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Doing what comes naturally…

Doing what comes naturally…

Most people who work in further education have been used to making reasonable adjustments to encourage a wide variety of students to attend and achieve their educational goal. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2002), or SENDA, offers us all an opportunity to continue to make progress in ensuring that whatever we do is available to the widest possible group of learners. It is good to have the force of legislation behind us.

SENDA says that:

  • It is unlawful for institutions to treat a disabled person ‘less favourably’ than anyone else
  • Part of not discriminating is by making adjustments
  • These adjustments are required when they are considered reasonable

How does using Blackboard address the issue of making a reasonable adjustment?
Having course and staff information, direct weblinks, and all the other things that we use Blackboard to do, means that information is available in a variety of formats. Blind, partially sighted and dyslexic students can use text read back software to access information, rather than being reliant on ‘getting it’ in the slightly more pressurised classroom situation. Deaf students might also find the ability to view the materials associated with their course in their own time, and at their own speed, a bonus.

So where are the pinch points? In most institutions, there isn’t a house style which is policed for accessibility/usability issues. Colleges may only just be starting to think about informing staff about :

  • The best fonts for reading on screen
  • Layout and design of on-line material
  • Adjusting colour/background settings
  • Using text read back software (some do not work in a Powerpoint show for example)
  • Using features when setting up a Blackboard course which ensures it is usable to the widest range of students – quizzes can really disadvantage the dyslexic learner if lecturing staff aren’t aware that some quiz types are not suitable for the poor speller/reader.

Using Blackboard is a reasonable adjustment to ensure that a very wide range of people can access the curriculum.

This section on accessibility isn’t limited to those with a recognised disability. It will be a useful place to highlight the numerous ways we have always worked to recognise the variety of learning styles and teaching styles. This is what makes us an interesting and innovative education sector.

We look forward to sharing best practice and ways of overcoming difficulties

Author: Ellen Lessner

22 February 2004

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