4.1 Challenges for disabled students

As asked in this activity, I have made a  list of activities that might be challenging for students who have disabilities. As asked in the coursenotes, each activity is tentatively matched with the students who might find each of the activities challenging. Yet such matching may not be so straight forward and such a list is not exhaustive.
  • Common to all post-compulsory education
 Activity  Challenging for what type of disability?
 Listening to lectures  Hearing
 Reading notes, whiteboard / IWB, presentations or other visual material.  Visual
 Taking notes  Visual, Hearing, Cognitive
 Communicating with teacher.  Visual, Hearing, mobility
 Communicating/collaborating with fellow students.  Visual, Hearing, mobility
 Viewing multimedia content   Visual, Hearing, mobility
 Taking exams / tests   Visual, Hearing, mobility, dyslexia, Cognitive
 Educational financial costs
  • Specific to campus-based modules
 Activity  Challenging for what type of disability?
 Face-to-face communication with teacher and peers. Mobility, Visual, Hearing
 Access to physical building. Mobility
 Hold a book Mobility
 Transport Mobility
 Library access Mobility
 Registration Mobility

IBM (2007) mention how the use of specialised software may be helpful for learners with mobility disabilities.

  • Specific to online learning
 Activity  Challenging for what type of disability?
 Syncronous communication with teachers and peers.  Visual, Hearing, Cognitive
 Assyncronous communication with teachers and peers.  Visual, Cognitive
 Typing text  Visual, Dyslexia, Physical.
 Viewing or interacting with multimedia content  Hearing, Visual, cognitive.
 Access a website containing frames or segments Visual
 Access a website with non labeled images Visual
 Access webpage with a long list of hyperlinks Visual, cognitive, motor disabilities
 Use of email  Visual

Online learning may help override barriers found in campus based, face-to-face contexts. Yet it is essential that websites and other learning material are built with accessibilty in mind. Also, learners with disabilities need to be made aware, trained and supported in the use of specific accessibility tools.

What about blended learning and mobile learning? Surely these may pose challenges of their own. For example mobile devices may be more tricky to use by persons with mobility disabilities.

In H800 (two years ago) I have been introduced to PLEs. Accessibility tools are an essential part of such an environment for disabled learners and as for any student, such tools may be constantly changed due to the evolvement of technology. This surely will pose financial constraints on disabled students as assistive tools may prove costly.

  • Related to particular subjects or contexts.
 Activity  Challenging for what type of disability?
 IT courses may demand that students use computer systems and specific software. Thus students need to be knowledgable with the functionality of such software.
 Reading subject specific content e.g. mathematical or scientific expressions. Visual
 Access to science or computing laboratories mobility / physical, visual
 Use of standard laboratory equipment physical
 Access writeen laboratory instructions Learning difficulties, visual, hearing.
Students with cognitive disabilities (e.g. dyslexia and short-term memory deficit) (IBM, 2007) may be challenged by various activities which are listed here.
Focus should be on proactivity of the institution and of legislative bodies (Goode, 2007)
Goode, J. (2007) ‘“Managing” disability: early experiences of university students with disabilities’, Disability & Society, vol. 22, no. 1, p. 35–48; also available online at http://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/ login?url=http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1080/ 09687590601056204 (accessed 13 September 2011).
IBM (2007) Understanding Disability Issues when Designing Web Sites [online], http://www-03.ibm.com/ able/ access_ibm/ disability.html (accessed 13 September 2011).
JISC Techdis (undated) Activity 3: Teaching and Learning Environments and Their Components [online], http://staffpacks.jisctechdis.ac.uk/Staff%20Packs/Accessible%20Learning/Act%203%20Environments.xml (accessed 13 September 2011).
Seale, J. (2006) E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice, Abingdon, Routledge; also available online at http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/resourcepage/view.php?id=569013&direct=1 (accessed 13 September 2011).
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