Do you want to learn how to fully engage and support students with accessibility requirements? Are you unsure about what you should be doing in your class to enable inclusion?
Read on as we unpack the concepts of inclusion, accessibility, digital accessibility, reasonable adjustments and inclusive language. You can find out more in our updated and new resource collections:
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is the practice of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups. Inclusion is about celebrating diversity, enabling flexibility (where reasonable) and reflecting on your own teaching practice to ensure you are not unintentionally excluding anyone.
By proactively practising inclusion in your classroom, you are enabling students to feel like they belong in your classroom.
What does digital accessibility mean?
Accessibility is the practice of making information, activities, and/or environments sensible, meaningful, available and usable for as many people as possible. Accessible digital content benefits everyone but is critical for students with disabilities who have access requirements. Access requirements are solutions designed to address physical and communicative barriers experienced by people with disabilities.
Supporting students with access requirements means creating the conditions so that all students in the class have an equal opportunity to be successful in their studies. You can do this by facilitating inclusive classrooms and following the Accessible content practices found in the recently updated resource collection Inclusive and accessible practices. This includes creating an accessible online digital learning environment to make your subject clear for all students and remove barriers for students with access requirements.
Learn from students with accessibility requirements in our Students explain digital accessibility video series.
What is a reasonable adjustment?
There might be times when a student with an access requirement needs additional accommodations to enable them to access and fully participate in learning. These are called reasonable adjustments and they are usually tailored to the student’s individual requirements. Academics will be contacted via email by an Accessibility Consultant to inform you if there are students in your class who need a reasonable adjustment.
The Reasonable adjustments and alternative assessments resource collection has been developed to ensure that all students, including those living with disabilities and/or medical conditions can access their learning materials, actively participate, and engage in their studies and coursework.
Reasonable adjustments are designed to create equitable learning opportunities for students with access requirements. They enable students to achieve their maximum potential within a framework of academic standards. According to the Disability for Standards for Education (2005) reasonable adjustments are a measure (or group of measures) implemented by UTS to assist a student with a disability to apply, enrol and participate in a course or program on the same basis as a student without a disability.
What language can you use to be inclusive around accessibility?
Use inclusive language so all students feel like they belong. When communicating about accessibility, never ask anyone what their impairment or disability is. Instead, focus on the access requirements of that person – ask your students about what they need, rather than for personal information about their disability or medical condition.
UTS inclusive language guidelines focus on the person first and disability or medical condition second. Examples of person-first language include: ‘person who is deaf’, or ‘people who have low vision’. You should however bear in mind that everyone is different, and so some people with disabilities may have their own preferences when it comes to language (e.g. using identity-first language). Aim to be respectful and mindful of different circumstances.
In a snapshot, how can you support students?
- Make your content accessible by following the accessible content practices.
- Create an inclusive classroom where every student feels a sense of belonging.
- Watch out for emails about students with accessibility requirements so you can approve and implement any necessary reasonable adjustments.
Where can you go for support and information?
There are several places you can go if you need further support and information.
- The Inclusive and accessible practices and Reasonable adjustments and alternative assessments resource collections.
- Get in touch with your Faculty’s Academic Liaison Officer, who can provide advice on what is reasonable and what is not.
- Email Accessibility Services via firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Contact the LX.lab via ServiceConnect for help in how to create accessible digital content, or how to implement reasonable adjustments in Canvas or in your classroom.
Feature image by Mikhail Nilov.