Creating accessible practical classes 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.

Practical classes take many different forms, and there are wide variations in what is expected of students working in practical classes, reflecting activities associated with a great range of subjects and disciplines. Equipment, materials, teaching facilities, furnishings and locations used in practical class teaching are equally diverse. This raises two separate questions:

A few relevant legal points should also inform reflections:

The evolving legislation promotes a departure from the more ad hoc, reactive responses to the needs of disabled people. This suggests that wherever possible, practical class design and furnishing, as well as teaching methods and materials, should be accessible by design. This leaflet is intended as a resource for the promotion of that objective.

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