MicroCPD: Programme specification - how to consider equality and accessibility issues

This week Samantha Gamblin gives some guidelines on how to consider equality and accessibility issues for programme specification

The University is committed to providing an educational experience that is inclusive of the diversity of its students. The Inclusive Education Committee explores how inclusivity, in its widest possible sense, might be more effectively embedded within the curriculum and with a view to better supporting staff to address issues associated with inclusivity, in order to enhance all aspects of the student learning experience.

The Inclusive Education Canvas course has links to assessment tools and further subject specific information from the Higher Education Academy. The University also has its own Equality Analysis Toolkit.

Thinking about inclusivity in advance is part of our duty to make “anticipatory adjustments” for students under the Equality Act 2010, and ensuring that programmes are inclusive by design should decrease the number of adjustments that are needed for individual students. With increasing student numbers, and more students disclosing disabilities, making individual adjustments, such as exam accommodations, is becoming very resource-intensive.

Inclusive practice also minimises the need for students to have to disclose personal information to individual members of staff. (When disclosure of disability information is still required to provide certain adjustments, such as for exams it is important to follow the University’s Disclosure Protocol).

For many students who are protected under the Equality Act flexibility is key – for example with regards to timing, module selection, modes of delivery and forms of assessment. Even if your programme is traditionally taught in a particular way, you need to give thought to what adjustments can be made for those who are protected under the Equality Act. Sometimes even small adjustments can have a big impact on a large number of students.

You can get further advice from staff in Registry and Student Support. Don’t forget to be mindful of the impact on other stakeholders of any measures you introduce e.g. library and student support services – and make sure you communicate with them. In the end, this will ensure everything runs more smoothly for staff and students.

If you are concerned about what flexibility and adjustments you can make, defining genuine Competence Standards can assist with clarifying the parameters of what is possible. Sometimes these may be linked to professional standards defined by accrediting bodies, however, often it is necessary to make direct contact with the professional body concerned to discuss any proposal (this is also true if you think you can’t make an adjustment due to professional accreditation).

Further Reading

The University’s Disability, Learning Support and Mental Health teams have developed the Reasonable Adjustments Guide for Staff . Although this focuses on Disabled students, many of the issues mentioned are discussed in greater depth in the guide; here are also case study examples. For access to the accompanying Canvas module, please contact disability@bham.ac.uk