at Emory], this means they have been successful students,” Newby said.

Her role is to assist faculty members if they are having problems reaching certain students. One of the ways Newby is trying to reach out to the Emory community is through her website, which she calls “Portals and Pathways to Inclusive Instruction”(

Newby began work on the site shortly after coming to Emory, and it was posted in mid-February. An in-depth description not only of Newby’s work and responsibilities but of disabilities in general, “Portals” has the potential to be a major resource of information on the subject.

Through its many links, the site defines various types of disabilities, lists information for instructors and students (including a comprehensive FAQ), provides an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and lists other campus resources for students with disabilities.

“This whole business of marketing my services to faculty is kind of foreign to me as a psychologist, but I’m learning,” said Newby, who worked as a clinical assistant professor at North Carolina State for 18 years prior to joining the Emory staff.

“It’s hard in this position to know how and when to approach faculty,” she continued. “I’ve tried a number of different techniques to get to them. Going to meetings where faculty discuss issues related to instruction and developing the website are two of them.”

The website also took into account disabled users and how they may be using the site. “We did several things to accommodate all users,” said ITD’s Shannon O’Daniel, who, along with Marianne Schneider, worked with Newby to create the site.

“For instance, we created sites with alt tags—text that takes the place of images if graphics are turned off or for voice recognition enabled browsers,” O’Daniel said.

Newby said she will continue adding information to the site. Right now, she is collecting disability-friendly syllabi from faculty, seeking to find the most informative and easy-to-use example. She will award a $100 gift certificate to Druid Hills Bookstore for the most complete and well-organized submission. A color-sensitive graphic advertising the competition is located on the center of the site’s index page.

While all of Emory’s schools have students with learning disabilities, Newby’s role is primarily with the college. Each professional school offers services to students with learning disabilities, but activities and resources are not coordinated. Newby hopes to change that.

“Faculty don’t always know what to do, where to go, or even what’s here. Linking [Emory’s services] is going to be a major goal next year,” Newby said. She hopes to come up with a plan by May.


Back to Emory Report April 2, 2001