Information for staff
The information below is designed assist tutors and other academic and support staff to understand some of the problems that students with disabilities and/or Specific Learning Difficulties may face, and to find out what they can do to help these students make the most out of their time at University.
Specific Learning Difficulties
Students encountering difficulties with their course are encouraged to come along to our department to see an adviser. If you think a student's academic difficulties may be linked to a Specific Learning Difficulty such as Dyslexia please encourage them to speak to us, or contact us directly with your concerns.
Students may rely upon lip-reading techniques, therefore it is important to face the audience when speaking. Do not stand with your back to a bright light, or cast your face in shade. Seminar groups will be challenging environments, with several voices contending to be heard at once. Good practice would be to repeat key points to the whole group.
Potential academic adjustments:
- Provide handouts, lecture notes, OHP’s in advance
- Reduce background noise in seminars and discussions
- Assist students with grammatical structure and expression, which may be impaired; contact DDSS for additional information
- Extended deadlines or agreed flexibility for coursework, in agreement with the course leader
- Written instructions and extra time for exams
- Students who use radio aids will require the speaker/lecturer to wear a microphone around their neck, which the student will supply. Radio aids can be purchased with the Disabled Students' allowance
- Studying modern languages may require additional support especially with listening comprehension; contact DDSS for details
- Audio visual materials – some students may not be able to hear recorded voices and television. If tutors are using audio/visual materials then we recommend that transcripts are provided in order to offer inclusion to hearing impaired students
Potential academic adjustments:
- Poor quality photocopies are very likely to be inadequate for students with visual impairments
- Provide written material in advance in electronic formats, or via WebCT
- Students may request permission to record lectures and seminars
- Students may apply to course leaders to agree flexibility with coursework deadlines
- Exam papers can be provided in large font, on audio tape or in electronic copy
- Exams can be taken in separate rooms with use of amanuensis and extra time
- Information and additional teaching materials can be made available in accessible formats in liaison with the DDSS. The Disability and Dyslexia Support Service will provide transcription from the RNIB with sufficient notice
Recommendations for environmental access:
- Clear signs should be provided around the department
- Ensure good lighting with corridors kept clear from obstacles and clutter
- Internal steps and doorways should be well identified by paint and colour contrast
- Be conscious of timetabling issues during winter and check for well lit areas
- Seminar leaders may be asked to provide alternative rooms if necessary
Some students may use wheelchairs and electric scooters to traverse the campus; some may use walking sticks or other aids. Many students will not be obviously impaired, but may not be able to use the library, carry heavy books, or climb stairs very well. Some students will become uncomfortable when they are required to remain seated for long periods, which can be a significant problem in lectures and especially long seminars. Students with hand or arm impairments may write more slowly or not at all.
One of the difficulties facing academic staff is that the actual number of students with mobility impairments in one department is small, usually in single figures. Thus good practice developed and experience gained in catering for their needs is idiosyncratic to specific students, and developed in isolation and therefore ‘it is critical that direct communication is established with student(s) concerned and that the support provided has the approval/consent of learners’ *Information from Gardner & Anwar (GDN) 2001.
Characteristics and symptoms of poor mental health may include student absenteeism, particularly from seminars, evidence of self harm, poor personal hygiene and isolation, or an inability to provide coursework and presentations. Perfectionism and pressure of work can also create anxiety and distress.
Students who present medical evidence to the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service will be provided with an Inclusive Learning Plan. The ILP is used to empower staff to negotiate reasonable adjustments to the teaching and assessment programme, for instance extended deadlines or agreed flexibility with coursework and dissertations, and also special arrangements for examinations (separate room, extra time).
Young people are especially vulnerable when they are away from home for the first time. International students may be trying to cope with homesickness and alienation. Departments may need to intervene when poor mental health is suspected.
Tutor feedback on Inclusive Learning Plans
The DDSS welcomes any contributions from tutors to student's Individual Learning Plans. Please provide any suggestions below and they will be considered by the student's designated adviser for inclusion in the ILP.
If you have any comments or feedback relating to ILPs for students with Specific Learning Difficulties, please email Samantha Hadley
If you have any comments or feedback relating to ILPs for students with any other disabilities, please email Tom Sharp.