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E801: Action 3.4

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E801: Action 3.4: Labelling Neurodiversity

Reid, G. (2009) Dyslexia: a Practitioners Handbook. Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell. Chapter 17

Pollack, D. (2009) 'The Self Concept and Dyslexia', in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development. London, Sage.

Points in favour of labels:

  • To protect from anxiety by identifying with a group (Pollack, p.204)
  • To protect self esteem by giving self and others 'a reason' (Pollack, p.205)
  • To relieve a teacher's self-esteem issues (Pollack, p.206)
  • Route out of 'self-blame' (Pollack, p.209)
  • To obtain assistance and equipment (Reid, p.273)

Points against labels:

  • Student can be written off (Pollack, p.206)
  • Reduce feelings of control (Pollack, p.209)
  • Locates problem within child and detracts from policies/organisations (Pollack, p.209)
  • Use as a crutch (Pollack, p.210); blame everything on dyslexia; become egocentric and demand rights (Pollack, p.211)
  • Feeling of abnormality (Pollack, p. 210)
  • Disclosure of label in employment/some courses (teacher training) can be negative (Reid, p.277)
  • Special arrangements can lead to feelings of obligation (Reid, p.279)


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E801: Action 3.3

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E801: Action 3.3: A Closer Look at Defining Dyslexia

1. Purposes for definitions of dyslexia (Reid, 2009, p.3/4)

British Dyslexia Association Definition (2009)

  • Explanation: Explaining to teachers and professionals how they may identify and intervene

International Dyslexia Definition (2008)

  • Research: To provide a tidy and discrete sample for researchers
  • Explanation: Explain to teachers and professionals how they may identify and intervene

British Psychological Society (1999)

  • Understanding: To help parents and the individual with dyslexia understand

Scottish Government (2009)

  • Allocation
  • Explanation
  • Understanding

Reid (2009, p.4)

  • Explanation
  • Understanding

2. In a university setting I would find the BDA definition useful as a concise, basic explanation for both students and staff. It gives a medical definition concentrating on deficiencies but also gives a positive slant on the individual's cognitive abilities and positive ideas for interventions.

3. Looking at the Scottish definition, I would consider the good points to be the comprehensive coverage of the difficulties but the positive slant that moves this away from a deficiencies model towards a social model. I especially like the acknowledgement of the emotional difficulties that can result from lack of identification. My criticism of the definition is that it is very lengthy and does not give much guidance for intervention.


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E801: Action 3.2

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E801: Action 3.2: Definitions and Issues

1. 3 main issues which are relevant to your understanding and experiences of dyslexia and the ways in which they impact on the higher education context:

'It provides a definitive and descriptive response to what for many can be an area of emotional stress and personal conflict' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
Many students having struggled through school, go through a plethora of emotions when they finally receive a diagnosis of dyslexia. They have to come to terms with the fact that they are now considered disabled and also the anger at their parents and school teachers for not believing they had genuine difficulties earlier in their lives. They are also relieved that they do have a genuine problem. They are already struggling to keep up with their work and the extra emotional stress just makes things so much worse.

'Definitions can help provide a label' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
The label is necessary to prove the necessity for facilities and equipment obtained through Disabled Students' Allowance but it returns to the medical model of disability with the student regarded as having a deficit which can be disabling in itself. The label can also help students begin to understand themselves and develop coping strategies.

'Dyslexia is multifaceted' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
Reid suggests this is a problem when devising a definition but there is a similar problem with Asperger Syndrome which has been solved by referring to a spectrum of symptoms which may be present to differing degrees.

2. It can be suggested that a definition of dyslexia should take account of the following points but there are problems with this

i.        Related to theory and underpinned by a sound research basis

ii.        Easily translated into practice to make it a working/operational definition

iii.        Informative in relation to assessment and intervention.

iv.        Accepted by the majority of educators in the field to ensure consistency in practice

v.        Readily understood and accepted by teachers, parents and other professionals

There is no one theory for dyslexia, it is multifaceted and, although there is recognition for the factors involved, there is no accepted weighting for them. Various academics have their own favourite theories and justify them by criticising the others. The research base is vast and varies in quality. This makes it difficult to transfer into practice and it should also be asked 'what practice?' Education? Psychological assessment? Education? Funding allocation? Explaining to parents? Charities asking for money?

Investigating the incidence of a range of symptoms works for Asperger Syndrome in the majority of cases although sensory disabilities can confuse the situation as sensory disabilities can cause social isolation and affect a person's relationships, thus causing Asperger-like symptoms. Social issues may confuse the situation in literacy difficulties and cause dyslexia-like symptoms which may account for the high diagnosis rates seen in higher education.

The confusion in research leads to confusion for educators, students and parents. There is little in the way of consistency in educational practice.

The aims for a definition are laudable but they all rely on the first point - that they should be related to theory and based on sound research.


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E801: Action 3.1

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E801: Action 3.1: Your Understandings of Dyslexia

1. My current ideas: I think that dyslexia is a connection problem in the brain and that it is not just reading and writing but sequencing and short term memory problems. I believe that the term 'neurodiversity disorders' is the best one to cover Aspergers Syndrome, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia although I am not sure that Tourettes and ADHD also fit into these disorders. I can recognise similar patterns with all of the first four.

I feel that there is a high degree of over-diagnosis in higher education and that is leading to problems with some lecturers disbelieving all students who present with dyslexia and so many tend to be reluctant to provide any assistance.

2. Lecturer 1: Well, I do think there are a few students with dyslexia but it's getting ridiculous. In my first year tutorial group I have six of the nine students using dyslexia stickers. It can't be right that they all have dyslexia. I can't do my job if I cannot point out grammar and spelling mistakes. I am supposed to be helping them to learn the material and also preparing them for future learning or work. They would never hold down a job presenting work the way they do to me and it is frustrating that I can't be trusted to be a professional and encourage them to improve their work so they will be able to hold down a job in the future.

Lecturer 2: There are students at this university with problems in spelling and grammar but I tend to think that it is more to do with the schooling they have received than from any specific disability. It's interesting that the ones from good local schools and private schools do not seem to have the same problems. I am happy to put information on the VLE before the lecture but I am not spending time and money on printing handouts on blue and green paper. If the slides are there in advance they can print them out just the same as any other student.

Third year student: I have dyslexia. I suppose I look at it as a problem because it is always causing me problems in uni. Work seems to take me longer than my friends cos I can't seem to work out what the essay title wants and I end up researching the wrong things then it all clicks in and I have to start again. I used a tutor for a while but it was useless as it just takes up even more time. My spelling isn't too bad now but I still have a lot of problems with short term memory and sequencing problems. My reading is too slow for uni work. Those are the things people don't realise, lecturers I mean.

First year student: I have dyslexia and it means I can't keep up with the work. I think it is a brain problem, something to do with connections between my eyes and my brain. My spelling is awful and I am struggling with the load of reading they are giving me. I have coloured glasses which stop the text dancing around but I am still so slow.

PhD student: I do still have dyslexia but I manage by myself now. I think that it is a genuine problem in my case but I get fed up of all the students who use it as an excuse nowadays. I do not declare it most of the time now as people do not always believe it exists. I also think that hard work can cure most of the symptoms although it still exists underneath. I was appalling in junior school and struggled in senior school but my parents got me some private tuition which helped me through the work. I know my reading is still slower than my mates but it just means that I am more selective in what I read. I write notes and lists everywhere to help my organisation and make sure I do not forget anything.

3. Similarities

  • Everyone believed that dyslexia is being overdiagnosed
  • The majority mentioned organisation, reading, spelling, memory
  • Everyone saw it as a problem and discussed it using a medical model of deficiencies


  • One person saw it as an ocular problem
  • Two people thought that the symptoms, at least, could be cured with hard work
  • Both lecturers came across as very frustrated that they were being prevented from doing their job by political correctness.

4. I was surprised that the lecturers were so honest even though they were being recorded. I think that this may come from the sheer sense of frustration that they are experiencing.


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E801: Block 2 Actions

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E801: Action 2.7: Inclusion and Perspectives on Literacy

Artiles makes the point that there is silence concerning the issues of race in the inclusion debates and Walker (1999) suggests that a reason for this is that future researchers are taught that culture is a variable that must be controlled. Payne makes the point that literacy has been ignored by sociology and suggests that it is an uncomfortable subject for sociologists although he gives no reason for this other than it being problematical.

This leaves some large gaps in determining who is labelled, who uses the label and what consequences occur from using these labels. Also looking at the social environments in which literacy problems occur and their key social correlates. Payne suggests that this gap in research results in a reduction in the ability to interpret national surveys correctly.

E801: Action 2.8: Inclusion in the USA

McDermott, R., Goldman, S. & Varenne, H. (2009) 'The cultural work of learning disabilities' in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

'American education is compulsively competitive' p.252

Matches British education - competition for best nurseries, schools, chat outside gates about achievements, denigrating other children, ranking by table colour etc.

'for whom the bell curve tolls' p. 255 [Great quote]

New approach here with the introduction of vilification of those at both ends of the spectrum. Matches with my personal experience in the UK where I enrolled my daughter in a school temporarily whilst my mother was ill and, after the first day, I was asked to supply work for her as they did not have any that were at her level.

School involves large numbers of children. In order to keep the government and largest number of parents happy, teaching needs to be aimed at the highest percentages of children i.e. those in the middle of the bell curve. Those in the upper and lower quartiles cause problems .

'legitimate escapes from low test scores' p.255

See this so often at university - whether dyslexia is used as an escape by the student or an escape by the lecturer who is running out of time or ideas to use with students struggling with their course.

'White parents now seek the diagnosis of LD for the extra allowances it offers their children (Sireci, Scarpati & Li, 2005)' p.259

'Being treated differently can be good, or dangerous, depending on the cultural preoccupations with which it is aligned.' p. 260

E801: Action 2.9: Gender differences in literacy achievement

Boys - underachievement - HE sector

This is not really recognised in the HE sector as there is a common assumption that all students reaching HE are intelligent and articulate both orally and on paper. I do see it though with the frustration lecturers experience when they have students in their classes who ask intelligent questions and come up with innovative ideas but, without fail, achieve marks that are not consistent with these indicators of their intelligence and interest in the subject. It could be argued that it is the assessments that are wrong but these assessments are designed around what the students will be required to do in a work or research setting. Having worked closely with a group of eight geologists throughout their 4 years studying an undergraduate Masters, I can see the following patterns:

  • 2 out of the 4 girls and 1 out of the 5 boys in the group were willing to put in the work required to study the guidelines and conform to the requirements; All gaining 1st class marks
  • 1 girl has consistently declared dyslexia as a reason for her low marks although the two mentioned above also have diagnoses of dyslexia that they have not declared at university; Struggling to pass
  • 3 of the boys give intelligent verbal responses to questions and perform well in field work exercises and the laboratory but perform poorly in exams and written work. These three have all stated that they see no need to 'jump through the hoops' necessary to gain top marks in written work in exams as the lecturers know they understand the material. All three are very active socially. Two should pass the Masters at a low level (2:2); one is likely to fail.
  • 1 boy has struggled throughout with the material but has worked hard to ensure his lecturers explain the concepts to him and he has studied the guidance carefully in order to maximise his marks; currently on line for 2:1 undergraduate Masters
  • 1 girl is valued by her peers as giving intelligent and informative opinions during laboratory sessions and fieldwork. However, she constantly refers to herself as 'thick' in front of the lecturers, does not answer questions and spends little time studying and more on integrating herself socially; currently on line for 2:2.

From these points I tend to see a slight trend on male/female lines but more along the lines of what the student considers important in life with the majority of the boys valuing their current social status more than any prospective future status.


Some interesting points and ideas for research made in...

Millard, E. (1997) Differently Literate: Boys, Girls and the Schooling of Literature, New York, RoutledgeFalmer.

E801: Action 2.10a: Reviewing the article

Burns, J. & Bracey, P. (2009) 'Boys' underachievement: issues, challenges and possible ways forward' in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

Literature Review:

  • Sets underachievement of boys in context
  • Sets out why it is important to consider
  • Refers to Gov documents/policies
  • Refers to history - girls achievement
  • Aspects mentioned without references
  • Language is casual in places
  • Missing concepts - single sex schools?

Research Methods:

  • All schools in one area - so local factors could effect
  • Comprehensive? By what definition if one school is mostly working class?
  • Definition of working class?
  • Qualitative - staff perception-senior staff most appropriate?
  • 'Frank' and 'honest'? How judged?
  • Quantitative - exam results - have these changed over years?
  • Why only one schools OFSTED?
  • Approaches used to address problem
  • Why were heads willing to participate?
  • All urban comprehensive (not inner city)
  • One school had competition from all girls school in locality that changed intake pattern


E801: Action 2.10b: Inclusion & Achievement

  • Segregation of boys likely to cause trouble - will this help either them or boys in general in the long term?
  • Positive discrimination to place boys in groups where it is cool to work - what about the girls who are displaced? ATTITUDE
  • SMART targets - MOTIVATION
  • Mentoring selected pupils - not inclusive- MOTIVATION/ACADEMIC

E801: Action 2.11: Culture, home and language

Major Language and Equity Issues facing refugee children

Audio taped interview with Workney Dechasa, senior refugee and community education adviser

  • No formal education/literacy in first language
  • Some have different script
  • Some have different style of learning
  • No English language at all
  • No history of past school experiences to refer to
  • Trauma makes setting difficult
  • Some have emotional problems e.g. separation
  • No parental support to cope with academic demands

Need to have their experiences and past education respected in order to feel valued by their peer group. [Inclusion]

School can be stable part of child's life when the family is being moved around. Poverty can be a problem as there are no reading materials available in the home.

Materials need to reflect experiences of children so teachers need to know the situation. They can access books from refugee centres etc.

Relate to Fernando Diniz, senior lecturer in faculty in Education, Edinburgh

  • Connections not acknowledged between socio-cultural factors and literacy
  • Child-centred learning starts from where the child is located - home - so culture and languages of home are important
  • How cultural and linguistic context at home is valued at school - power relationships
  • Ethnicity is description of groups in terms of culture/language
  • Race is used in context of racisism
  • Bilingualism in British classroom context refers to those who are non-white - more restrictive category than that used in research
  • Home links - how does school programme relate to the home background e.g. 4-5 hours a day operates in English and receives speech therapy. However, operates in different language at home.
  • Language background, gender issues and cultural background can combine to mask other problems
  • Power - deciding which children do what, any act has element of power; teacher's own values.


E801: Action 2.12: Reflecting on Parental Involvement

In my experience there are only two styles of parental approach to school:

Style One where the parent recognises that they are responsible for their children's education under the Education Act 1996 (a consolidating act which incorporates the 1944 Education Act and later legislation) which states in section 7 that:

"The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to

receive efficient full-time education suitable ;

a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and

b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Legally, if the school fails your child, it is your fault for choosing the wrong school! I have heard my teaching friends discuss with dread those parents who take this to an extreme and ensure they not only know what their children are doing from day to day but also can discuss with pedagogy behind the school work with them! Some of my friends consider these parents a real threat. Taken to a lesser degree these parents are the ones who support their children's work in the evenings and support the school with loads of fundraising.

Style Two is where parents are keen to delegate their responsibilities to the school as soon as the children start attending. I vividly remember speaking to a parent of the swimming club where I was Chief Coach. She was telling me that her son had been diagnosed with dyslexia and also had a lot of short term memory problems. She was telling me so that I was aware that he may not remember training sequences etc. I said that this must be hard work for her but she said that it was much better because it was now totally the school's responsibility to deal with him. These are the parents who rarely attend parents' evenings and, at an extreme, do not support their children's work in the evenings. Some of this group consider that they should have nothing at all to do with their children's education but others would like to do so but do not have the confidence and feel it is safer to leave it to the school.

When designing programmes for parent-school partnerships, it is important to consider the sensibilities of the parent's involved and the barriers that they have to overcome in order to participate in the programmes.

I was briefly involved in the Sure Start programme and, locally, that was organised along strict expert model lines with staff instructing parents on how to take care of their children, what classes to attend and judging when a child was fit for nursery or when they should be taken home or to a doctors. Many of the very young parents (12-16yrs) found this reassuring but some of the other parents were upset by the attitude.

E801: Action 2.14: Engaging the parents

Tett, L. (2009) 'Excluded voices: class, culture and family literacy in Scotland' in Flether-Campbell, F., Soler, J. & Reid, G. Approaching Difficulities in Literacy Development: Assessment, Pedagogy and Programmes, London, Sage.

Reader 2: Chapter 13

Linguistic differences between this and Artiles
This is a much more readable article as it is aimed at practitioners rather than the research community. There is much less rhetoric to justify the programme and it reports on the process and findings. It criticises the monolingual approach of the course and backs this with theory to explain the consequences.

Three examples of underpinning theory:

  • Psycholinguistics
    Readers construct meaning during reading by drawing on their prior learning and knowledge in order to make sense of texts (Goodman, 1986)
    emphasising strengths p223
  • Situated
    Using the literacy practices of everyday life p219
  • New Literacy Studies
    Socio-cultural aspects
    Relationship between power and language p221


E801: Action 2.15: Pause, prompt and praise

Understanding of the three techniques
Based on psycholinguistics (Clay, McNaughton)
Now call it behavioural interaction approach - Clay from DVD
One-to-one - more opportunity to self-correct

Would parents/carers or peers make most suitable tutors?
Peers may not have the necessary patience to pause and may be keen to illustrate their own knowledge by just giving the word

E801: Action 2.16: Using pause, prompt and praise

Links between school and community
Higher reading age gains when implemented at home and school (from paper)

How background and culture are integrated:
Glynn & Glynn (1986) study which Khymer-speaking mothers were working together with their children in order to discuss pictures and work out meaning (from paper)

Important to read material they can relate to even if it is in English. Tutor must understand the messages in order to prompt correctly (DVD)

Care with terms - prompt in Maori infers pushing in overbearing way

E801: Action 2.17: Early literacy in East Renfrewshire

Family background - looking to parents to provide fun activities to supplement school work

levels of ability - identify difficulties early so can help those with easy to solve problems and reserve major interventions for those still showing difficulties

literacy-rich environment - book bags - move to concrete - smiley sheet as whether good book or not, collect stickers to get book tokens,

integration of school and community - read 'Oliver's vegetables', trip to shops to buy veg and then cook; walk in community finding signs

professional development - reading story with other staff to observe the group; automaticity and literacy interactions studied in movement class

collaborative, reflective practices - practices based on well known or commissioned research



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E801: Action 2.6: Inclusion and Globalisation

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E801: Action 2.6: Inclusion and Globalisation

Johnson, D. & Kress, G. (2009) 'Globalisation, literacy and society: redesigning pedagogy and assessment' in in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

The inclusion of digital literacies as part of the portfolio of literacies required by modern learners has been studied in many contexts - that of the different forms of digital literacy, the skills required for accessing information in a digital format, the skills required for extraction and evaluation of information etc.

A lot of institutions initially believed that a techno-based curriculum would cure all problems and level the playing field for people with disabilities. A lot of money was spent on various forms of technology and much of it was wasted.

Currently, in online and distance learning, the readjustment is towards  learner-centred activities with universal design for online learning materials BUT with an emphasis on user-controlled flexibility. Collaborative learning is on the increase with the use of peer networks via Twitter, forums and blogging.

Policies and institutions may take a while to catch up but individual teachers are leading the way with some fabulous activities for their students.

Assessment is also improving dramatically with online portfolios and peer feedback.

The following is from a previous blog post:

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines - Version 1.0 (CAST, 2007)

UDL has three primary principles that provide the structure for these Guidelines:

Principle I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation (the "what" of learning). Students differ in the ways they perceive and comprehend the information presented to them.

I am currently working with a student who has a severe visual impairment. She lost most of her sight at the age of 16 years by which time she had already discovered that her preferred learning style was visual. She still has enough sight to revise by drawing out large diagrams but it is not easy for her.

Principle II: Provide Multiple Means of Expression (the "how" of learning). Students differ in the ways they are able to navigate a learning environment and express what they know.

I have experienced the following adjustments in the universities where I work: allowing speech impaired people to plan and design PowerPoint presentations using the inbuilt speech features; allowing a student with ME to verbally present the information rather than spend all evening writing a report on a field course;

Principle III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement (the "why" of learning). Students differ markedly in the ways they can be engaged or motivated to learn.

One third year module at Keele University is Inspirational Landscapes in Geography. Assessment is 20% test and 80% project. Previous student projects have included:

    • Impact of the Malvern Hills on Elgar's music
    • Video diary of a walk in Wordsworth's footsteps
    • Photomontage of the experience of Dovedale
    • Influences of Indian landscape on fashion design
    • Johnny Depp: face, costume and landscape
    • Landscapes of Lord of The Rings
    • Thomas Hardy and the "Wessex" landscape
    • Landscape design for computer games

The module sounds fascinating and I know several students who really enjoyed it. http://www.esci.keele.ac.uk/people/pgk/geg-30014/handbook.html




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E801: Action 2.4: Reid & Valle (2004)

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E801: Action 2.4: Reid & Valle (2004)

the mostly white middle class teaching force operates on assumptions embodied in our discursive practices about what constitutes knowledge, the purpose of schooling, and appropriate curriculum (Losen & Orfield, 2002)

Currently the focus is on remediating individual impairments rather than redesigning the context.

The teacher sets and assesses tasks depending on expected 'normal' responses. Children consistently performing outside those norms are analysed, individualised and pathalogised as different.

Testing the children justifies the reasons for their failure and exclusion. This exclusion from the learning environment removes the child from the community in which is so important for him/her to gain their learning and thus reinforces the difference from the norm. This will be more pronounced in children whose primary (home) environment is substantially different from the school environment.

If the child's primary linguistic discourse is different from the one at school, teachers may question a child's linguistic competence and use tests to diagnose disability. These tests are based on standard English and so those with a different primary discourse are likely to do poorly.

Educational settings and legal regulations are set to maintain the situation of the power elite and the majority of white, middle class parents are happy to support a system that will give the educational and economic advantage to their child.

Differentiated instruction - e.g. present text at various reading levels

Compensatory instruction - e.g. watch film rather than read whole book

Instructional compensation e.g. design for norm and adapt for others

My views

The paper presents ideas for fully inclusive education without the need for special needs categories. The suggestions reflect the ideas suggested by the universal design for learning movement that was previously so commonly discussed in e-learning discussions. Nowadays they have been supplanted by more of a discussion on flexible design.

Having made such a fuss about the social environment, Reid & Valle conveniently forget it when they discuss how to implement their ideas for inclusion. What about the family backgrounds of these children? Cultural influences? It is all very well getting the children to discuss their backgrounds and life experiences but many may be unwilling to do so due to family prohibitions or culture. Inclusion does not equal a safe environment and bullying will still occur. It will not be safe for children to discuss life experiences in front of bullies and they may not consider it safe for them to reveal their problems by accessing the variations in curricular design. How do we create this safe environment when they go out of school to exist in other environments which may demand they protect their identity by attacking the identities of classmates?


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E801: Action 2.2: Current Literacy Policy

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E801: Action 2.2: Current Literacy Policy

"The University is committed to widening and deepening access to Higher Education. It believes that opportunities to participate in higher education should be provided to all those with the ability to benefit."


Academic policy statements from various universities all seem to follow the same multi-faceted approach of developing a set of transferable, academic skills. Literacy is included as part of the portfolio and  encompasses communication and study skills such as essay preparation, information handling, and textual analysis in addition to language skills.

These policies consist of a variation of the following points:

  • Pre-sessional programmes for disabled and EFL students
  • Diagnostic tests may be offered or compulsory
  • Learning resource support
  • Within department training in literacy skills

"Narrowly defined academic literacy refers to one's ability to read and write effectively within the college context in order to proceed from one level to another.  In a more broader sense it will imply the students ability to read and write within the academic context with independence, understanding and a level of engagement with the learning.  Academic literacy is also said to compromise of a variety of discourses with their own conventions and methods of inquiry.  In order for students to be termed academic literate they ought to acquire these conventions implicitly or explicitly.  They also need to familiarize themselves with the methods of inquiry of specific disciplines.  These acquisitions will impact heavily on the students' ability to manipulate the surface features of the language which invariably make their writing ungrammatical.  It is claimed that the mastering of surface features (i.e. language jargon) in writing, may mean that the student has not really engaged meaningfully with the subject matter, if this be the case students are inclined to "mask" their lack of understanding.  Such a false appearance of understanding of academic literacy can become "unstuck" as the demands on the learner increase task" [Lebowitz 1995] [p34]


In general, academic literacies are assessed as an integral part of the degree course although some universities have specific assessments in their foundation or first year courses and some departments cap assignments at 40% if they show poor grammar and spelling. Dyslexic students have stickers that they can put on their work to avoid capping but they are not always received well by all departments and not in use at all universities.

In short there is not a national policy on encouraging academic literacy or literacies; there are generally not university-wide policies; if any policies do exist they are generally hidden deep within departmental policies. They are generally taught by a mixture of implicit and explicit methods, some of which are by isolated study skills approaches and some by more integrated methods. I consider that this confusion in both policy and approach makes it difficult to work out any coherent policy for those students who also have learning difficulties. This results in individual lecturers making their own decisions on how to deal with the assessment of students with literacy difficulties and, in my experience, this varies from extreme lenience where no marks are lost for spelling and grammar to the situation where more than two mistakes results in the whole piece of work being capped at 40%. This is clearly unsatisfactory but there are advantages in the lack of policy in that appropriate methods to assist a student are designed around that student individually and there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach.


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E801: Action 2.1: Artiles (2003)

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E801: Action 2.1: Artiles (2003)

Artiles, A. (2009) 'Special education's changing identity: paradoxes and dilemmas in views of culture and space' in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

Action 2.1a

Study of inclusion and over-representation
Human Capital Theory (p221) - [functional literacy links]

What are the main staging posts in this argument?

  • Ignoring racial diversity in implementing inclusive models
    Hegemony of dominant social group
    Silence / controlled or ignored in research
  • Lack of vision for culturally responsive education system
    Standards based / impact of tests
    lack of English
  • Lack of attention to socio-historical context and complexity of culture
    [cf D/eaf culture vs racial culture / identity crises]
    Social structure of education [see Rassool]
  • Limited definitions of space
    First space - physical/perceived space
    Second space - conceptions of power/ideology - not considered by overrepresentation discourse
    Gaps in spaces - overrepresentation not conceptualised as second space
  • Problematic views of difference
    Special educators may reconstruct education system but ignore all the racial/social impacts on learning

What are the three main 'theatres of activity' from which he draws his evidence?

  • Literacy
  • Special educational needs
  • Research

What would you identify as a 'recommendation' as a result of Artile's work?

Research should use a complete perspective on culture when theorising about overrepresentation and inclusion.

My thoughts:

An interesting paper, albeit very long-winded with far too much rhetorical justification.

Strong similarities with Artile's reports of Soja's ThirdSpace and Rassool's lenses which she describes as the overlaps between subject disciplines.

Not sure I totally understood the 'transparent norm' within the concept of diversity but had a look around and found this quote from http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/viewArticle/420/827

'Bhabha elaborates:

[Multicultural policy] entertain[s] and encourage[s] [. . .] cultural diversity, [while correspondingly] containing it. A transparent norm is constituted, a norm given by the host society or dominant culture, which says that these other cultures are fine, but we must be able to locate them within our own grid. ("The Third Space" 208)

The aim of this model of multiculturalism to control or sanitize cultural difference implicitly calls for the production and preservation of norms and power hierarchies such as margin and centre, insiders and outsiders, us and them. More significantly, this conception of multiculturalism perpetuates the myth of "natural," or "real," difference, from which the discourse of racism gains its pervasive strength.'

I am working with a student at the moment who is registered blind and it has been interesting to discuss with her the conflicts between her dual cultural identities of being Muslim and of being a blind law student. As a blind student her workload is very high as accessing the material she required takes at least three times as long as for other students. However, as a Muslim, tradition expects her to entertain her relatives at the weekend and she has struggled to ensure her family understands that she needs time to work. She struggles to be independent in her life but the cultural expectation is that she should not go out alone. Her brothers are expected to accompany her and she has been discouraged from mobility training using a long cane and a guide dog is a cultural impossibility as the majority of Muslims regard dogs as unclean.

She is in the process of negotiating with her family in order to locate her cultural identity as a blind student within her family's grid.

Action 2.1b

I described this in detail in TMA01 and some of this is reproduced here. Lea & Street (1998) describe three models of student writing: study skills model; academic socialisation model; and academic literacies model.

Study Skills Model

XXXX University sessions are often held by library staff, IT technicians or career centre personnel and involve isolated subjects out of context. Kress (cited in Lillis & Scott, 2007, p.12) discusses this approach as normative with the identification of the conventions exhibited by a normal academic member of the community and the teaching of these conventions in isolation. This mirrors the autonomous model described by Street (cited in Lillis & Scott, 2007, p.11) and the cognitive aspect of literacy described by Rassool (2009).

Academic Socialisation Model

Support for learners with literacy difficulties at XXXX University is currently organised in a different manner. Students are encouraged to bring work with them to sessions so that an independent tutor can assist them with their difficulties with the aim of the students becoming as independent as possible over time. This form of support reflects the approaches for younger learners described by Julia Douetil, the National Co-ordinator of Reading Recovery (E801 DVD, Section3) who describes the scheme as a 'battery of independent strategies' that produce individualised plans that are aiming for independence. Lea and Street (1998) criticise these practices as an acculturation of students into academic discourse which fails to address literacy as a social practice as the onus is on the student to change their orientation to learning.

Academic Literacies Model

Individual departments at XXXX University run support sessions where students are assisted to negotiate the contrasting literacy practises between disciplines [the majority of XXXX University students study dual honours degrees]; their knowledge and identity as dual honours students is valued; and the power relationships between disciplines is acknowledged.

These three models are causing tension between lecturers and support staff and also confusion for students as Lea and Jones (in press) report that students rely on the authority of their lecturers when valorising materials. This causes dismissal of study skills sessions held by support staff as irrelevant with poor attendance and lack of attention. The support sessions for students with literacy difficulties have a poor take-up and many students only use them during their first 6 months.

Studying a dual honours course the student is negotiating competing cultures of, for example, a geology student, a music student and a disabled student. At the same time many are coming to terms with their new cultural identities as adults as they move away from home for the first time. Many students find that they cannot come to terms with the swift changes in cultural identity and select which ones are most important to them. This can lead to students denying disabilities, refusing assistance and immersing themselves in their courses. The only way to help these students is to make them aware that support is still available if they decide that they require it in the future and to ensure that any support they do accept is on their own terms and is unobtrusive and does not conflict with their other cultural identities.

In some cases the opposite happens and students identify themselves as a disabled student and fight for constant assistance and use their identity as a disabled student as a barrier to other identities and an excuse for the inability to acquire the culture of their disciplines.

Action 2.1c

I work at three universities and various departments from the whole set are only too relieved to hand over disabled students to the care of support services. They have stated privately that they do not believe that a student with a disability can access their degree course to an adequate level to obtain employment in that field and so there is no point in them studying that particular course.

Alternatively there are departments who are not happy for their students to receive any support as they consider that it will not be valued in the workplace and if they confer a degree on a student with a disability, the whole department's reputation will suffer. This approach is backed up by some professional organisations such as the NHS who raise objections to allowing professional notetakers into lectures for disabled students.

When lecturers and professional organisations hold the opinion that some students should not be studying a degree as they will not benefit the workforce then it is no wonder that some students do not disclose their disabilities or accept help. This is especially true of literacy difficulties where debate over the existence and extent of dyslexia has resulted in many lecturers being reluctant to assist learners with dyslexia. Other students resent those with a diagnosis who get extra time in exams and what they consider 'freebies' using their Disabled Students' Allowance and life can be unpleasant for those who ask for assistance.

Action 2.1d

I have a lot of experience working with disabled students in the field who are studying geology. As part of their field work they are expected to attend residential courses of up to a month long where they work for long days in the field with lectures, preparation work, report writing and presentations in the evening. Some of these courses are 100% of the module mark and this depends on a combination of marks for performance in the field (including presentations of work); a mark for the field notebook (including content, organisation, neatness, spelling and grammar); and often a written report which may have to be written by hand on the boat/plane on the journey home and handed in at the airport!

I am present to act as notetaker and/or support worker for students with a wide variety of impairments and it is possible to envisage the difficulties of working at this intensity level for students who have Myocardic encephalopathy or experience chronic pain. I also work with students who have hearing and/or visual impairments and those with literacy difficulties.

The simplest adjustment for the university to make is to set the student extra work instead of attending the field trip. This is generally in the form of literature reviews and essays concerning the area where the trip is taking place and may involve microscope analysis and study of samples returned from the field. This option is used for students who are taking geology as a second subject and are not showing an interest in using their qualification for employment. However, many of the lecturers do not believe that it should be possible to achieve a geology degree without field work and all encourage students to attend as many field trips as possible (Least Restrictive Environment). There are problems with the use of notetakers as most sites are in wild country and require training in advanced outdoor skills and use of walking and navigation gear. Many lecturers are understandably apprehensive about taking unknown personnel in the field.

'The inclusive education movement argues all children can learn1, that learning is supported by a strong sense of community2, and that services are based on need rather than limited by location3. Also, the movement promotes schoolwide approaches, such as teacher collaboration4, enhanced instructional strategies5, curriculum accommodations and modifications6, and additional supports in general education settings.' (Lipsky & Gartner, 1999, cited p.223)


1.   All students are expected to achieve the same learning objectives by whichever route is possible

2.   All are encouraged to attend field trips to build up the sense of academic community

3.   DSA pays for support workers on field trips

4.   Collaboration is between lecturers, students and support workers at this stage

5.   Many universities are working on virtual field trips and other adaptations for disabled students

6.   Any student can miss up to 10% of a field trip but if they miss more than this there are options to repeat the trip or essays to complete to make up the marks.

Dyson (1999) - 2 discourses for rationale: Rights-and-ethics (fairness from Lipsky & Gartner,1999, but also 'free market'/individual choice from Rizvi & Lingard, 1996); and efficacy (no greater gains if segregated)

Dyson (1999) - 2 discourses for realisation: political (resistance to special ed. professionals); and pragmatic (what it should look like)

Action 2.1e

The probability of the incidence of a particular genetic disability occurring within a population is theorised to be equal across all populations.

13% of the European population aged 16-64 has a disability (Eurostat study, 2001; 12% in 1995) but there are significant differences between member states which is postulated to be due to different cultural perceptions, levels of awareness, quality of services, integration of people with disabilities.


If we are looking at special education and seeing a difference then it suggests that there are other factors that we are not considering and thus there is a 'problem'.

Data are not facts - and it is a waste of time looking at raw data without considering the methodology of the collection of the data, the background of the subjects and the motivations of the collector.

The group of learners with literacy difficulties at my local university tends to be mainly white, middle class - I do wonder if this reflects the fact that they have involved and educated parents who are able to communicate with schools and colleges and insist on the assessments required for dyslexia diagnoses.

'Although few question...' Artiles, 2009, p.226

Flow/Structure: Statement of problem, list of causes, contrasts, reasons

Use of literature: backing up facts in this paragraph

Use of theory: causes linked to theories

Action 2.1f

It definitely matters who is doing the labelling. For example an educational psychologist is generally working freelance and needs to satisfy the disability department of a university who is employing them to diagnose dyslexia in students. They earns a lot of money for doing what the department wants i.e. diagnosing dyslexia so that students can obtain DSA and get the equipment that they would like. This also justifies the employment of the psychologist; makes life easier for the staff of the disabilities office who are having to satisfy lecturers that they are doing their job; justifies the existence of the number of staff in the office; and keeps struggling students happy for a while as they have a justification for their struggles (whether true or not!).

Action 2.1g

I think that silence in a research university setting is very different from that in a school setting. There are three subjects that are totally taboo: the student may be disabled but also does not have the ability to study at that level; the lecturers' belief that certain disabled students should not study their subjects; the fact that international students with disabilities are not supported.

The first is allied with the role of academic culture and is sometimes linked with the distrust of support workers in academic communities. In my experience, support workers at further education level are often encouraged to support students to perform beyond their ability levels by providing personalised instruction and even by writing assignments with their students. This assists institutions to hit their targets but students achieve undeserved grades which enable them to enter university to study subjects without the actual knowledge and experience that they require. This results in failure in their first year at university which reflects badly on the student, their department and on the support workers concerned. It has a knock-on effect that makes university departments reluctant to accept disabled students in future and thus less welcoming on open days and at interview. This results in a reduced likelihood of inclusion of disabled students in that particular department of the university.

It is widely recognised that all students are assimilating a new culture at university but it is expected that once students have gained the marks to get to university, they are capable of the fast pace of learning and acquisition of new terminology and concepts that characterise this academic culture. Students that do not perform at this level, when they have previously gained A level grades that suggest that they are capable of doing so, are generally considered to be lazy. However, the current system of A-levels in modular format makes gaining high grades much more achievable for many disabled students including those who take longer to fix information in long term memory as a limited amount of information is presented in a period of time with plenty of revision time built in to the process. The spring semester at university ends on the Friday of week 12 and exams start on the Monday, there is often no revision time.

This is also linked with the second area of silence. I tend to find lecturers at research universities are passionate about their subjects and enjoy working with students who are working hard and achieving good results. They have an open door policy and will help any student but their highest commitments go to those that will move through to the inner circles of the academic community and they will take on through Masters and PhDs. The department and university reputation depends on their ability to produce good research and supply graduates to good jobs in their field. They need good students who can perform well in research and in employment. If a disabled student cannot access all aspects of the course at university and need courses adjusted for them, then the lecturers have doubts about their ability to gain prestigious employment in the field or ability to participate in high level research.

The third area of silence concerns international students who are not able to access support for their disabilities. International and EU students are not eligible for Disabled Students' Allowance and are generally advised to try to find charitable support. Some universities do try to find some funding but it is not reliable. This creates the situation of underrepresentation of international and EU students receiving additional help.

Action 2.1h

In Action 2.1a I discussed the choices that disabled students make when they start university and how they have to make many decisions very rapidly in order to maintain aspects of their cultures they value and often have to abandon aspects they cannot maintain. It is very closely linked with identity theory and I imagine the cultures as a Venn diagram with interlinking circles with the student at the centre.

Thinking of a specific first year student


  • Deaf culture
  • Chemistry department culture
  • Forensic Science department culture
  • Astrophysics department culture (extra subject)
  • Mature student culture
  • Freshers culture

The clashes occur where these cultures overlap and have different priorities. My example in 2.1a was of a blind student who needed to be independent as part of the culture of a high achieving law student but also needed to be accompanied as a blind Muslim woman.

I am not saying that these clashes do not occur for all students but that the disability culture includes an extra dimension and ALL dimensions need to be considered when supporting a student at university level. If they choose to discard parts of their disability culture by refusing support, then that is their choice. Other students may decide to discard parts of their culture as a fresher and not get drunk all the time; or discard parts of their Muslim culture and get drunk whilst at university.

Action 2.1i

Cohesion - allows members of a culture group to assume an identity. Empowers the group member who can identify with the rules and form their identity.

Stability - fossilised
Empowers others who can make assumptions about the group from previous experience

Tension between group traits is illustrated by the Latinos example

Action 2.1j

I work closely with a group of students with Asperger syndrome. One student is very intelligent and high achieving. She was in her third year when another student with Asperger syndrome started his first year in the same subjects. The lecturer was very confused as he could not equate the behaviour of the second student with the first student and eventually said that he thought that the first student was not very typical of someone with Aspergers.


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H810: Week 16: Activity 35: Seale Chap. 12

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H810: Week 16: Activity 35.1: Seale Chapter 12

Seale identifies six potential areas for conflict or contradiction within an organisation or activity system. What potential contradictions exist in your organisation and why?

I have had problems with this chapter at first as H800 introduced me to third generation activity theory which examines contradictions between systems rather than examining contradictions within one system as in the second generation activity theory described by Seale in chapter 12. For example, In H800 I looked at how Engeström's (2001) third generation activity theory could apply to the Geology department at Keele University with whom I work closely. The reduction in government funding to universities and the need for increased diversity has led to the development of modules delivered completely on-line. I drew the following diagram where two interacting systems produce contradictions which Engeström (2001:137) predicts are the 'sources of change and development'.

Engestroms Third generation activity theory showing contradictions between two systems


I found it useful as a starting point to identify where the contradictions lie and then to proceed to examine them before I went on to design an e-learning module.

I believe that third generation activity theory would be a useful technique to look at institutional response to accessibility (chap 11) but the way Seale has used second generation theory in chapter 12 concerns me as activity theory is designed to illustrate a situated activity and looking at interactions between just two aspects of the activity results in the study of isolated concepts and reduces the effectiveness of a holistic image.

Subject: lecturer
Tools: guidelines, evaluation and repair tools
Rules: institutional and departmental policies and strategies
Community: students, lecturers, technologists, support services developers, managers etc.
Division of labour: planning and funding, designing and developing, implementing and evaluating, using, supporting, advocating
Object: to make e-learning accessible

  • Contradiction between the object and the tools
    Confusion over guidelines - which ones to use
    lack of training / guidance on tools
  • Contradiction between the object and division of labour
    Always someone else's job - affected by workload and belief in complexity of the task.
    For example, rules might dictate that accessible learning activities are designed by technicians who have no idea how to adapt materials to achieve the learning objectives.
  • Contradiction between the community and the division of labour
    'Who does what' arguments similar to above. For example, departments may have different ideas on who has the responsibility to produce accessible learning materials.
  • Contradiction between the community and the rules
    Often the institutional rules and departmental rules conflict. Universities have so much infighting between departments that it makes it difficult to get co-operation and accessibility issues need co-operation!
  • Contradiction between the rules and the subject
    Lecturers having weak or inconsistent guidelines
  • Contradiction between the tools and the subject
    Lecturers having difficulties using tools

According to Searle, "any or all of the contradictions will prevent accessible e-learning practice from developing" (page 153 on my printed version but just before the conclusion to chap.12 anyway!!). This is really not the way I, or any of my H800 tutor group, read activity theory. From reading Engeström I thought that contradictions were a necessary part of expansive learning and that they should be recognised and accepted in contrast to being contained, diverting the energy and losing the impetus for expansive learning.

I commented in the H800 forum that expansive learning presupposes that specific contradictions will give learners the impetus to solve them but that Engeström does not address the fact that the subject may decide to avoid any conflict or stress by remaining with the current situation. In order to retain the impetus for expansive learning, the lecturers should be supported to work through contradictions. They may benefit from support in learning new technologies and policy changes that recognise the extra work involved in creating, developing and running accessible e-modules.


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H810: Week 16: Activity 34: Seale Chap. 11

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H810: Week 15: Activity 34: Seale Chapter 11

Do you think that there are any incentives for your organisation to develop or improve the accessibility of its online resources? If so, what are they?
I believe that I am detecting differences between the three universities and also between departments:

  • One university is a research and teaching university with an emphasis on the research. The emphasis of the website seems to be to produce materials and information that will be attractive to the best students. The legal issue is mentioned as an incentive to make more materials accessible but a greater incentive seems to be the competition between departments. For example, one lecturer applied for research funding which he used to purchase a T3 which produces embossed slides for students with a visual impairment and also to employ a PhD student to prepare slides. He published a paper on the work and attended several conferences. I am certain that his core motive was the interests of his students but the competitive instinct between departments had two others quickly following his example which has resulted in a greater incentive for all three departments to produce accessible materials. Other departments will help out students but rely on them to be proactive in asking for help and discussing issues with the lecturer. One student told me that he liked this approach because he had to enter the 'real world' at some point and needed to be able to do this if he wanted a job. He felt that life had been very easy for him at his specialist school and the approach of this university was a very valuable stepping stone.
  • Another university is mainly a teaching university and the focus is definitely on the student experience. In some ways this is a great approach as the lecturers do their best to ensure the students are participating and get the most from their course. They are generally very approachable and willing to help with accessibility issues but, in my opinion, tend to make life very easy for the students in general. For example, a student with a visual impairment has a few problems accessing the intranet. She can do it but lacks practice. The lecturers bend over backwards to send her all information by email instead and as Word documents rather than pdfs which she does not like. I am beginning to get very concerned that she will end up with a really good degree but be unable to function in employment.
  • The third university is the OU. I feel that the OU is in a very special position here as they have large numbers of students with additional requirements and so the incentive to produce accessible materials is very high. This has led to excellent research in the area and thus an elevated position in the academic community which reinforces the incentive to research and develop accessible materials.

Think back to before you started this course. Are there any assumptions you had then about whether and how to make online resources accessible?

Working in student support, I think that my views were very student centred. I assumed that the lecturers were being obstructive when they did not provide accessible materials and I did not understand the complexities of the issues involved from the lecturer's point of view and all the different aspects of accessibility and how they interrelated.

Have these assumptions or rules changed as a result of studying on the course? If so, why and how?

I have a greater understanding of the complexities involved and much more sympathy with the lecturers who are designing material, especially since I designed my own resource. I do still feel that lecturers need information about good practice and that universal and flexible design should be built in to general materials. They do not need to be referred to the WCAG guidelines! They also need to be told that universal and flexible design is not enough and they may still need to adapt materials or find alternative experiences in some cases.

Thinking about your organisation - can you identify people who make, enforce, advocate or implement 'rules' that apply to accessibility? (You may prefer to refer to roles rather than individuals.)

Students who are proactive and insist on materials being in an accessible format are both rule-makers and rule-enforcers. In some settings they are also asked for their opinions on specific issues.

Lecturers implement the rules but also may be involved in advocating the rules to other departments.

Student services are (or should be!) involved in making, enforcing and advocating rules.

External/Agency support staff are involved in advocating on the behalf of students and may be consulted on rule-making.

Administration, library and information technology staff in all settings can be involved in both implementing and enforcing the rules as they have their own website presence and are often the first resort when students are having difficulties accessing information.

Disability/accessibility consultants advocate on the behalf of students and may be involved in rule-making.

Senior managers enforce rules and may be involved in rule-making.

External organisations may be involved in rule making (government organisations) or enforcing rules (legally/ pressure groups / lobbyists)

In your context, are there any internal politics regarding accessibility? If so, what feeds the political debates:

  • Values/principles?
    Should every course be open to everyone with a disability?
    How can someone gain a geology degree without being able to see and describe rocks and thin sections?
    This debate is fed by the employment objectives of the courses. Figures are published on the number of student's employed once they have graduated with detail on whether their employment is related to their degree course.
  • Costs/resources?
    At one university the majority of resources are focused on research but some lecturers have overcome this by attracting funding into accessibility research
  • Attitudes/beliefs?
    Accessibility is "someone else's problem"
  • Culture/tradition?
    Traditionally it has been the student's job to purchase any extra materials required. Publishers are not happy about releasing digital copies of books to students and so they insist on communicating with universities not individual students. This is a new concept and so there is currently no person responsible. There is a lot of confusion as to whether this should be a library responsibility, a lecturer's responsibility, disability services responsibility or the personal tutor's responsibility.

Do you agree with Seale that 'there is a limit ... to the extent to which the institutional change framework can help us to understand the goals and motivations of institutions and teams'? (Conclusions, p.157)

North's institutional change framework is an example of a conceptual framework.  These frameworks can act like maps that give coherence to empirical inquiry. Because conceptual frameworks are potentially so close to empirical inquiry, they take different forms depending upon the research question or problem (Wikipedia).  North does not describe it as a theory as he says that there are too many gaps in it - these gaps make it possible to include other ideas which make the framework adaptable and so I do not agree with Seale's idea that there is a limit to how far it can assist our understanding. Having studies Engeström's work on contradictions in H800, I think this could be included into the framework to expand our understanding. I am also studying Rassool's framework to understand literacy as part of E801 and I can see the similarities. She includes social, cultural and ideological aspects of literacy in the analytical framework and I could see that including these in the study of accessibility regulation and change would help to understand this complex field. For example, I am currently working with a student from a Muslim background and I am having problems encouraging her independence as her cultural background effects her personal views. This is causing great contradictions as she wants to aim for independence and employment but her cultural background is that she should rely on her brothers for assistance.


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H810: Activity 33.4: Mathematics and music

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H810: Activity 33.4: Mathematics and music

Last year, I worked at a traditional university with a maths student who had only a little sight. There seem to be so many challenges to overcome:

  • The first one was lectures - we had about 15 notetakers available but I was the only one who could manage to notetake at that level.
  • The lecturer would stand at the front and illustrate the maths on the white board. I would sit next to the student and write it again in large format on A3 paper. Unfortunately by the time I had redrawn it, the lecturer was explaining the next concept so the student struggled.
  • Notetaking was done manually as it was difficult to do electronic notetaking at the speed required using the Mathtype program which is screen reader accessible. The notes were then sent to a typist but she had problems using Mathtype and understanding the maths so eventually I ended up typing as well.
  • The student could not access the notes for at least 24 hours as he had to wait for them to be typed so sometimes tutorials were difficult as he did not have the notes.

I have also worked with an Open Univeristy student who was studying maths. He used a screen reader and had no problem accessing the online material although parts of the summer school were a challenge. The online format provided by OU seemed much more accessible than traditional lectures. During the summer school there was a lot of discussion about the difficulties of typing maths formulae and drawing diagrams. This was much more of a problem for the OU students than it was for the ones at the traditional university who had a dedicated computer lab with demonstrators available all day and tutorials to teach them how to use the computers and maths programs.




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H810: Week 15: Activity 33.3: Mobile Devices

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H810: Week 15: Activity 33.3: Accessibility of Mobile Devices

I wear contact lenses and now, as my optician tells me, I am getting old, I either need to have multifocal contact lenses or wear glasses on top of my distance lenses. This can be a real problem with text messages.

I have an iphone and I really like the fact that a magnified letter appears when you hit the key so you know you have hit the correct one!

AFB AccessWorld Editor's Page (Leventhal, 2007)

I think this article is a little old to be of use. In 2007 there were phones that had screen readers and other accessible features but they cost around £700 to buy. I remember this well as one of the students I was working with was asked to beta test the new Dolphin speech program for phones and he was given a phone to try it on and he was thrilled because he could not have afforded it otherwise.

The same lad has an iphone now which he uses to navigate between bus stops in London and he says that he really could not manage without it. He is very impressed with all the accessibility features.

Nuance Mobile Devices (Nuance, 2010)

Very impressed with Dragon Dictation - looks as if it could be really useful. The iphone users that I know are computing students and just use the touch screen to type but this may be easier to get used to for those who are not so dextrous or determined as these two lads!

The iPad could be the best mobile accessibility device on the market (iPadLot, 2010)

Major praise indeed - and searching finds even more improvements:


On 22nd November 2010. Apple released iOS4.2.1 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It makes iOS4.x available on the iPad for the first time, and introduces several accessibility improvements in the process.

The free update to 4.2.1 means you can now control VoiceOver using a wireless keyboard. Support for more than 30 bluetooth refreshable braille displays is also available, along with support for over 25 languages.

Accessing the iPad: Mouthsticks and Styluses (Natsch, 2010)

Amazing post - with great links to others


"new cell phones that run on WP7 will not include any significant built-in accessibility for people with vision loss, and it is not compatible with any third-party screen-access solutions"


Review of accessible GPS for the iPhone

Forum Post:

More of this in my blog but a few points here that I found interesting:

Last month Microsoft were forced to grovel to accessibility groups when they had to announce that their new operating system for phones (WP7) had less accessibility features than the previous version and that it would not have any built in accessibility features for people with vision loss and it was not compatible with any third-party screen-access solutions. Best quote ever from Microsoft: "We were incompetent" Andy Lees.

However, I do remember that Apple had to grovel to the same pressure groups when they first released the iPhone and now the RNIB are saying that "the iPad could be the best accessibility device on the market" It has become even better since November 2010 as Apple released iOS4.2.1 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. This introduces several accessibility improvements including support for more than 30 bluetooth refreshable braille displays.

The force of public pressure seems to be doing its work on Apple - let's hope it works for Microsoft too.

On a personal note, my daughter has fibromyalgia and has found that using a stylus on her iPhone and touchpad for her Apple laptop means that she can continue to work even when she is in pain. In this way she is on track for completing her MSc dissertation.


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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.4

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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.4: Opportunities and Challenges

m-Learning and Accessibility (JISC TechDis, undated)

"Learning with mobile devices can bring many inclusion benefits, enabling learners to access content wherever and whenever they choose, and using a device they know they can operate."

"...it is neither ethical nor sensible to work on a "value subtracted" approach where resources are banned unless all can access them equally. More effective by far is a value added model where the tutor's repertoire of tools and techniques is used to add value to different learners in different ways."

My favourite quote:

"Good practice in accessible learning is not primarily about the technology, technical standards, or course design; nor even (necessarily) the learning resource. It is primarily about each learner's ability to engage with the learning experience. A good learning experience is the result of many factors ranging from the nature of the resources to the quality of the pedagogy and even the personality of the teacher or lecturer. The best predictor of accessible learning is a skilled teacher coupled with quality resources, providing the means to enthuse learners and adapt to their needs. Such skill typically includes a willingness to innovate and a readiness to reflect."

I think that it would be easy to underestimate the confidence engendered by the use of a student's own device. I work with many students with disabilities and a high percentage have visual impairments. Often they come to university and use their own laptops and screen reader software in lectures but when they are in the library and in some workshops/classes they have to use a strange computer with ports in different places and a different screen reader as well as getting used to the teaching material. This makes sessions very stressful and often it is impossible to tell whether the teaching material has accessibility problems or whether the student is just struggling with so many new experiences at once.

The use of their own mobile device, whether that be phone, laptop or ipad, allows the student to relax a little and just concentrate on the learning material as they are already familiar with the equipment and assistive software.


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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.3

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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.3: Accessible Rich Internet Applications

WAI-ARIA Overview (W3C, 2009)

Focus on the issues that are identified and the strategy of the proposal.

Aspects of traditional Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) make accessible support of dynamic content difficult:

1.   Accessibility of dynamic content relies on abstracting semantics from both content and presentational information. Extracting semantic cues from current HTML content is typically unreliable as the cues are limited to tag elements names.

2.   While HTML allows content to be repurposed for presentational formatting, it lacks the ability to attach meaningful metadata about document structure and to convey semantic information. A common example of this is content formatted with tables rather than style sheets.

3.   When combined with script and cascading style sheets (CSS), HTML can be repurposed to create dynamic custom components without providing a means to convey semantic information to native accessibility architectures designed to support dynamic graphical user interface (GUI) content.

4.   Custom components built from common HTML elements often are not keyboard accessible.

JavaScript needs an accessibility architecture to write to such that a solution can be mapped to the accessibility frameworks on the native platform by the user agent.

WAI-ARIA allows web pages (or portions of pages) to declare themselves as applications rather than as static documents, by adding role, property, and state information to dynamic web applications. ARIA is intended for use by developers of web applications, web browsers, assistive technologies, and accessibility evaluation tools.

WAI-ARIA describes how to add semantics and other metadata to HTML content in order to make user interface controls and dynamic content more accessible. For example, with WAI-ARIA it is possible to identify a list of links as a navigation menu and to state whether it is expanded or collapsed. Although originally developed to address accessibility issues in HTML, the use of WAI-ARIA is not limited to HTML: in principle, it can also be used in other markup languages such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).

Fluid. Designing software that works - for everyone (Fluid Project, 2009)

Fluid is a worldwide collaborative project to help improve the usability and accessibility of community open source projects with a focus on academic software for universities.

Carry out an internet search to see which web browsers support WAI-ARIA. The following all support WAI-ARIA to some extent:

Firefox 1.5 onwards

Internet Explorer 5 onwards




"Mozilla leads the pack and Microsoft is doing good work (some may think  suprisingly), all browser vendors are making an effort to support WAI ARIA and in the process improving the general accessibility of their browsers and web content to Assistive Technology."
WAI-ARIA role support - How the MAC browsers stack up

Posted by Steve Faulkner on March 17, 2009;


What do think might be the difficulties of achieving widespread adoption of accessible Web 2.0?

Hmm! Did some research and discovered a big fight between WAI-ARIA supporters and WHAT-WG who deals with the HTML5, although I did find out that this is outmoded now and they just talk about new developments in HTML. I did not understand all the technical detail but the more rational participants in the heated debates were saying that there were small things that needed sorting out but it was possible to implement both systems. Several on the WHAT-WG seemed annoyed that they could not directly address the WAI-ARIA team and sort out problems but just submit their ideas to the team with no responses.



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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.2: Positive Aspects of Web2.0

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Online Conferencing Tools

We used Elluminate Live! a lot during H800 and I hated it! There was far too much multitasking for my slow-moving cognitive skills to keep up with!! It is also very difficult for deaf people and screen readers do not manage it too well either as there are too many windows used (despite the company's assurances that it is fine!). However, I have really missed it on H810, not only because of the contact with the tutor and other members of the course but because it is so much easier to discuss group activities. I get some contact with other course members on Twitter which has really helped me and it is even better when the tutors join in discussions. I miss the contact with my tutor to ask pre-TMA questions that seem too trivial to email about or post on the forum. I feel that the group activities via the Wiki have not really worked for our group. People post things and may visit once to check what else is there but it is not interactive.

I feel that the lack Elluminate on this course has been a loss for me. Accessibility is an issue in many ways: time zones; family/work clashes; technology issues; being unable to multitask (me!); unable to access audio; unable to access video. If it is handled correctly with an accurate reporting of the session on the forum then everyone can gain from the session whether they can attend or not. Our tutor on H800 modelled good practice by posting reports of our initial sessions on the forum and we followed this model when we held our own independent sessions. Comments on these reports, from people who could not attend for various reasons, were very positive. I believe that the group discussion that occurred actually helped the whole of the tutor group whether or not they attended the session as the immediacy of the contact allowed us to discuss, clarify and resolve problems we were all experiencing and the report back on the forum made it accessible for all. Not an ideal solution for those that could not access the session but better than not holding a session at all.

RSS Feeds

I posted a blog link on Twitter a couple of days ago on 'More Notes to Web Developers: How NOT to do RSS' http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/12/10/more-notes-to-web-developers-how-not-to-do-rss/

I had no idea at the time that this exercise was here!

I love Google Reader, I have it embedded on my iGoogle home page and scan it every day. I had not considered it from the view of accessibility and this was quite an eye opener for me.

I was interested in the fact that truncation of feeds was a problem - I hate this too because I prefer to read straight from iGoogle but I had not realised how annoying it would be for screen reader users.




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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.1: What are the accessibility issues?

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Web 2.0 & Accessibility for Disabled Users (Moonan, 2007)

This is a summary of issues as they were in 2007.

  • Inaccessible login boxes or security tests with no alternatives such as audio.
  • Inaccessible WYSIWYG editors that are not compatible with assistive technologies or only work with a mouse or pointing device instead of just the keyboard which makes it impossible for some users to create or edit text
  • Inaccessible interfaces which are dependent on drag and drop (interaction with a mouse or pointing device) with no alternative keyboard option.
  • Screen reader users are not alerted when content has changed dynamically without the page refreshing (specifically Ajax)
  • Inaccessible content users have created, such as:
    • Content is created without semantic code - which gives non visual information about the content, which is especially useful for screen reader users
    • Images are included without alt text
    • Styles and designs are selected which are difficult or impossible to read
    • Rich media is included without captions or alternatives
  • Inaccessible controls on audio or video players that are not compatible with assistive technologies or are reliant on using a mouse or pointing device
  • Users not being alerted to accessibility issues when inputting content

I did not understand all the technical information about Ajax but it did make me very aware that we need to include messages at the top of the page to identify the fact we are using JavaScript and that the page updates dynamically. I have seen this much more frequently on websites lately so I am hoping that the situation has improved since 2007.

Social networking sites lock out disabled users (AbilityNet, 2008)

This is a review of the current state, which highlights the lack of progress in making Web 2.0 accessible.

Surprised by this as my friends who are blind all use Facebook. Some prefer to use the mobile version as it cuts out some of the games etc that are too visual but others use the full site. I think that the move to mobile technologies has really given the accessibility movement a big shove forwards!!!

I found the accessibility page in the help centre was interesting reading as they do seem to be taking the issues seriously and welcoming comments. They also recognise that audio captcha may be a problem and offer individual help.

Blinding Technology of Online Learning (Kolowich, 2010)

"Advocacy groups do not believe online classrooms should deploy such materials [dynamic content] until they can be made accessible to blind students."

I don't agree. I feel that an alternative should be offered such as the 'HTML only' or 'No Javascript' versions offered by Facebook.

"It should also be noted that less than a third of Blackboard clients have upgraded to the more accessible version,"

This is a problem I have discovered at both universities where I work. Students using screen readers have a real problem accessing the older versions of Blackboard and WebCT and often need to book and pay for a support worker to sit next to them to read the page to them.

"Online education keep innovating, push forward and assistive technology keep up!" Comment posted by Kevin Chao at Bossier Parish Community College on August 23, 2010 at 2:15pm EDT (uses JAWS)


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H810: Week 14: Activity 29.1: Seale Chap. 10

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Week 14: Activity 28.1: Seale Chapter 10 / Policy Documents

1. Does the organisation where you work have an accessibility (or similar) policy? Use your alternative context, or think about the questions in general terms, if you don't work for a relevant organisation.

Having searched I have found that Staffordshire University have several accessibility policies that are written in with the various sections to which they apply.  They seem to be written by specialists in the area with help of the Student Enabling Centre.
I cannot find evidence of any monitoring polices.

2. How might you improve on accessibility-related policies that exist in your organisation?

The documents appear well considered and well written. I like the fact that they are written as part of the policies to which they refer rather than as a separate document. I do think that there should be some route to report any accessibility issues and I cannot find this. I tend to think that no monitoring is set up.

3. Who are the key people who have a role in managing accessibility in your organisation?

I cannot determine this from the information that I can find.

I intend to make some enquiries when I am next at university in order to see if I can find out the existence of responsible staff or a monitoring system.


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H810: Week 14: Activity 28.1: Seale Chap. 9

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Week 14: Activity 28.1: Seale Chapter 9 / Training

What was effective or ineffective about the staff training event/resource?

I have attended training events with three different organisations. The best courses were flexible, modular and led by experts who were trained in the field and very experienced.

The best training I experienced was one with an agency working with students who had hearing or visual impairments or Asperger Syndrome. The training covered lectures and practical sessions but was then followed by a short presentation by a notetaker and three students who used the agency's services. The students talked about the things that had helped them and the things that they especially liked or disliked. They were happy to answer questions at the end and very open about  their disabilities. The course participants were very enthusiastic about the benefits of the session and said that it really brought to life all the information that they had learnt in the previous sessions.

To what extent did the following factors influence the effectiveness of the experience for you: content or focus; structure or presentation; role or expertise of the leaders/developers?

One was an official training with the aim of taking notetaking qualifications at the end of the course. The qualifications were aimed at notetaking for deaf people but the job role was working with people who had hearing or visual impairments so the training consisted in lectures for both subjects where we were assisted to notetake correctly. In this way we practiced the skill whilst learning about both impairments. Practical exercises were also included.

Time and cost had an effect on the training. One training was held an hours drive from me and I was expected to attend for 5 days with no pay. This was difficult at the time. The Open University training was held over two days with a choice of week or weekend. There was a small payment plus travel expenses and accommodation. This made life much easier!

Some of the best leaders were people who had worked for years in the area or people with personal experience of the impairments.

Use your reflections and answers to Question 1 to develop a conceptualisation of what you think makes or defines an effective accessibility-related training event/resource and an effective trainer or staff developer.

I like the Open University training for support workers with a compulsory two day workshop-style training every two years with an online detailed training for specific impairments and situations. Experienced trainers are essential and the opportunity to discuss general support needs with students has been welcomed in all the situations I have experienced.

Should accessibility-related staff development be made compulsory for all those who work in post-16 education?

What are the reasons behind your answers?

I would like to see training as outlined above with a mixture of compulsory and voluntary modules with the compulsory modules being aligned to the staff role. For example a lecturer may have compulsory sessions in general disability training; designing accessible materials for the university learning environment; but also be encouraged to build up a portfolio of knowledge with more specific trainings such as accessibility needs for particular impairments; evaluation tools etc.

What do you think are the pros and cons of making accessibility-related staff development compulsory?


  • Staff can feel more confident about their approach to producing materials that will be accessible by their students
  • Students are empowered because the material is generally accessible and they only have to ask for one or two adjustments.
  • Students are aware that they are asking staff who are already knowledgeable about the area and do not have to start with the basics
  • The university can be confident that all staff are trained


  • Busy staff can resent additional training and this resentment can be transferred to the students that they see causing this extra work.
  • Discussing disability in isolation makes it seem like an additional problem - not part of the spectrum of students.


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Week 14: Activity 27.4

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Week 14: Activity 27.4

First of all I had to find out what was meant by Alt Format - it seems to mean any alternative format used by users.

Challenge 1: How does the provision of Alt Format fit into other emerging models for data management and delivery?
In my current context the most pertinent example concerns the University learning system. It has its own website and portal with a link into all the other systems the students use. This produces a very complex system and one student I am working with has a severe visual impairment; another has severe dyslexia. Both have found it very difficult to remember the sequences to access the information that they require

Challenge 2: How do we build systemic capacity to meet the projected needs for Alt Format and Accessible Curricular Materials?
Currently many of the resources required by a student have to be adapted by their support workers or they are paid for using their DSA. This results in duplicative work and it is time consuming and expensive. Publishers are also issuing digital copies of books to individual students and insisting they sign a copyright agreement. This results in the effort of obtaining these textbooks being duplicated each time a student needs the book.

Challenge 3: How do we align the divergent Alt Format efforts occurring on an international bases so that they minimize redundancies and duplicative efforts?
I would love to see a cooperative effort between Staffordshire University and Keele University Law Schools at least - a small start but it could really help.

Challenge 4: How do we move beyond the current focus on Blind and Visual disabilities to a more holistic model of access for the gamut of print disabilities?
Working at university, there is a high premium on academic prowess and often the amount of rhetoric clouds the issue. Students do need to learn to interpret this rhetoric but they do not need to do so on general web pages and in assignment instructions. Having a university standard for the reading level of a general text and using a readability tool as part of accessibility testing would be an improvement. The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (England and Wales) uses an adapted version of the Simple Measure of Gobbledegook (SMOG) calculator to produce a readability level (NIACE, 2009).

National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (England and Wales) (NIACE, 2009) Readability: how to produce clear written materials for a range of readers. Available from:  http://shop.niace.org.uk/media/catalog/product/R/e/Readability.pdf [Accessed 20th November 2010]

Challenge 5: How do we develop the level of technological literacy in students with print disabilities that will be necessary for them to benefit from the technological evolutions that are occurring in curricular access?

Dr. Ian Rowlands reported that Florida State University gave their incoming students an information skills test. There was a strong positive correlation with initial IT skills and the best final grades. Both the top and bottom quartile of students thought they had done well on the assessments. This indicates that it is not enough to trust a student's verbal self-evaluation when assessing their IT skills.


I am currently working with a student who refuses to accept any training as she feels it will be a waste of time when she is already so proficient at using technology. Working closely with her, it is clear that she needs a great deal of help with word processing as well as with her assistive technology.

Challenge 6: How do we involve all of the curricular decision makers in the process of providing fully accessible materials?

I have mentioned this before. Pedagogy first and so it is lecturers who need to be involved in adapting materials - they are the only ones who know what is required as learning objectives.


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Week 14: Activity 27.2: Student Life

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Week 14: Activity 27.2: Student Life

1. What action has been taken to make sure that disabled students are able to take part in the same non-teaching activities as other students?

2. What other action could be taken?

3. In your view, which role in your context carries the responsibility for ensuring that such action is taken?

This is something that really concerns me. As an academic support worker I am meant to be involved in academic activities only as that is what the DSA pays for. Luckily my last supervisor agreed with me that these instructions could be translated fairly liberally and I was able to use time to introduce students to the Students Union, Islamic Centre, Athletics Union and the various clubs etc. This makes a big difference to the students in the first weeks of their first semester as they start to build a social circle that can support them at university. This can make a difference between success and failure at the academic course and I think it is vital. Currently this university does not have any mentors that could supply this service although other universities do this as a matter of course. I feel that it is the responsibility of the university to ensure that their facilities are accessible to disabled students.

For example, the Student Union Societies Fair is not accessible to disabled students. It is in an accessible building but it is in a hall that is crowded with stalls and people and someone using a wheelchair or on crutches would not be able to use it. It is also very dark with loud music playing. Anyone with a hearing or visual impairment hates it and I do not think that I need even mention those with Asperger Syndrome  - it is a nightmare and even with physical support they find it difficult. Last year I collected bags of freebies for some of the students and gave them out to them later. It was not the same but they did end up going around carrying the same shoulder bags as all the other freshers and getting the 25% Dominos discount voucher codes!



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Week 14: Activity 27.3: Library Resources

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Week 14: Activity 27.3

Schmetzke, A. (2007) Leadership at the American Library Association and Accessibility: a Critical View


"no one, people with disabilities included, should find himself or herself in a position where they have to fight battles"

So true, and when you have a tutorial to prepare for that requires 5 hours work and you have to book an academic support worker to help you access the material, your support worker is employed 9-5 Monday to Friday; you have to explain what you want to them before you start and then it takes about 3X as long to do the work because you have to direct their reading. Let's forget fighting to get your software to work on the computer and access the online databases you need. Where does all this time come from? Let alone the time needed to fight the battles.

Yesterday I was working with a blind student. I asked if she wanted to check her emails and she replied that she knew that she needed to but we only had two hours left and it would take that long to take notes from the chapter she needed for her assignment - the book was not available electronically so she could not access it herself.

Kerscher, G. (2007) The Essential Role of Libraries Serving Persons Who Are Blind and Print Disabled in the Information Age



Accessibility in the context of Staffordshire University's Law Library

The library is easily accessible for manual and electronic wheelchairs and there are two desks which have an adjustable height and the possibility for two people to work together. Due to this, the computers are popular with other students but they have notices to indicate that priority is to be given to disabled students.

The library has five computers with some speech and magnification programs and two with a large screen to assist those magnifying the text. It can be noisy at times and difficult to work together. It can also be a problem reading to a student as other people are working quietly.

The library had a good selection of law books and journals in paper format which student with visual impairment cannot access without academic support. Last year a specialist member of the library staff was responsible for obtaining key textbooks in an accessible format. Unfortunately this member of staff has changed jobs and individual lecturers were asked to ensure that material was available. This did not work and so a single tutor is trying to obtain the text books. This is difficult as he is teaching and not in his office to constantly chase one publisher that is being very resistant.

The two databases that are required to research law are Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. Westlaw is difficult to use but achievable using a screen reader. Lexis-Nexis is inaccessible as it is written in frames. This restricts the ability of visually impaired students to research independently.

The online journal access can prove problematical as the up-to-date copies are not available online. I am uncertain whether this is due to publishers' policy or due to a cheaper licence being purchased.

The library supplies no scanning and OCR service and individual students need to pay for this to be done by their academic support service using their disabled students' allowance.

Printing and photocopying services are paid for using the student's account which can be topped up online or by using cash at machines in the library. However, this machine is placed too high to be used by a user in a wheelchair and has a touch screen function with no speech function. The printers also have a touch screen with no speech function and are therefore inaccessible for users with a severe visual impairment. Many students print out information for their support workers as it is difficult to provide support when the student has the only copy of the information on the screen and it is magnified so the support worker cannot read it.


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Week 14: Activity 27.1: Seale Chapter 8

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Week 14: Activity 27.1: Seale Chapter 8

1. How helpful do you think it is to have 'specialised' rooms or areas in an educational institution, which only disabled learners can use to access technology/online learning material?
Bristol UWE: specialised rooms - entered by student card key. Students have personalised cards, for example students can have their cards modified to allow them to use the Islamic centre, to use the specialist computer labs for science students, to use the accessible entrance to the library etc. A student told me that they really liked the system as the numbers using the room were small and they did not have to fight other students for access. She has Asperger syndrome and struggles in crowded spaces.

Staffordshire University: many computers available in the library with 4 specifically labelled saying that they have to be vacated if a disabled student requires them. These computers have large screens for magnification, adjustable desks and a selection of programmes (Zoom text, Jaws etc.). I have been working with a blind student and she always seemed very confident when asking another student if you could have the computer but last week she told me that she hated doing it as she was always worried about interrupting other students' work. We discussed a separate room and she said that she would love it.

Keele University: many computers available all over site. One in the library has a large screen and Jaws installed. This is on an adjustable height desk and labelled for use by disabled students only. A site licence for Supernova has been purchased and so it can be used on any networked computer on site. Study rooms with a networked computer can be booked for support work for a maximum of a two hour slot or individual study cabins with can be booked for whole days with a £10 deposit for a key. Wireless networks extend over the whole library building and many other buildings on site so students can use their own computers with specialist software in many places on campus. It is possible to connect these to electrical sockets in many places. Study rooms are available for all students so they need to be booked in advance which causes some frustrations to disabled students. In my opinion it is a great compromise as it allows students to book rooms and does not create the impression of an unfair advantage for disabled students. I would imagine that it is very frustrating to see spare computers in a room which you cannot enter when you are desperate to print out an assignment/lecture notes and cannot find a free computer anywhere else!

2. Do you think student support services need to employ accessibility or disability experts? If so, how might the role of these 'experts' complement or work against the role of other staff working within student support services?
I believe that disability/accessibility experts are required and should be available for consultation by both staff and students. They should also coordinate the personal support available for students, have equipment that is available on loan and I would really like to see the university have its own ACCESS centre for DSA assessments.

3. How are student support services organised or structured in your institution? In what ways do you think this organisation influences the way in which disabled learners are supported to use or access technology?
Staffordshire University have a 'Student Enabling Centre' for students with disabilities. ACCESS assessments are carried out here and organisation for academic support. It is a friendly and comfortable environment. In Stafford it is located in the main building and easily accessible; in Stoke it is located at one of the campuses and not easily accessible from the other but emails get a rapid response.

Keele University have CLASS - the Centre for Learning And Student Support. It is in the centre of campus and easily accessible but one office deals with all student support and it can be crowded. It can also be difficult to get an appointment with the only disability-trained adviser. A few private rooms are available for training but these are difficult to book. ACCESS assessments and dyslexia assessments can be carried out on site by visiting professionals but need to be booked quite a long time in advance. The students coming to the centre have a variety of support needs and often end up discussing their needs over the counter with untrained secretaries in order to justify why they need an appointment. This is often in front of a crowd of other students, and support workers waiting for other students.

4.   What would you change about the way in which students are supported in your institution and why? (You might find your notes from Topics 8 and 9 relevant to this question.)
I am currently working at Staffordshire University most of the time. I have been very impressed with the support they offer to both students and staff but I would like to see a bookable support room and more memory space on the computer to enable my student's pendrive version of Supernova to operate correctly. I would also like to see a specialist librarian in control of ordering accessible versions of ebooks for visually impaired students. Currently a very busy lecturer is tearing his hair out trying to sort them! Some of these seem small problems to sort out but most of the student's time is taken up by frantically trying to play catch up with the work load. She is a great student and a high achiever and so it takes a long time to access all the material she requires and complete tutorial work and assignments.



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H810: Week 13 : Activity 26.3

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Week 13: Activity 26.3: Universal Design

Universal Design of Instruction (Burgstahler, undated)

'The field of universal design can provide a starting point for developing an appropriate teaching model.'

I like this - universal design is a great start but we have to go on from here to help individual students access the curriculum

I like the fact it is proactive and disabled students are not left 'playing catch-up' in order to try to keep up with rest of the students

Flexibility is key in my opinion. There are too many contrasting needs to make a truly universal design. For example the blind student who assessed my resource would have liked black print on a white background whilst the student with dyslexia preferred the blue on white. Buttons on the site to change colour, font etc. really enable designers to come close to universal design.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines - Version 1.0 (CAST, 2007)

UDL has three primary principles that provide the structure for these Guidelines:

  • Principle I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation (the "what" of learning). Students differ in the ways they perceive and comprehend the information presented to them.

    I am currently working with a student who has a severe visual impairment. She lost most of her sight at the age of 16 years by which time she had already discovered that her preferred learning style was visual. She still has enough sight to revise by drawing out large diagrams but it is not easy for her.
  • Principle II: Provide Multiple Means of Expression (the "how" of learning). Students differ in the ways they are able to navigate a learning environment and express what they know.

    I have experienced the following adjustments in the universities where I work: allowing speech impaired people to plan and design PowerPoint presentations using the inbuilt speech features; allowing a student with ME to verbally present the information rather than spend all evening writing a report on a field course;
  • Principle III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement (the "why" of learning). Students differ markedly in the ways they can be engaged or motivated to learn.

    One third year module at Keele University is Inspirational Landscapes in Geography. Assessment is 20% test and 80% project. Previous student projects have included:
    • Impact of the Malvern Hills on Elgar's music
    • Video diary of a walk in Wordsworth's footsteps
    • Photomontage of the experience of Dovedale
    • Influences of Indian landscape on fashion design
    • Johnny Depp: face, costume and landscape
    • Landscapes of Lord of The Rings
    • Thomas Hardy and the "Wessex" landscape
    • Landscape design for computer games

The module sounds fascinating and I know several students who really enjoyed it. http://www.esci.keele.ac.uk/people/pgk/geg-30014/handbook.html




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H810: Week 13 : Activity 26.2

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Week 13: Activity 26.2: Creating Special Resources

JISC TechDis: Text-only web sites: accessibility savour or a waste of time?



Quick and easy method

Segregation of disabled people

Good for transcripts

Solution for blind people not others


Conversion also has barriers


Complex to maintain two sites


Which appears on search?


Difficult for people with reading disabilities


The Speechlet Project (Mullier, 2003)

Allows blind students of Java programming to use existing course material.

Really close to home this one as I have spent hours trying to describe computer screens to students desperately trying to write graphics programs.



Allows visualisation of graphics

Students learning material they may never use

Easier for lecturers than rewriting course for one student


Allows student to cover same material as other students


Students learn to use graphical elements that may be needed i workplace


Student can work without booking support workers




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