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Anticipatory Adjustments

The concept of ‘Reasonable adjustment’ is enshrined in the Special Educational Needs Disability Act (SENDA 2001). It requires ‘responsible bodies’, in this case learning providers, to ensure that students are not ‘substantially disadvantaged’ by virtue of disability and that learning materials are made available to them in a form they can access. The duty of ‘reasonable adjustment’ in SENDA is anticipatory, that is, ‘responsible bodies’ must make plans to accommodate special needs instead of simply trying to react on an ad hoc basis.

The following are major anticipatory steps which learning providers could take in respect of provision for motor impaired learners, ranked in approximate descending order of importance:

  • Encourage a culture of corporate and individual responsibility for the meeting of special needs –see JISC Techdis Senior Manager Briefings 1 and 2.
  • Create guidelines relating to activities outside the normal learning environment - for example field courses, lab work and work placements. These should be developed locally with advice from relevant specialists.
  • Whilst it is important to anticipate it is also important to learn from the learner. Speaking with the learner to identify likely challenges (and agree on suggested solutions) is essential, but these discussions can only be meaningful in the context of well thought-through strategies.
  • Ensure all curriculum resources in each subject area are available in digital format on the learning platform / VLE. Digital versions allow learners flexibility on how they work with resources and how they handle large amounts of content.
  • Ensure the learner is aware of the extent to which their personal technologies can support them – e.g. images, voice recording and reminders on a mobile phone.
  • Market assistive technologies to ALL learners and provide training resources – for example screen capture video clips showing the use of the resources. Learners with mobility impairments may particularly benefit from word prediction software, voice recognition, alternative input software and alternative pointing devices and keyboards/keyboard guards. There are some excellent commercial products on the market but it is worth becoming familiar with the wide range of free assistive technologies (see the Techdis guidance). By incorporating free technologies into the mix you offer learners more choice and more flexibility - for example they may use a commercial product in the institution and a free product at home.
  • Provide staff development in the use of technology to support dyslexic learners. This should include:
    • Creating accessible documents so all resources on the learning platform/VLE meet a minimum accessibility specification.
    • Effective use of Interactive Whiteboards (where appropriate to teaching context).
  • Encourage a culture of educational experimentation - the wider the repertoire of the teaching staff the more flexibly they can meet differing learner needs.
  • Except where assessment rules this out, encourage a culture of collaborative learning

Meeting special needs should not be the responsibility of a special unit or the unit which just happens to have a student with special needs; the culture of meeting the needs of all students should be corporate and the way those needs are met should be through the acceptance of personal responsibility; nonetheless, tutors need to be given guidance on what is reasonable for them to provide and when they should legitimately share their responsibilities. Good practice in providing accessible resources will benefit all learners and teaching staff need to be aware of the key pointers covered in the JISC Techdis Accessibility Essentials series).

Note that almost all the major requirements to meet the anticipatory duty and on-going needs are based on good practice and the nature of the institutional culture. Few involve any financial outlay and the benefits of good practice can impact far wider than disabled learners.

Learner self assessment and, if necessary, external assessment should be undertaken to establish accessibility needs. It should not be assumed that students possess ‘access technology’ or, that if they do, they can use it to a necessary level of competence. See point 1.2 above.

Student requirements should be determined at the point of acceptance and a prioritised strategy for provision agreed. Areas of potential difficulty may include:

  • Field work, practicals and work placements.
  • Keeping up with extensive reading lists or writing assignments.

Further information and guidance