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H810 Activity 4.1 - Challenges disabled students in post-compulsory education

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Oct 2012, 09:05

H810 Activity 4.1

Define problems by:

Campus–based issues:

Complusory Education (College, old and new univerisities, postgraduate and even training)

Context – nature of campus, policy, history if and funding of accessibility, maturity and life-expeirence of the student (born with the impairment or not, residential experience or not). Gender, age, socio-economic group and sexual orientation. Before or after the London 2012 Paralympics and the call by Sebastian Coe to 'lift the cloud on limitations'.

Access related to mobility: parking, maps, ramps, signage, estates response to lifts that may not be working, policy and funding in relation to accessibility legislation. Geographical location of the campus – in town, or out of town, residential or collegiate, degree of provision of accommodation and other services.

Provision in lecture halls or tutorials of support for mobility, sight or hearing impaired and getting this balance right so that you promote/advertise services, but don't end up, in a wheelchair user's terms with the 'cripple corner' where wheelchair users are literaly pushed.

Course choices, flexibiliy if online provison as alternatives to some activities, registration procedures and how these are handled, such as per–start induction for disabled students and a buddy system.

Desk space and layout in rooms and libraries.

Access to social spacecs, not just dining areas, but JCR, library, bar, lavatories, postroom, laundry services, theatres etc.

Online learning issues:

Quality of thinking behind the e–learning and how often updated and ameliorated to ease and improve access for everyone.

Training as well as provision of assistive technologies.

Tick the boxes at the design and build stage for: cognitive, visual, hearing and mobility issues. i.e. keep it simple and apply web usability criteria relating to fonts, sizes, choices, colours, contrasts and layout i.e. good design is clearer for everyone.

Issues by subject/context:

The choice is with the student if they have the grades to join the course, but do you question someone with a sight impairment signing up to an art history course, someone with a hearing impairment studying music or potentially someone with mobility impairment signing up to a module in physical education, geology, civil engineering or mining – for example. On the other hand, though this is based purely on personal experience, I feel sure that an above average percentage of people with dyslexia are artisits or actors, or coach/teach sport i.e. they shy away from highly text based academic courses and careers. Part of higher education is a chance for a person to discover where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Common to all:

Extra time to complete tasks, even flexibility in the term or year for longer treatment breaks.

Personality, life–experience and participation in social life, how post compulsory education in various forms can be a 'big step in forming an independent personal and social identity'.

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H810 Accessibility and equality

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 6 Sep 2012, 14:55

Given the start of the Paralympic Games last night it is hardly surprising that disability is a topic or theme on TV, the radio and in the press. Even the Simpsons' satire yesterday evening - the one where the school is split into girls and boys and Liza dresses up as a boy and becomes the object of bullies - had a powerful message regarding equality. It should be about seeing the strength while not ignoring the 'weakness', but accommodating or compensating for it, that it is the lack of x, y or z that makes the disability more of an issue that it needs to be.

Is it just about money?

It took a Paralympian wheelchair basketball player to point out how countries that hadn't the provision of the richer economies had older, clunkier, heavier wheelchairs.

I watched a piece of theatre for deaf people by deaf people. It reminded me of comia del arte - highly physical and rumbustious. I hadn't the slightest clue what was going on, certainly no idea what was being said. Had I someone twlking it through how different would the experience have been.

How do the movies portray disability? From Richard III and Frankenstein, to Finding Nemo, Slum Dog Millionaire and Avatar. Even Dr Who where Darleks, and certainly Davros, are disabled beings in wheelchairs with a wheelie bin, plunger and egg- whisk for limbs.

It takes being ill, of confined to a bed or wheelchair to get some sense if it, or having a close relation, infant or elderly in a state, or phase of amelioration or deterioration to feel it personally. I broke a leg badly enough and far enough away from home to require amabulances and special flights, hospitalisation then a wheelchair. For some months in order to get into the garden I pulled myself about quite happily on a large wooden tea-tray. We knew it was temporary, indeed within six months I was riding a bike and walking with a stick and six months after that competing in the swimming pool and on the rugby pitch - wherein lies a stark difference, the disabled person is very likely to be set inspite or despite of treatment and how the disability came about, indeed their situation is likely to be more complex with medications, care, a deteriorating prognosis even.

There is mental illness and disability in the family too - depression, learning difficulties, aspergers and autism. I'd even dare to say that being exceptionally bright or that ridiculously isolating term 'gifted' in the case of my late father isolated him.

If we wish for inclusivity when will the Olympics and Paralympics play out simultaneously?

Perhaps at a club level I should suggest that once a year we do this - having an inclusive event in contrast to the other exclusive events we run or take part in.

As I reflect I need of course to bring it back to H810.

The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) runs a workshop for coaches who work with disabled athletes - there is an online module too which I will sign up for. Annually we apply for a national award called Swim21 which includes an audit in relation to disabled swimmers - we ticked every box without question with qualified personal, watertime set aside, entry into internal and external galas and working with our local leisure providers but is this enough? If the bar isn't that high no wonder it is easy to get over.

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