sue watling

Disability in the built environment

Changes to the DSA puts pressure on institutions to make reasonable adjustments to how they deliver information to students. In particular…through different ways of delivering courses and information. The principle of reasonable adjustment is a duty under the Equality Act. The duty is anticipatory.

The text above is taken from two government statements on the DSA. David Willets in April 2014 announced the expectation HEIs will ‘…introduce changes which can further reduce reliance on DSAs and help mainstream support.’ In September Greg Clark announced HEIs now have until September 2016 ‘… to develop appropriate mechanisms to fully deliver their statutory duty to provide reasonable adjustments, in particular non-medical help.’

Institutions should adopt a proactive approach by reviewing their practices – but where to begin?

The language of the statements is revealing. In the first document of 760 words there were 4 mentions of disabled students plus 2 in the title and strapine. In the second document, 695 words contain 19 mentions of disabled students plus 2 in the title and strapline and 1 of disabled people. Neither statement uses the words accessibility or inclusion. Yet these exist perfectly well in isolation from the word disabled. We all appreciate access. No one likes to be excluded.

I’ve long wanted to see Lincoln be a fully accessible digital university – but where to begin.

Last month I blogged on the flipped classroom and suggested flipping might be the new e-learning for 21st century. Flipping is about developing lecture by video or podcast, either DIY or from existing OER. Educause say ‘… the ease with which video can be accessed and viewed today has made it so ubiquitous that the flipped model has come to be identified with it.’  This is the reincarnation of early promises of e-learning to enhance – if not transform – the student experience.

Digital educational resources  are the virtual equivalent of ramps into public buildings, created for wheelchair users but appreciated by pushers of prams, buggies, shopping trolleys and all. Having content recorded for replay and revision rather than a once-only experience clearly has value for everyone. The principle of universal design is inclusiveness. The problem is social and cultural acceptance  of the need to change practice; in particular where it’s associated with disability because of a mindset which sees inclusive digital design as the responsibility of someone else.

To be human is to be habitual. We like routines. We’re busy. We don’t have time to create captions, subtitles, transcripts. It’s bad enough moving from text to multimedia in the first place without having to mess about with alternative formats as well.

Where to begin? This is the question the Inclusive Digital Educational Resources working party will need to answer.  It’s going to be tough but someone has to do it. Cue the Educational Development Team in EDEU. Cue me. Watch this space…



3 Comments so far

  1.    Rosario Michel-Villarreal on February 1, 2015 11:53 pm      

    Hello Sue, a very informative post indeed! I just finished my reflection on flipped learning and I completely agree with you: having the opportunity to replay a lecture is a dream come true for students (or at least for me!).

    I will definitely watch this space.

  2.    Janice Kearns on February 13, 2015 1:59 pm      

    I think teaching staff are very willing to adapt practices to make materials accessible to students. Not doing so often takes additional time in terms of remedial support. However there needs to be institutional recognition and resourcing of these activities: materials and technology to work with, training and a recognition of the time training and adopting new ways of working will take.

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