Raising awareness

June 16, 2011

Seasoned tutors and lecturers develop ways of dealing with the common student problems of lack of motivation and poor attendance; however, current training courses do little to fully equip tutors with the skills best to support their disabled students. With new pressures placed on academic staff by the Equality Act 2010, which came into force in April, many are unsure how to help those students whose ability to work is impaired by physical disabilities or learning difficulties.

If you have had a notable experience with a student with disabilities - or if you are a disabled academic or staff member - we would appreciate your input.

The Learning Support Centre (LSC), an independent business based in Leicester, is seeking the contributions of university staff to aid in the development of an innovative programme of disability awareness courses. Due to begin at the start of the 2011-12 academic year, these courses aim to highlight the specific learning needs of students with disabilities.

For too long the emphasis has been on structural access and legal implications, rather than the personal and daily impact that disability has on individual students and their ability to learn. We hope to show tutors, staff and lecturers how they can reduce the negative impact of impairment upon their disabled students and ultimately help them to succeed in education.

The aim of the programme is not to reduce students' workloads, but rather to enable them to access materials and utilise university resources so that they are able to complete their work to the best of their ability.

Much work has gone into discerning the key needs of students with disabilities, including discussions and focus groups involving students and graduates in the LSC's local area. But we believe there is a second level that still needs to be addressed: the role of academics, teachers and tutors. This is vital and must be taken into account in all situations.

In this light, I am calling for replies and submissions from disabled staff members and non-disabled staff with notable experience in this area to ensure that we address all the problems faced by people with disabilities in higher education. Armed with both sides of the story, we hope to develop an effective disability awareness course that will then be marketed to the sector.

Alyse Garner, Leicester


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