Posted by: MandyS | September 28, 2011

Activity 8.1 – strategies

The resources for this activity highlight the various experiences disabled students have at university. The disabilities covered are diverse but some of the strategies employed by the students are very similar. For me the key points to come out of this are:

1. Communication – this is very much key. For the learning experience to have any hope of being on a ‘level playing field’ it is imperative that there is two-way communication between the student and the institution. Most of the students appeared to have a fairly positive outlook about their disability and were able to communicate what worked and what didn’t. It was the students who didn’t want to disclose their disabilities who had a poorer learning experience.

2. Planning – again a key strategy. A number of the students alluded to doing this, especially prior to getting to the university. The more prepared they were in knowing how to get there, finding their way around and where things were, the less stressful the experience appeared to be. This is something which applies equally to any student but is likely to impact more on a student who has difficulty with finding their way because of their impairment e.g. a student with a visual impairment or one with poor memory retention.

3.Funding in place – a number of the students benefited from equipment/services which they had obtained via funding e.g. laptops, note-takers, money for taxis etc. The issue here appears to be that, despite requests being made in good time, equipment was woefully slow in arriving.  The other issue is students being aware of the funding that is available and what it can be obtained for. This is particularly relevant in relation to the students who choose not to disclose their impairments as they may not be aware of the help that they can get. Likewise, those students who have funding for equipment may not realise they can get funding for taxis to take them to and from the site e.g. those with visual impairments wanting to engage with social activities on a night.

4.Being proactive – those students who joined lots of societies etc. appeared to have a more posititve experience at university. Doing so enabled them to make new friends who were more than willing to help. Not being afraid to ask for help is also something which came out of the videos/diaries. Much of this hinges on whether a student feels able to disclose their impairment but in some respects, all students go through the feeling of being lost and alone with no-one to turn to; university for any student is a daunting experience and more so for those who are disabled in some way. However, the resources highlight that there is help out there; yes, it would be nice to think that the services came to you but, as has been alluded to before, disabilities are diverse and although reasonable adjustment has to be anticipated, there will always be situations where this is just not possible. The videos in resource 4 highlighted that not all students want the same things (one wanting notes and the other not).

5. Knowing what you need and what works – most of the students knew what they needed to ensure they had the same learning experience e.g. notetakers, laptops, printers, screen readers etc. Some students preferred notetakers to be from the same course on the basis that they would know what was important and what not in a lecture, whereas some preferred them to be independent on the basis they would take down everything.

I am sure that there are many other issues but I found these to be those most significant.

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