Improving the disabled student experience
Mainstreaming reasonable adjustments makes the most common, basic support offered to disabled students available to everyone. This removes the need for disabled students to make a disclosure and engage with university processes if they want to receive support.
Why should we mainstream reasonable adjustments?
Mainstreaming helps us fulfil our responsibility under the Equality Act to anticipate disabled students' needs: we can have basic support in place ready for the 1,000 new students we can expect will disclose a disability each year.
Mainstreaming helps address the stigma felt by many disabled students who will not feel comfortable disclosing or engaging with support services because they fear it will be counted against them. Basic support is available without the need to disclose, hopefully encouraging greater trust.
Mainstreaming helps address the additional burden disabled people can face to evidence their support requirements and engage with administrative processes to get support in place. Every part of the university tries to work supportively and efficiently with students, but it remains counter-intuitive to ask a student with ADHD who faces practical organisational challenges to take on extra organisation just to get a basic level of support.
Mainstreaming also helps us fulfil our responsibilities towards students experiencing a new or short-term period of poor mental health by offering basic support without the need to evidence or request it.
How does mainstreaming fit with learning profiles?
The Disability Inclusion team continues to work with more than 2,000 students across all Schools and years, including research students, to devise individual Learning Profiles. These outline the additional support the student requires above the basic mainstreamed adjustments, which should be available for all.
What reasonable adjustments should be mainstreamed now?
Class materials in advance
Lecturers should routinely provide access for students to class materials, such as lecture notes and outlines of tutorial activities, early enough before classes so students can prepare to get as much out of the class as possible.
- Print out lecture materials to take into the class or download them ready to your laptop to help you focus if you find looking at the screen distracting.
- Identify the most important content from the class and prepare yourself to pay closest attention to those slides.
- Think about your approach to taking notes. For instance, if a lot of brand-new content is being covered, you might want to take brief notes and questions to help you follow up afterwards. If the class is covering familiar ground, you might want to check that you know and understand the key information and take more detailed notes on the additional content the lecturer is providing.
- If the lecturer is able to provide the full set of slides in advance, use the notes view in PowerPoint to add your notes to save time and effort.
- If you are preparing for activities in class, think ahead about what you are comfortable with, anything that looks more challenging, and think about what preparation you need to do and also scenarios and strategies to help you manage successfully.
- Class materials in advance are intended as an aid to preparation. Keep coming to classes to make sure you benefit fully from lecturers' and other students' contributions.
Students should be able to record classes themselves or access lecturers' recordings of classes to refer to afterwards to help supplement their notes and support their understanding.
- You probably will not want or need to listen to a full lecture again. When you hear something you might want to listen to again, check the time in the recording if you are using your phone and jot that down in your notes, or click to add a new track if you are using a digital recorder.
- Try using the Sonocent Audio Notetaker app on your phone (Apple and Android). The app allows you to colour code or add a text label to the parts of your recordings that you want to listen to again.
- Think about how you take notes in class if recordings are available for you to review later. You might be able to write less in class and free yourself up to listen and think more, and then use the recording later to add extra notes.
- Think about different ways of contributing to classes if you do not feel comfortable speaking in front of the whole group, such as posting messages to the Moodle forum or using the chat feature in Webex.
- If the recording quality on your phone is not good enough, Olympus digital voice recorders tend to be the recommended alternative. You can find out more from the Olympus website, including user instructions and video guides.
- The University's 2014 Recording of Learning and Teaching Activity Policy continues to apply. The policy is clear that students can record classes but for their own use only and that recordings should not be published, distributed, broadcast or sold in any form. Failure to comply with the restrictions in the policy might lead to disciplinary action under the Student Conduct Regulations. Recordings should be deleted once you have completed your course.
- Class recordings are for study purposes only and the university’s existing guidance on the use of Panopto and students' own recordings remains in place.
- Not everything should be recorded. Some classes might include sensitive or confidential content. Tutorials that focus on open discussion, for instance to allow students to share questions or concerns, might be excluded. Recording of third-party material, such as film clips, might also be excluded if the lecturer cannot obtain permission from the original rights-holder.
Adjusting the time allowed for class tests
Lecturers should build in additional time by default for class tests.
- Don't feel compelled to use all the time available. The work required should not take as much time as you are being offered. In other words, there is extra time in case you need it for whatever reason.
- Use the extra time wisely, perhaps making a plan before undertaking the test about how you might want to use the time allocated.
- Take your time and relax.
Online open book class tests
Lecturers should deliver online open book class tests. This measure builds on the mainstreaming proposal for additional time to be offered to all students.
- Identify in advance the most suitable venue for you to take the test. You might find the camaraderie of working alongside others a useful support in the classroom booked by your lecturer or a library study space you have arranged. Obviously, you must always work independently during the test itself. Alternatively, you might want to work from the comfort of your home.
- You must still revise and prepare as you would for a closed book exam. You are being offered a chance to check notes quickly during the test, not carry out extra revision.
- There is still a time limit: you might be able to check notes quickly but if you are not on top of the subject, you will not have enough time to look up information.
- Plan carefully what notes you might want to have with you in the test. You will probably not be able to make use of more than 2 pages of short notes. Keywords, names and dates, brief definitions and formulae might be helpful to job your memory. Long sections of text, screenshots and weblinks probably will not be useful.
- Do not feel tempted to write down everything you are seeing in your notes and books. You still need to be selective and identify the key information to help you answer the specific question you have been set.
- Be careful about accidental plagiarism. You might copy and paste a useful point from a website or journal article in a rush and mean to come back to put it into your own words but forget to do that or run out of time. Always put things in your own words straightaway.
- Instead of a page or two of notes, you might want to use post-its around your working area.