Whereas for students with certain kinds of disabilities many of the fieldwork support arrangements relate directly to academic matters, for students with other hidden disabilities the support arrangements are more often targeted at dealing with the medical condition itself. The principal aim is, of course, to enable the student to feel better but a consequence of this may be an enhanced capacity to take a full part in the field trip and thereby cope with its academic demands more successfully.
In the dyslexia discussion earlier, the text was divided into three phases (pre, during and post-trip) but for the other hidden disabilities a different format is being used so as to avoid repeating similar messages about handling risks and remedies at each stage. Instead, the opening part of this chapter outlines some general problems which may need to be addressed (such as inappropriate accommodation) and the later section looks in more detail and in turn at a number of different hidden conditions such as asthma, diabetes and epilepsy. Throughout the chapter the emphasis is on identifying problems and listing some possible solutions. The advice offered is inevitably broad-brush and staff leading the fieldtrip will obviously need to be mindful both of their particular circumstances and the particular needs of individual students. All staff should have a basic first aid training and should certainly identify well in advance any students with particular medical difficulties and how these are to be dealt with. Academic staff are not, of course, medical experts but they should find out how to obtain expert medical help in the fieldwork area. Careful planning and forethought can be vital in preventing problems from turning into emergencies.
For students with serious conditions an early decision may be needed about whether they should participate in the fieldtrip at all or perhaps participate in only specified parts of it. The students' health and safety must always be the prime concern. In all these discussions, the students' views should be listened to and, in addition, where the issues are complex, it may be necessary to obtain specialist disability or medical advice. Such matters are best dealt with early. It may be possible at that stage to adjust the planned itinerary or to arrange alternative tasks for the student concerned which will satisfy the learning outcomes without exposing them to undue risk.
Staff will need to be particularly careful and cautious about the risks involved in any arrangement which might potentially leave a student on their own or with just one fellow-student for support. Such circumstances are perhaps unlikely to arise on general field courses but could occur where independent fieldwork is undertaken as part of an individual research project or final year dissertation. Institutional safety policies on these matters must always be applied for all students, in addition to being alert to the special needs of students with medical conditions.
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 118 9