Utskrift från Malmö universitets webbplats www.mah.se

Make your teaching more accessible

Students with disabilities can be greatly helped when teachers have knowledge of suitable teaching support and can find solutions that include the student in lectures, social contexts in conjunction with the course, and in any communication involving students. When a teacher ensures that the teaching accommodates the various needs of all students, it often benefits everyone. All students benefit from taking part in discussions about the steps necessary to support them in their studies.

More information about making your teaching more accessible can be found on Universal Design for Learning’s (UDL) website.

UDL is an educational approach which gives useful guidelines for developing a syllabus, choosing teaching materials and creating a learning environment which includes all students, regardless of whether they have a disability.

How to support students

The study environment

An impairment becomes a disability when the physical or psychosocial environment lacks basic accessibility. A well-considered environment characterised by openness and respect generally benefits students with disabilities and results in fewer individual solutions being required later.

It is an educational challenge to design a learning environment so that accessibility and participation are ensured for all students. Accommodations relating to the structure andcontent of the teaching, how students are divided into groups, the choice or adaptation of facilities, and the design of the teaching materials can all be of benefit to students.

Syllabus

Clear learning goals make things easier for students and are a good starting point when necessary accommodations need to be made. It is important that the skills and knowledge to be assessed, as well as the assessment criteria are clearly stated. For example, is it a requirement to write Swedish to a certain standard?

Course literature

Students with disabilities can receive adapted course literature from the Swedish Agency for Accessible Media (MTM). Books that have already been published can be downloaded directly from MTM’s website. Ordering new editions takes approximately 6–8 weeks. This means that changes to the literature list cannot be made after the syllabus has been finalised.

All course material should be available in electronic form for reading Braille or speech synthesis and preferably be in Word format.

Introduction

At the start of the course, you can inform the students who need specific accommodations to contact you to discuss their needs. The student is usually the expert on their disability, and you have the best knowledge of the course’s structure, content and goals. Establishing a dialogue at an early stage can facilitate the best solutions without compromising the course’s learning goals.

If a student has applied for support for their disability, it is likely that they will then be in contact with the staff at Disability Service in the Student Centre. In this case, the student will get an authorised document stating their needs for special educational support,which can later serve as a good starting point in the conversation between the teacher and student.

Tips on how to make your teaching more accessible

Lectures

Always use a microphone in lecture halls, and make sure students who want to speak also use the microphone. In some halls, you can find a hearing loop which is activated by the microphone. It also helps to repeat questions and comments from the students. Those with hearing impairment may need to lip-read, so be sure to face the students and avoid backlighting if possible.

Begin by briefly giving an outline of the lecture and then summarise at the end of the lecture.

Prepare handouts in advance so that students have the opportunity to prepare for the content and learn any new words or concepts. This makes it easier to take notes and facilitates understanding of the content. Any materials you publish on the learning platform should be easy to find.

Audio and video recording

Students with certain disabilities have the right to make audio and video recordings. This should only be carried out by the student, who must be present at the lecture. If a student wants to make an audio or video recording, they must notify the teacher well in advance.

Upon request, the student must be able to present a document from Disability Service confirming their right to make recordings during lectures.

It’s a challenge to shape the classroom environment in a way that ensures accessibility and participation for all students.

Pauses and breaks

For students who have difficulties concentrating or pain issues, having a short break can be crucial for learning and participation.

Seminars and oral presentations

Clearly explain the purpose of the seminar and how it will be conducted. Writing keywords on the board during presentations can provide structure and make content easier to remember. People who have anxiety can benefit from presenting to a smaller group, only to the teacher, or being the first person to present. If you allow the student to avoid presenting, bear in mind that this is not always the best way to provide support.

Group work and practical activities

It’s important that you decide on how the groups will be divided. People with disabilities may experience not being chosen for group work. Give students with disabilities the opportunity to influence which group they work with. It is also a good idea to divide students in several smaller groups, rather than a few big ones.

Some people have a very hard time working in a group without guidance from the teacher. Set the framework for group work by clearly defining how they should approach the assignment. Make sure the students understand their tasks and the role they have within the group.

Examinations

Present all information consistently, logically and clearly. Use simple and comprehensible language; for example, avoid long sentences with too many negatives. If you are using multiple choice questions, make sure that the alternatives are not too similar. Also, be sure to use a font size larger than 12 points and make the layout as clear as possible. All students benefit from a variation in examination forms.

Distance studies

Encourage contact between course participants. This can be especially valuable for students with disabilities.

Tips and advice for specific disabilities

In the brochure "How to make your teaching more accessible", you will find specific advice for disabilities such as dyslexia, neuropsychiatric disorders, motor disabilities, visual impairments, hearing impairments and psychological disabilities.