The Quality Assurance Agency (2000) Code of Practice includes as precept 8:
"Programme specification should include no unnecessary barriers to access by disabled people."
Which has guidance that:
"Institutions should consider establishing procedures which ensure that:
- The setting and/or amendment of academic and other programme requirements during approval and validation processes includes well-informed consideration of the requirements of disabled students
- Programme specifications and descriptions give sufficient information to enable students with disabilities and staff to make informed decisions about the ability to complete the programme"
It is better to attempt to design a programme which is accessible in the first place than to try to make one accessible later as an afterthought. During the programme specification stage all possible barriers should be identified with a view to determining, first, whether they are actually necessary, and secondly, whether they can be designed out. The QAA's recommendations suggest that consideration of the requirements of disabled students be well informed. Such informed advice might be made available by, for example, including the institution or Student Union's Equal Opportunities Advisor on planning teams, by buying in professional advice, or from a member of staff who has received appropriate staff development.
Some practitioners might argue that some aspects of geography and associated field sciences must require students to have undertaken fieldwork in order to prepare them for employment in which field experience is essential. This argument is particularly persuasive in some areas of physical geography, for example hydrology. However, the pattern of employment is gradually changing, and many earth and environmental science graduates now find employment which does not involve fieldwork, and is often largely computer-based, for example in the interpretation of geophysical information, or in hydrological modelling. The solution in some cases might be to offer alternative pathways through a programme, with a professional route requiring more fieldwork than others (see Case Study - Portsmouth).
The QAA (2000) Code of Practice also demands that programme documentation gives sufficient information to allow those concerned to make informed decisions. This means that at least brief details will have to be included on activities, travel and accommodation.
For example, a field course description might be:
"A one-week residential field course in Beijing. Travel will be via coach to Heathrow and scheduled flight to Beijing. Accommodation will be in an international standard hotel. During the fieldcourse students will visit locations in and around Beijing by coach, and will carry out projects in the urban area, in groups. Some visits will include a considerable amount of walking at popular tourist locations. Some locations, including the Great Wall of China, have many steep sections, and stairs or steps. During projects students will walk or travel by taxi, bicycle or metro."
This will not give all of the information necessary for mobility impaired students, but it is a basis upon which detailed consultation can begin.
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 114 6