There's a significant upward trend in the number of disabled students entering higher education (HE). From 2016, funding changes in England mean that non-medical support such as note-taking, alternative formats and study support has been reduced, placing greater responsibility on institutions.
The most cost effective response is to improve procurement processes and ensure inclusive practice is embedded in teaching, learning and assessment.
What you can do
Take a strategic approach
Inclusive practice is becoming key to improving student satisfaction, retention and achievement, and central to inspection and compliance. A strategic approach to planning and implementation is the best way to meet the challenge. The image below identifies the resultant benefits to the organisation.
Link inclusion to policy
Policy can be used to join-up inclusive practices across all aspects of provision, from marketing and recruitment through to teaching, learning and assessment. Reflect accessibility in all key policies and strategies so that everyone knows that they need to plan for a diverse range of learners needs.
Students will know what they are entitled to and staff will know how to support them.
Don’t exclude people when you don’t have to
Technology allows us to meet more people’s needs than ever before, including many who may not ask for help.
Consult the widest range of learners at the start so there will be less need for additional support. Increasing student independence should also provide a cost saving and they will benefit from increased confidence, productivity and employability skills.
In your ILT policy, be specific about the role of assistive technology and productivity tools. This will help to ensure all learners can participate fully, and are properly supported and motivated to achieve.
Build-in accessibility and usability checks at the start of the procurement process. This could avoid expensive adjustments further down the line.
Provide support for staff
You can do this by:
- Giving staff guidelines on inclusive practice and making good use of the virtual learning environment (VLE)
- Providing templates and staff development opportunities that enable everyone to create accessible documents
- Including accessibility criteria in all module design and specification processes so that courses, curricula and assessments are designed to be inclusive from the start.
To get the best from personalised and differentiated learning, your IT policy should aim for the infrastructure to support accessible bring your own device (BYOD), the use of rich media, and the widespread use of assistive technologies and productivity tools.
Make it a whole organisation approach
Everyone stands to benefit because accessible organisations are effective organisations. They have a culture of learner involvement, highly skilled staff, responsive IT processes and efficient well-documented procedures.
Our guide to enhancing staff support for learners with disabilities and our blog post on providing alternative formats can help you take practical steps.
Find out how everyone can support an inclusive learner experience in higher education.