|Photo credit: see below|
Challenges go beyond the accessing the course materials and can be roughly divided between course related challenges, challenges related to registration and bureaucracy, and psychological challenges.
Course related challenges include:
- accessing course materials:
- communication with other students
- examination and assessment
- managing learning
Registration related challenges include:
- dealing with procedure to get accepted for additional help
- deciding whether to apply or not for additional help
- lack of communication between the administration and the academic department, or between various departments ('glass walls')
- waiting for extra help to arrive
- time and energy spent on administrative issues encroaching on study tasks.
Students with disabilities are each engaged in a 'personal journey' (Goode, 2007) trying to reconcile a desire to study with a learning disability. They are actively managing their identity in various ways. Psychological challenges in doing this include:
- Dealing with the decision whether or not to disclose their disability
- Deciding whether to use additional services & issues related to their use
Both challenges come down to finding the right balance between becoming 'invisible' and becoming 'extravisible'.
Students with disabilities can become ‘invisible’ if/when their needs are not met— they are disabled by the environment from full participation and ‘disappear from view’. On the other hand, if and when they have to go out of their way to make their needs known they become ‘extravisible’ in a negative way.(Goode, 2007, p.42)
- Negotiate a variety of social relations
Already facing physical and psychological hurdles, they often didn’t have the energy to ‘do battle’. ‘Battling the system’ was a very common phrase and several interviewees had come close to dropping out. In other cases students had become ‘battle-hardened’ and were more able to ‘demand’ the rights to which they knew they were entitled (Goode, p.44).
The case studies seem to support the argument for a social approach to learning disabilities, in which courses are designed with flexibility in mind, enabling variations in study pace, media preferences, study approach and assessment. In its accessibility policy institutions should not only focus on developing a system of specialist help, but on designing courses that are inviting for as large and diverse group of learners as is reasonably possible.
Goode, J. (2007) ‘“Managing” disability: early experiences of university students with disabilities’, Disability & Society, 22(1), pp. 35–48.
Mortimore, T. and Crozier, W.R. (2006) ‘Dyslexia and difficulties with study skills in higher education’, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), pp. 235–251.
Credit for the picture at the top to UNICEF/UGDA2012-00127/Michele Sibiloni. http://www.educationandtransition.org provides stories on inclusive education from many countries.