27.1 Supporting disabled students

Read Seale Chapter 8  Supporting the use of accessible e-learning: the student support service perspective.

1. How helpful do you think it is to have ‘specialised’ rooms or areas in an educational institution, which only disabled learners can use to access technology/online learning material?

Such specialised rooms having restricted access are prone to create segregation rather than inclusion of students.  Moreover restricting access to these rooms limits their accessibility as students would be required to disclose their disability as a teacher will need to unlock the room or maybe they would need to ask for the issue of a card which enables access to such resources.

Still, it may be argued that specialised equipment should be accessible only for those students who really need it.

2. How are student support services organised or structured in your institution? In what ways do you think this organisation influences the way in which disabled learners are supported to use or access technology?

Seale (2006, p.101) ‘the extent to which student support services should be a separate service provision and the extent to which it should be integrated into ‘mainstream’ service provision:’.

Seale (2006), groups assistive technology support services as focusing on issues regarding;

  • making specialist equipment available;
  • assessing the assistive technology needs of students
  • providing generic and specific technology skills training for students.

Seale (2006) discusses the use of speciaised equipment rooms versus adapted mainstream campus computers. Seale (2006) specifies ‘interesting issues about the way that specialist technology areas are set up and managed:

  • specialist technology is available to just students with disabilities or for all students;
  • specialist technology is locked or protected by keys or passwords;
  • specialist technology is supervised by specialist staff.’

Still, these days, institutions may allow students to access the institution’s computer network using their own laptops and thus specialised software.

The problem may boil down to expenses. Funding needs to be accessed and this may many times be done by having the students disclose their disability.

3. What would you change about the way in which students are supported in your institution and why? (You might find your notes from Topics 8 and 9 relevant to this question.)

As in the institution to which I have been referring to throughout H810, does not have any support structure, a whole new structured support system needs to be put in place. Such a structure needs to provide various facilities of which;

  • Develop own institutional policies,
  • Earmark relevant guidelines,
  • Make students aware of national funding schema (see learn.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/discuss.php?d=639139#p5253529)
  • Teacher training focusing mainly on accessibility awareness and accessible resource development,
  • Continuous training and support for teachers and disabled students.
  • Assessment programs (e.g. IEPs)  for students,
  • Promote a barrier-free learning environment.

As pointed by Seale in his conclusion of chapter 8, ‘Developing effective support services therefore involves more than supporting students, it involves supporting and working with staff across the whole higher education institution. ‘

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