Characteristics of Mobility Difficulties Impacting on Learning and Teaching
Receiving Information During Lectures
Attendance at lectures for students who use wheelchairs or have some other mobility impairment depends on whether the lecture theatre is accessible. Where this is a problem, the solution can be to relocate the lecture. Not all lecture theatres are equipped with tables accessible for students using wheelchairs. Many lecture theatres allow wheelchair users little or no choice about which area of the theatre they can use. In some lecture theatres, access for wheelchair users is only at the back, and this is really unhelpful for people who have an additional impairment of hearing or vision, for example, or who simply want to sit alongside friends. It is also worth bearing in mind the possible impact of overcrowded lecture accommodation on students who experience panic or anxiety in such conditions.
Accessibility of information about the location of lectures for some students with impairments might mean additional consideration. For example, students who are wheelchair users will need access to notice boards, in accessible locations, at accessible heights. Students with some visual impairment will be unable to read standard print notices or department handbooks or timetables. Students who have hearing impairments can miss verbal announcements about lectures.
There are some fairly straightforward and low-tech ways of modifying or adapting equipment or activities to allow students with various impairments to participate in practical classes. Examples include: auditory displays of visual information (such as talking thermometers), tactical displays of visual information (such as beakers with raised markings), clamps and other devices for holding items of equipment, and hand held, illuminated magnifiers. Examples of such innovations are likely to multiply as more people who develop impairments while in employment are maintained and supported in their employment.
Students who are wheelchair users should be able to participate in many practical activities through the use of adjustable height work-benches, perhaps supplemented by help from another person, where equipment cannot be moved to a more accessible level. Other students might be able to participate fully, although at a slower pace, and flexible scheduling arrangements might be all that is required in some situations.
Work Placements, Study Abroad and Field Trips
Departments organising placements, field trips or study abroad for students with impairments will need to consider, ideally alongside the students themselves, the differences between the new context and environment and the more usual, and often more structured, context of study. Sometimes, the use of equipment, arrangements or personal assistance could, with a little planning, transfer to a different context. For example, travel, physical access and length of working day may all be relevant considerations for students who have impairments affecting their mobility or stamina. For some students, the option of carrying out a placement or field trip over a longer period, or on a part-time basis could be helpful, and reflections on the large numbers of people in employment who, for many different reason, work part-time, might recommend this option.
The fact that funding may need to be found in order to purchase additional equipment for placements, field trips or study abroad, underlines the necessity to plan and prepare long before the placement start date.
Students with impairments are positive assets on courses, where a reminder of the diversity of human experience is important. It can be instructive to be reminded of substantial gains for all students from organising placements in such a way that students with impairments are safely included, and not to think exclusively about problems.
For students who have impairments of various kinds, the usual assessment format may need to be modified to achieve the assessment objectives. Clarity about the latter will be very helpful in determining acceptable modifications, which will be different for different types of assessment, or for different parts of the assessment.
Aspects of physical arrangements may be relevant, such as lighting, height of desks, as well as accessible location and proximity to facilities such as accessible toilets. Some students become unusually anxious about examinations, and for a few, the provision of a separate room can make a significant difference.
Many departments mark anonymously. Where students produce assignments in an alternative way, departments may have to consider whether the goals of anonymous marking can be achieved in some other way. If departments regard anonymous marking as a protection against marker bias, then it may be possible to achieve this end by some other way of monitoring standards in marking.
These strategies are suggestions for inclusive teaching. This list should not be considered exhaustive and it is important to remember that all students are individuals and good practice for one student may not necessarily be good practice for another. You may also like to contact the Disability Specialist in your institution for further information. If you have any good practice that you would like to add to this list, please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Think carefully about the location where the learning takes place in addition to any ongoing programme of improvements to access.
- Plan the arrangement of, and adaptations to, furniture and learning resources.
- Structure learning sessions to incorporate short breaks, according to individual need.
- Do not use the term wheelchair bound, use wheelchair users.
Subjects potentially associated with Mobility Difficulties
- Biosciences and Mobility Difficulties
- Computing and Mobility Difficulties
- Dance, Drama and Performance and Mobility Difficulties
- Early Years (FD) and Mobility Difficulties
- Education Studies and Mobility Difficulties
- English and Mobility Difficulties
- General Business and Management and Mobility Difficulties
- Geography and Mobility Difficulties
- History and Mobility Difficulties
- Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism and Mobility Difficulties
- International Foundation Diploma and Mobility Difficulties
- Learning Support (FD) and Mobility Difficulties
- Manufacturing Management (FD) and Mobility Difficulties
- Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research and Mobility Difficulties
- Music and Mobility Difficulties
- Nursing and Mobility Difficulties
- Physiotherapy and Mobility Difficulties
- Psychology and Mobility Difficulties
- Social Work and Mobility Difficulties
- Sociology and Mobility Difficulties
- Veterinary Science and Mobility Difficulties