Accessibility and Inclusion in the Chemistry Classroom

Empty classroom desks, text: Accessibility and Inclusion in the Chemistry Classroom

As part of my #chemcation2019, I presented at the American Modeling Teachers Association annual conference, ChemEd biennial conference, and the New England Association of Chemistry Teachers’ summer conferences on strategies for helping support diverse learners. As we teachers prepare to go back to school, I have summarized my presentation into a list of ways to help your classroom be inclusive for all learners.


General Accommodations

Image 1: Sample accommodation chart


  • Keep a special education accommodation chart to ensure that you know what accommodations/modifications your students need in order to succeed. For your students on IEPs and 504s, this is a legal requirement. I keep a separate chart for each class to make it easier for me to ensure that each student’s needs are met.
  • Provide a demonstration/experiment sheet for your students so that they can keep track of what you did in class and what the learning objectives were. I provide new ones for each unit.


Image 2: Sample demonstration/experiment notes sheet


Designing Slide Presentations

  • Use a large font, preferably around 20 pt.
  • Choose fonts that are clear to read. Be aware of 0/O (zero/capital O) and I, l (capital I/lower case l) confusion. Additionally, b/p and d/q for students that might be dsylexic.1
  • Do not use multiple fonts. Choose one or two fonts and stick with them.
  • Be careful of color combinations that will be difficult for students who are colorblind to see.2
  • Use textures in addition to color changes to help interpret graphs and charts.2
  • Provide descriptive alt text for your images to ensure that all people can access your presentation.
  • Use a microphone or other amplification device as needed. 


Note Taking

  • Provide guided notes for students.
  • Post notes for students to access.
  • If you have students copy notes from slides, put the slide up and don’t talk while they copy.  



  • Provide lines and not just blank spaces for open response questions.
  • If a question has more than one part, consider breaking up the question on different lines to ensure that students do not miss any of the parts.
  • Consider using simple, whole number ratios so students will not lose the concept for math problems. 
  • Consider avoiding numbers that require scientific notation for your students who struggle with mathematics
  • Offer reassessments as needed.


Image 3: Example of assessment including lines.


Grouping Strategies

  • Vary groupings on a regular basis.
  • Assign roles within groups to ensure all students participate.
  • Use different types of groups for lab work and for classroom work.


Science Talk

  • Encourage students to talk science within your classrooms using strategies such as whiteboarding.
  • Provide student discourse stems and sentence starters to help.


Social Justice

  • Create an explicit anti-racist classroom.
  • Be aware of your student’s backgrounds and how that impacts their comfort in the classroom.
  • Use students’ correct pronouns and names. Work to pronounce their names correctly.
  • Incorporate non-majority scientists into the classroom.
  • Check out for additional ideas.


Please log into your ChemEd X account and add your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments below to help support all students in your classroom.



  1. What dyslexics see, Dyslexia Gift website, Davis Dyslexia Association International (accessed Aug 2, 2019)
  2. Robyn Collinge, How to Design for Color Blindness, January 2017 (accessed Aug 2, 2019)


Join the conversation.

All comments must abide by the ChemEd X Comment Policy, are subject to review, and may be edited. Please allow one business day for your comment to be posted, if it is accepted.

Comments 2

Vicki Brewer | Fri, 08/25/2023 - 08:35

Hi. Thank you for your helpful article! I appreciate you advocating for your students!  My daughter is a sophomore and has Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, and ADHD. She's done amazingly well in school (lot's of OG tutoring). However, her math disorder is pretty severe and becoming more of a challenge in higher math and sciences.  Her neuropsychological evaluation suggested formulas and definition sheet with examples. Her private school has more flexibly than public and are open-minded, however they are unsure if these are "fair" accommodations.  My child has poor working memory, visual spatial challenges and deficits to recall math facts, properly calculate and struggles with math reasoning (logically working out the steps). In the past, she's been given a calculator, formulas, and some example problems to ease her cognitive load. This was a tremendous help. 

We just started chemistry. I love your checklist above, but could you give some specific examples of what types of accommodations you have seen that may fall under "reference sheet".  Does what my neuropsychologist suggest seem "fair" (which would be my daughter on an equal playing field with her peers)?  What have you seen as educators that may support my quest for in accommodations?  Many Thanks!


David Ames | Tue, 08/29/2023 - 14:28

Thanks for your article; the suggestions are good.  I will share it with other teachers in my science department.  Here are a few more ideas, ideas I got by working with my son, who has the constellation of dyslexia characteristics. 

1. Never ask a student with dyslexia to read aloud - and tell them this at the start of the course.  This includes class or group presentations that require reading.  It's hard to imagine how much stress you will remove from a student by doing this. 

2. Giving students with dyslexia more time on tests or in-class work is important, but if it doesn't come with other types of help, more time isn't helpful.  Would an extra hour help you read something in a language your didn't understand?  

3. Instead of asking a student how they are doing (always 'fine') or if they understand a question ('sure'), just read it or rephrase it for them.  If you do this for other students, the student with dyslexia won't stand out.  You'll also be surprised at how my students in a class have difficulty with reading. 

4. Let students know well before any formal assessment how they will be accommodated.  It will take pressure off, and help parents or school aides guide preparation. 

5. Simplify the vocabulary in any questions given, and stick to the same key words across questions.  Consider the synonyms for subtract if you want an example of this situation.  It's easy to forget that students don't have the same vocabulary and reading levels we do, even if they don't struggle with reading. 

6. If you listen to a student with dyslexia read, you might find that they pronounce the same word differently each time they see it - even in the same sentence.  Avoid assuming that 'we reviewed that word' is enough.  

I don't expect my son's teachers to do everything possible on every occasion - my experience is that most teachers, even primary school teachers, don't know much about the dyslexia/dyscalculia/dysgraphia spectrum.  I certainly didn't.  I do expect those teachers to try.