Creating accessible placements, study abroad and field trips 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 evolving legislation promotes a departure from the more ad hoc, reactive responses to the needs of disabled people. This suggests that wherever possible, courses and teaching practices should be accessible by design, so that only minimal adaptations need to be made, reactively, for individuals. Devising and planning off-campus study should therefore be done against the background of expectation that disabled students should benefit equally from what is offered.

The legislation makes clear that academic competence standards, which are given a very precise legal definition (DDA Part IV, Code of Practice revised 2007) should not be compromised, and do not need to be adjusted. However, there are two important qualifications: (1) adjustments to how students show that they have attained competences should be routinely considered; and (2) we should be very careful before regarding a standard as a ‘competence standard’. These need to be very relevant to the course of study, and they must be ‘genuine’.

Off campus study may be associated with competence standards. Universities should be careful to avoid creating the impression that such standards are more rigid and inflexible than they absolutely need to be. Equally, any non negotiable, essential competence standards should be made known in advance so that all students can gauge whether this is the course for them, and so that disabled students in particular find out about where adjustments they might need are, exceptionally, not possible. On a more positive note, it is extremely encouraging to disabled applicants to learn of successful examples of disabled people undertaking off-campus study.

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