Providing Learning Support for Students with Hidden Disabilities and Dyslexia Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

Introduction and Context

Students with disabilities: new expectations and priorities

As participation in higher education (HE) increases for groups which were previously under-represented, so expectations are changing about the scale and quality of learning support which should be available for students with disabilities. If such students are to receive improved learning opportunities, it is important that an awareness of these changes is not confined to disability specialists. Discipline-based academic staff and others directly responsible for student learning also need to understand the new priority being given to disability issues. Academics, support staff and others working in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) need to consider what measures should be taken to further improve the quality of learning opportunities for students with disabilities.

The national factors driving the main developments taking place in this area include changes in legislation, in quality assurance procedures and in funding. The government is currently introducing legislation on disability rights in higher education; the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has recently published a Code of Practice on Students with Disabilities (QAA, 2000c) and there are new funding provisions both for institutions and for students. Disability issues are therefore clearly going to permeate higher education more widely and more deeply. Amongst other implications, academic staff will need to address in a more focussed and creative way, curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment issues as they affect students with disabilities. This will entail maintaining a clear focus on academic standards and rigour while thinking imaginatively about how students with disabilities can be supported and enabled to demonstrate their achievements. To some academic staff this will be a new agenda. To most it will be require looking again, and perhaps with a new light, at issues which are now featuring much more prominently on the HE stage.

This volume on dyslexia and hidden disabilities is one of a series which is designed to assist in this task those staff who are responsible for the organisation and delivery of field teaching. Fieldwork is one of the principal modes of teaching in several higher education disciplines, and especially in geography and in the earth and environmental sciences. There are nearly 6,000 HE students in the UK with dyslexia and the numbers are continuing to rise. This is the largest single disability category in higher education. The other groups covered in this volume include those with asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, musculoskeletal disorders, lung and kidney problems, heart conditions and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME). Together these other 'hidden' disabilities affect nearly a further 9,000 HE students.

Page updated 14 December 2001

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