Online technologies can help students with disabilities by making learning opportunities more available. Using assisted technologies provides more equitable access to learning content and activities.
Our accompanying technologies and tools for online learning guide highlights assistive technologies and considers how technologies can help students with disabilities.
Your institution will have specialist staff to support students with different needs, but these may focus on providing campus-based services. Downloadable online content from these services may already be available and useful for online learners.
It’s likely that your institution will need to reconsider what it provides, and extend this for online students.
Teaching staff working with students face-to-face may be able to identify if students are having difficulties that might affect their learning or progression, but this is harder to do when the only connection is through online technologies. Students must feel connected to your institution and develop trust to access the support services they need.
Your institution may need to take extra steps to help students with different needs to feel a valued part of the institution.
Providing a supportive environment
Not all students with different needs have recognised disabilities. Some may not have a formal diagnosis or may have mental health problems. Some may be experiencing difficult life situations. Your institution can’t plan for all eventualities or make all teaching experiences equally valid for all students, but it can make efforts to develop a caring and supportive culture.
This is more likely to signal to students who are experiencing difficulties that their voice will be heard, and that support is available.
Our guides on supporting students with different needs can ensure that your institution is doing all it can to help:
- Enhancing staff support for learners with disabilities
- Making assessments accessible
- Widening participation
- Meeting the requirements of learners with special educational needs
Our podcast and accompanying blog outlines how can you make resources accessible for those with disabilities.
The following examples from other institutions may provide useful ideas and inspiration:
- Recording demonstrations for inclusive learning in design (University of Greenwich)
- Raising awareness of how assistive technologies can support learners (Leeds City College)
- Engaging and supporting learners by improving curriculum accessibility (Runshaw College)
- mCommunity: improving the experience of at risk learners (Pembrokeshire College)
- Using social media to engage students with learning difficulties (Calderdale College)