How likely are university students to disclose their disability? The answer is related to whether the disability is visible. The concern of being stigmatised is real and is a form of exclusion. Of course, if the disability is visible then stigma is already part of the student’s life. A recent study found students with invisible disability will be less likely to make use of the institution’s accommodations for disability. However, if the teaching staff were helpful and accommodating anyway, the need for seeking institutional support was reduced. An interesting and relatively easy read for a thesis.
“Students with invisible disabilities in the current study were less likely to use accommodations and self-disclose their disability status to the institution, and students with visible disabilities had used accommodations more often than their peers with invisible disabilities. Research has indicated that students with invisible disabilities perceive revealing one’s disability status as an important decision because it moves the person from a non-stigmatized identity to a stigmatized one.
“This study also found that when professor knowledge and understanding were well-received, students were less likely to self-disclose. This is consistent with research that has indicated students who did not disclose said they felt they didn’t need accommodations because their professors were helpful and accepting of their disability without needing institutional documentation (Cole & Cawthon, 2015). When students do not feel supported by professors, they are more likely to advocate for their rights and self-disclose to the institution, which occurs more regularly for students with invisible disabilities (Marshak et al., 2010).
Two people give their perspective on inclusive (or not) education. One is a teacher, the other a student with a disability. Their opening statements provide a context for the article. They trace some of their experiences seeking to overcome barriers to inclusive education, classrooms and teaching. The teacher’s experiences show that colleagues were, and are not, interested in inclusive education. Students with disability lack a voice and are separated into special education classes. The student story includes an action project – taking fellow students to the streets to photograph barriers to inclusion and making a case to the mayor. Both the teacher and the student conclude by saying they want to find ways of helping people with disability advocate for themselves. Clearly, no-one is listening at the moment. Bottom line: there is much academic writing about universal design for learning (UDL), but it seems policy and practice still lag far behind.
E-learning is taking off in this new digital age. Shane Hogan from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design based in Ireland shows how to make sure the maximum number of people can access and participate in e-learning programs. Using the example of creating e-learning for the public sector on disability equality training, Shane explains the steps they took in the development, and the ways in which content was presented. For anyone involved in e-learning, the 18 minute video is well worth watching to the end. He also addresses employee industrial issues and concerns over privacy and successful course completion.
Cathy Basterfield is very active in this field, and has made a comprehensive submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Social Welfare System. Centrelink has many clients with low literacy skills and this is a major issue. Cathy’s submission is very informative and has lots of examples of the ways in which people are excluded in all aspects of life and the steps organisations and writers can take to be more inclusive. Her submission is number 116.
Teachers who have embraced UDL are great advocates for the process of designing learning programs that include struggling learners. However, not all teachers are amenable to the ideas – resistance to change being a major factor.
On page 64 she writes, “Research has shown that students at-risk benefit socially, emotionally, and academically from implementation of UDL. Yet, successful implementation and application of UDL are rooted in teachers’ perceptions. Educational reform that promotes the use of Universal Design for Learning on behalf of equitable instruction for all students requires a positive perception of the UDL model. Teachers need to see evidence of student success rather than being forced to implement the instructional model of the year. Real systemic change calls for work designs that permit teachers to learn, plan, and implement UDL strategies through means such as shared planning schedules to allow department or grade level collaboration, Professional Learning Communities (Hirsh, 2012), administrative modeling, peer modeling, and formal professional development.” She adds that perceptions are unlikely to change by mandating instructional changes and consequently other methods need to be found.
While the principles of universal design resonate with many, it still has its detractors. The authors of this article quote art critic Brian Sewell as saying “Had the disabled of the past been as noisy as the disabled of the present, none of the temples of ancient Greece and Rome would have been built… I am convinced no worthy building of the past should be altered to ease the passage of the rare disabled visitor, nor any of the present be designed specifically to accommodate the wheelchair.” (Sewell, 1997). This view is shared by many who would give precedence to heritage or other design values over inclusion.
Such antagonism for inclusion might stem from high profile examples which are ugly either because of poor design or because they were tacked on as an afterthought. However the authors, Jim Harrison, Kevin Busby, and Linda Horgan, argue there are some design tutors who perpetuate such attitudes and hence influence their students.
This paper provides an interesting and comprehensive discussion on ways in which architecture and design schools can include universal design into their curricula, and how they can work with other professionals such as occupational therapists who can explain the functionality of designs.
Valerie Hunsinger is a school librarian. Her article is a thoughtful piece about equity in terms of access to knowledge and information, particularly in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Some children have never been to a bookstore or bought a book, so the library is a very important part of their overall education. In talking about another librarian introducing UD she writes: “Everything from the layout and furniture to the shelves and technology was adapted to fit all learners. For a student born with shortened limbs, she found funding to buy a specialized wireless computer mouse, and her library’s flexible floor plan allowed this adaptive tool to be easily accommodated. Another student arrived with a back injury, and Aponte found funding to purchase a special chair. For students who have difficulties turning pages, Aponte purchased special board books that allow them to experience the feeling of reading. She truly shows how libraries can serve all learners.”
This slideshow by Jeff Souter is titled, Universal Design for Learning: An Approach to Maximise Learning for All Students. He brings together UDL and ICT and lists 3 principles for UDL for learners of all ages:
Multiple means of representation – providing learners with various ways to acquire knowledge and information. Multiple means of expression – providing learners with alternatives to demonstrate what they know and what and how they think. Multiple means of engagement – providing learners with appropriate means of engaging and interacting with the learning environment.
Outcomes from a Pilot Group of Postsecondary STEM Students with Disabilities
Abstract: Faced with poor retention and graduation rates for students with disabilities, postsecondary institutions have experimented with interventions to help students succeed in college. This practice brief describes a pilot initiative in which 41 students with disabilities pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees at three postsecondary institutions engaged in weekly academic coaching sessions primarily aimed at improving students’ executive functioning. Continue reading Academic Coaching for Post Secondary Students