Creating accessible lectures for disabled students

1. Introduction

This leaflet is one of a series written for the SHEFC-funded Project, Teachability: Creating an accessible curriculum for students with disabilities. The whole series covers elements of curricula, from Information about the Course or Programme of Study through to Examinations and Assessments. Each leaflet provides information and suggestions for academic staff who are concerned to make their curriculum design and delivery as accessible as it can be to disabled students. Using the Teachability resources is also likely to help people towards meeting some of the legal duties towards disabled students: a curriculum that has been designed to be accessible is likely to be one that anticipates reasonable adjustments (DDA Part IV, Code of Practice revised 2007); and assessing the impact of teaching on disabled students is required by the Public Sector Duty to Promote Disability Equality.

The series is intended to support academic staff in reviewing curricular provision, and to help decide whether some change is required or desirable. Of course, the implementation of change may involve others in the academic department or unit, or in the wider institution or beyond, such as professional bodies or national organizations. The aim is to identify, and thereafter remove or reduce, inadvertent barriers, which prevent disabled students from successfully participating in courses and programmes of study.

The evolving legislation promotes a departure from the more ad hoc, reactive responses to the needs of disabled people. This suggests that wherever possible, lecturing practices should be accessible by design, so that only minimal adaptations need to be made, reactively, for individuals. The relatively large number of students in lectures together with disabled students’ entitlement to request confidentiality about the existence and nature of their impairment reinforces the approach of accessible lecture design, and the avoidance of singling our or identifying particular disabled students to provide what they as individuals need in order to benefit from the lecture.

Many departments' routine lecturing practices, such as placing overheads and outlines of lectures on departmental web-sites in advance of lectures, or making routine use of microphones, undoubtedly reduce the need to think of provision for disabled students as separate or additional. Thereafter, where routine practice is insufficient for some students' requirements, University and departmental communication systems will be key to ensuring that, with students' consent, what is required is provided, and provided by all staff, including part-time staff or guest lecturers.

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