Creating accessible seminars and tutorials 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, tutoring practices should be accessible by design, so that only minimal adaptations need to be made, reactively, for individuals, and so that students’ needs are met as a matter of routine rather than on an individual or adjustment basis.

In most institutions, small group teaching takes many different forms, and within any one academic department is likely to be delivered by many different academic staff, including part time and post-graduate teaching assistants, and placement providers, as well as full time lecturing staff. Resources and materials used within this setting may be equally diverse, and include printed text, computing hardware and software and videos, as well as a variety of furnishings in teaching rooms.

These points suggest the importance of staff development for all tutorial and seminar staff so that awareness is raised of the many ways in which disabled students’ participation in tutorials can be helped or hindered. Academic departmental consistency on points which include the following will help to ensure that whatever small group a particular disabled student is assigned to, their experience will be a good one:

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