The art of demolishing barriers

March 4, 2005

Dyslexic students are using art to explore and understand their disability and to show that it need not be a barrier to success. This innovative project, Into Art with Dyslexia, is being run by the University of the Arts and aims to help students with learning difficulties develop study skills and give them a taste of higher education.

The project is one of several aimed at bringing more students with learning difficulties into universities. The Higher Education Funding Council for England recently announced funding for eight projects focusing on widening participation and our AchieveAbility Project is the only one to involve disabled students and to build on the innovative work that is going on.

The scheme focuses on outreach work in schools and colleges. University students who have learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia are selected to be outreach ambassadors. They will be trained by the project team and the Dyslexia Institute to go into schools and colleges to work with pupils with learning difficulties.

Through workshops, they will provide information about learning and financial support, course choice and admissions procedures for potential students and their parents. The workshops are particularly effective where universities link up with partner schools and colleges to give specific information on the support available and how to access it.

Some universities organise staff development sessions on supporting students with learning difficulties. Some have transition programmes tailored to individual students.

We must work together to build on such initiatives.

Katherine Hewlett is AchieveAbility project manager and head of educational development at Westminster University, the lead institution for the AchieveAbility project. AchieveAbility's national conference takes place on March 4 in Birmingham.

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