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Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training
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Study & Learning Adjustments

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When determining what study/learning adjustments to discuss with your student, a number of factors must be considered if the strategy is to be effective. To ensure that the study or learning adjustments selected can be effective, it is imperative that the student's individual needs are accommodated. This can only be achieved by actively involving the student in the alternative assessment decision-making process.

  1. The nature and onset of disability

Different types of disabilities will call for different adjustment strategies. Even within the same type of disability there are variations between the specific strategies that individual students require. Appropriate considerations can, therefore, be made only on an individual basis.

The individual student's adaptation to disability and skill at using alternative strategies will also vary according to whether the impairment is long-standing, recently acquired, fluctuating, intermittent or temporary.

Information regarding these aspects of the student's disability may be included in the disability related documentation that most universities request for verification of the student's disability.

  1. The type of  study and assessments to be undertaken

The adjustments  a student may require may vary from one type of assessment to another. For example, a student with cerebral palsy who manages well in a multiple choice examination with additional time, might require significantly more additional time for an essay type examination because of the amount of writing demanded by the task.

  1. The nature of the course/subject

Students with similar types of disabilities who are studying quite different courses may have very different requirements. For example, a student with a learning disability who is undertaking a practically oriented course with task-driven assessment, will require different adjustments to a student with a learning disability who is undertaking a course requiring high levels of reading and writing.

  1. The student's usual work methods

Students with similar types of disabilities may have different work methods and learning styles.  For example, one student with a vision impairment may work best with Brailled materials, while another student with a similar level of vision impairment may work best with audiotaped materials.

  1. The specific type of alternative assessment

 Consideration must be given to what other circumstances need to occur for the individual student to benefit from the study accommodations. Some adjustments cannot be used in isolation from other provisions. For example, a student permitted to use assistive technology during an examination will not perform at capacity if not permitted extra time in which to carry out the additional tasks required to operate the technology.

Examples of Reasonable Adjustments

This list is not exhaustive but will give you information to discuss with the student to ensure they have equal access to learning based on up-to-date medical documentation.

  • Assignment extensions
  • Attendance: consideration could be to attendance at lectures and tutorials
  • Carer may accompany student to lectures and tutorials
  • Class presentations e.g. alternative assessment in lieu of presentations, oral presentations be deliverable on a one-to-one basis
  • Access to relevant and appropriate equipment e.g. Dictaphone, Easy Listener, FM System Equipment, exercise mat, mobility scooter, ergonomic furniture - chair with arms ,chair without arms, ergonomic desk, footstool
  • Group work: assigned groups, smaller groups, marks for participation,
  • Interpreter: Auslan
  • Library loans:  Extended library loans, inter-library loans, off-campus delivery
  • Materials in alternative format e.g. enlarged print, audio, coloured paper, electronic, enlarged print, varied font and size, printed hard copy for electronically provided texts
  • Microphone: teaching staff to wear a microphone as well as face front of class when speaking and have very little movement
  • Note taker: Laboratories, lectures, notes on coloured paper, notes with enlarged print, Arial font size, tutorial note taker, including provision for typed notes
  • Participation: Consideration given regarding participation in tutorials, use of a research/participation assistant 

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Using an Auslan Sign Interpreter

Deaf students may use an Auslan sign interpreter in interviews, lectures or tutorials to facilitate access to information. The interpreter will sign what is spoken and will not add, embellish or delete information.  The student may use a range of other cues, for example lipreading, to add to their understanding.  As interpretation work is very tiring, there may need to be two interpreters working alternately.

The following hints will make communication easier when using an interpreter:

  • Always speak directly to the student not the interpreter.
  • Discuss teaching methods before the lesson begins, including whether videos are to be used. Give copies of handouts before the class starts – in advance if possible.
  • Ensure lighting and seating arrangements will enable clear communication, especially if showing videos or presentations. It is normally best if the interpreter is seated next to the main speaker and opposite the deaf person.
  • Provide the student and interpreter with a glossary of new terms before the class to allow them to negotiate appropriate signs.
  • Provide a lecture outline to help the interpreter anticipate the structure of the session and the way in which concepts will be developed.
  • If written material is presented, allow time for the deaf person to read before continuing. Deaf people are unable to watch the interpreter and read at the same time.
  • The interpreter always lags a little behind the speaker. Presenters need to be  aware of this and may have to pause or speak more slowly to ensure the interpreter is keeping up.
  • Only allow one student to speak at a time, indicate who is speaking and echo back comments from students.
  • When lecturers have conversations with the interpreter they will explain the gist to the student so that they do not think the lecturer has been talking about them.
  • In lectures, interpreters normally work in tandem to minimise risk of Occupational Overuse Syndrome. Unless otherwise agreed with the disability service, there should be two interpreters in lectures and one in tutorials.
  • If the interpreting is intensive and the interpreter is working alone, provide a rest break every 15-20 minutes or negotiate an appropriate time with the interpreter.
  • Notify the student as soon as possible if classes are changed or cancelled so that the interpreter can be notified.

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Using a Remote Captioning Service

A Remote Captioning Service allows deaf and hard of hearing people to follow what is being said, as it is being said, without the need for a Speech to Text Reporter (STTR) or electronic note-taker to be in the same room.

It works by an STTR or electronic note-taker listening to what is being said using either a telephone or internet system. They type what they hear and this text appears on a secure internet service so it can be read. The text can be displayed on a laptop, large screen, smart phone or tablet, enabling deaf and hard of hard of hearing people to participate actively in education, the workplace and at events.

As it doesn’t require the actual STTR to be present, it is flexible and discreet. A few providers of remote captioning are beginning to emerge.

To use remote captioning, there should be no need to download software or purchase equipment. All you need is a connection to the internet – and via this you log onto the provider’s secure website. At the end of the session, the text can be saved into a Word document. (sourced from: Hearinglink  http://www.hearinglink.org/remote-captioning )

Using Assistive Technology

Assistive technology (AT) is any tool that helps students with disabilities do things more quickly, easily or independently. This covers computer hardware and software solutions.  These can be elaborate and expensive or simple and low-cost. Recently, the widespread availability of Apps are providing an expanding  range of affordable and accessible alternatives for students with disability.  AT solutions are commonly used for students with print disability or a specific learning disability.

Some examples of assistive technology software include:

  • Dragon Dictate
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking
  • Jaws
  • Smart pens
  • Read and Write Gold
  • WYNN

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Research Assistants for Students

A research assistant would usually, but not exclusively, be provided for students with high support needs and/or where the level of study requires extensive research which impacts on, or will be impacted by, the disability. In addition:

  • Students requiring research assistants need to provide adequate medical documentation to support this level of assistance.
  • The student will be assisted to develop a work plan for the research component of their study
  • The number of hours would be clearly indicated for the semester.

Using a Participation Assistant

Participation assistants are employed to support students with disability or health condition to fully participate in post-secondary education, including assisting the students to connect with academic areas and other services, and establishing networks and broader skills to succeed in their studies.

A participation assistant may be engaged to assist a student with disability or health condition to perform a variety of academic (or related) tasks. The nature of these tasks will depend largely on the nature of the student’s disability or health condition but may include assisting the student to:

  • establish and maintain relationships and boundaries with academic, administrative and accommodation staff
  • develop skills required to successfully engage and participate in academic and accommodation environments
  • orientate themselves to the physical campus (lecture theatres, tutorial rooms, the library and student support services)
  • orientate themselves to institutional systems
  • develop organisational skills (timetabling, what to bring to university, keeping track of assignments, when to start revision for exams etc.)
  • participate in the social aspects of institutional life.

The participation assistant can also:

  • document meeting times, support arrangements, goal and outcomes
  • meet daily/weekly/monthly with the student for the duration agreed at the initial meeting

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