Issues in Providing Learning Support for Disabled Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities
Creating and Inclusive Fieldwork Curriculum
Planning field experience, travel, sites, activities
Ensuring equal opportunities in the admissions process has no purpose if students do not have full access to the curriculum of the course they are studying.
(Skill, 1997, p.53)
Starting from the principle of inclusivity means that the first approach is to try and ensure the fullest possible participation of disabled students in fieldwork. Only if this is not possible should other types of experience be explored. Any disabled students on the course need to be identified well before the fieldwork starts (Box 18):
- Ensure that there is discussion/negotiation with students about any special needs they have vis-à-vis the likely course challenges and requirements.
- In these discussions consider both the formal curriculum of the fieldcourse and the more informal learning and social 'event' - e.g. which local pubs are accessible?
- As ever seek mutually acceptable ways of ensuring participation.
- Ensure effective liaison with the higher education Disability Advisor. Ensure such discussion considers the potential need for specific equipment, and brokering of technological or personal assistance, for example the resources required, and how these will be managed.
- Link with local authorities and organisations to ensure access.
Box 18: Some questions for the course team to discuss at the planning stage
- Why do we have this type of fieldwork in this particular location? Are there alternatives we can envisage which will better ensure a more inclusive curriculum?
- Is there full information available about the destination at an early stage?
- Does this type/location of fieldwork advantage or disadvantage particular groups of students?
- What are the threshold requirements or demonstrated learning that are required from this experience?
- Could the same outcomes be achieved through visiting more accessible locations or through different tasks or over a longer period?
- Could the destination and/or activity be made accessible, or more accessible to disabled students, through specific access or transport strategies?
- Has the financial planning for the course ensured that sufficient resources are available to meet the special needs of disabled (and other) students?
- Have the fieldwork opportunities been discussed with the disabled student(s) to establish specific mutual expectations?
- What support and specific facilities will particular students require to ensure that they have full access to the learning offered? Who else needs to be informed to ensure such support will be put in place?
- If the fieldwork appears after discussion to be inaccessible, what alternative experiences could be planned? Could the experience be appropriately mimicked by the use of video, film or 'virtual reality fieldwork'?
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 113 8