Providing Learning Support for Blind and Visually Impaired Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities




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НазваниеProviding Learning Support for Blind and Visually Impaired Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities
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4.2 Educational entitlements and requirements


Any fieldwork policy based on individual tutors making arbitrary decisions as to how to accommodate the needs of blind and visually impaired students is no longer acceptable. The needs and rights of such students are now enshrined in a range of legislative and regulatory frameworks, and these need to be understood and taken on board by fieldwork tutors.

4.2.1 Relevant legislation


The 1990s saw considerable advances in legal support for visually impaired people in terms of their educational expectations. As a result of recent legislation, visually impaired students are now entitled to the same learning experiences as sighted students. The main legislation is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (see Iowa, 2000b). In Australia, the relevant legislation is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1992 (the full text is available at http://www.dircsa.org.au/pub/docs/
ddact.txt). The Human Rights Act (HMSO, 1998) means that visually impaired students throughout the European Union may have recourse to the law if they receive less than equal rights to various forms of education.

As far as UK legislation is concerned, the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was a major landmark, especially in terms of the employment rights of the disabled. Although higher education was exempt from the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, it was required to produce a publicly accessible Disability Statement. (An example can be found at the University of Southampton site: http://www.soton.ac.uk/~acreg/dis/
dsintro.html.) From 2000, the Higher Education Funding Councils have required that this statement be updated and made available to all students and staff. The passing of the Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) in 2001 was a further landmark as it extended the provisions of the DDA to higher education. For details see the Overview guide in this series (Healey et al., 2001).

4.2.2 Policy within higher education


As far as institutions and departments are concerned, the relevant policy guidelines are those provided by the funding councils and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). In its Code of Practice on Assessment (QAA, 2000), it states very clearly that programme specifications should include no unnecessary barriers to access by disabled people. Its guidance includes the proposal 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.

The QAA's Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards for Students with Disabilities (QAA, 1999), which came into force in September 2000, is designed to assist institutions in ensuring that disabled students have access to a learning experience which is comparable with that of their non-disabled peers. It contains 24 precepts against which institutions will be assessed and covers the student experience from pre-entry to exit. The Code makes clear its expectations in relation to fieldwork and study overseas in Precept 11:

Institutions should ensure that, wherever possible, disabled students have access to academic and vocational placements including fieldtrips and study abroad.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Code of Practice: Students with Disabilities (QAA, 1999) asks institutions to:

Consider making arrangements which ensure that all academic and technical staff:

  • plan and employ teaching and learning strategies which make the delivery of the programme as inclusive as is reasonably possible;

  • know and understand the learning implications of any disabilities of the students whom they teach and are responsive to student feedback; and

  • make individual adaptations to delivery that are appropriate for particular students, which might include providing handouts in advance and/or in different formats (Braille, disk), short breaks for interpreters to rest, or using radio microphone systems, or flexible/interrupted study for students with mental health difficulties.

4.2.3 Issues for the future


The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) is likely to have a much greater impact on higher education than the DDA. The new Act, passed in 2001, identifies two significant policy imperatives for higher education institutions:

  • a duty not to treat disabled pupils and students less favourably, without justification, than non-disabled pupils and students

  • a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled students to have full access to higher education.

The advocacy of making ‘reasonable adjustments’, which would prevent disabled students from being placed at substantial disadvantage in comparison to students who are not disabled, will need to be considered very carefully by departments planning fieldcourses. These ‘reasonable adjustments’, which may be made to admissions procedures, course content, placements, teaching arrangements, provision of information and examinations, bring to the fore significant questions relating to the maintenance of educational standards and the assurance of equal opportunities in and out of the classroom (see Sections 3.1, 6.1 and 8 for related discussion). Several of these issues need to be discussed by the staff who are likely to be involved in field teaching (see Section 4.1). Further discussion of the legislation and quality assurance framework is given in Healey et al., 2001.
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