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Policy Issues

Policy issues being addressedThere are a number of significant policy issues which will determine the extent to which disabled learners are supported.  Different policy issues operate at different levels within an institution/learning provider but the following are all important issues that must be owned by somebody.

Anticipation

One of the key requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act is the "anticipatory duty" it puts on service providers. Service providers must operate within a policy framework that:

  • Assumes disabled staff or learners will be involved in the organisation,
  • Involves disabled people in identifying actual or potential barriers
  • Makes cognizance of good practice guidelines available from a wide range of organisations

Communication

Many learning providers do a good job of supporting disabled staff and learners but it would be impossible to tell this from their prospectus, their website or their course details.  It may even be difficult to tell from their written policies.  It is critical that good practice is explicitly communicated.  This benefits disabled staff and learners because they become aware of the services and adjustments that are available to them. It also benefits institutions by making them much more risk-resilient should a complaint arise under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Learner independence

There are many different ways of supporting disabled learners and different types of support involve different degrees of intervention by staff. It is important that the support given should optimise learner independence.  This may require a balancing act between what a learner would prefer, what an institution can afford and what gives the learner greatest autonomy, responsibility and self direction. Where possible, policies should encourage regular reviews of the nature of support the learner requires. The long-term aim should always be to encourage the learner to increasing levels of autonomy and self-reliance.

Corporate culture of shared responsibilities

Learning support practitioners have a vital and valuable role in supporting learners but teaching staff have an even more important role in reducing barriers to participation at source. IT/network managers, learning resource managers, admissions tutors, marketing managers and Administration staff all play a part in the total experience of a disabled learner or indeed a disabled staff member. Accessibility, and inclusion and disability awareness need to be shared across all staff roles.

Staff development

Policies should aim for all staff to be aware of good accessibility practices in terms of their key areas of work.  This will be different for a network manager compared to a marketing manager or a member of the teaching staff. Staff development should move beyond attitudinal issues to pragmatic practices that influence daily work.  Good practice for accessibility is good practice for all users of a service.

Policy issues - subsections