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Webinar: Supporting tertiary students with disabilities: Student and staff perspectives of what works

Dr Annie Venville and Professor Ellie Fossey presented this webinar.  They discussed the finding from a recently released research project 'Supporting tertiary students with disabilities: Exploring the use of individualised and institution-level approaches in practice'.

Research aim: To improve understanding of the range and impact of individual reasonable adjustments and institution level learning supports on the learning experience for tertiary students experiencing disability or ongoing ill-health.

This study investigated the provision of supports for students with disabilities in tertiary education from the viewpoints of three key stakeholder groups: i) tertiary students experiencing disability or ongoing ill-health; ii) specialist disability service staff; and iii) teaching staff with course or curriculum leadership roles.

Key findings: 

  • Supporting students with disabilities to participate in tertiary education is a complex process in practice. This process includes identifying, negotiating and implementing learning supports, and involves engaging multiple people (students, teachers & disability staff).
  • Many types of individualised reasonable adjustments were identified, reflecting diversity in the students’ needs, but also the learning tasks, assessments and learning environments for which the adjustments are intended.
  • Students and staff define the effectiveness of learning supports in different ways. Some adjustments described as useful by students in this study (e.g., extended time to complete assignments) are typically also available as institution-level learning supports for all students.

The Webinar focused on the following implications for practice

  • The provision of institution-level learning supports may be made more visible so as to foster learning environments that are inclusive of tertiary students with disability.
  • The provision of relevant and effective reasonable adjustments for individual students could be enhanced with greater emphasis on collaboration among the parties involved, with the student at the centre. 
  • Enhancing student awareness of available learning supports and increasing transparency about the nature and types of disability support available could reduce the variability in tertiary student experiences of learning support.
Some questions were asked during the webinar and time did not permit the presenters to answer them at that stage.  Ellie and Annie have now answered those questions.