Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Have just accessed the Illuminate session with Pam McBride from the Disabilities Unit - here are some of my thoughts in terms of disability, access and equity and some current issues within my own area:

  • literacy issues are ongoing within both the cert and degree programmes in fashion
  • we have enlisted the help of the learning centre in developing reading and writing skills in particular for our Yr1 BDes students who all benefit from essay writing skills etc as we found that teaching staff were using up valuable studio time teaching students how to read and write to the required academic level
  • certainly open entry into cert programmes has increased the pressure on teaching staff however as mentioned by Pam the rewards of student success are a bonus
  • identifying as having a disability is a difficult thing to do for many students and I sometimes think a name change for the service might make it a more 'attractive' option!
  • physical disability is certainly an issue in CBlock where we do not have easy access to our building and the second floor except thru the carpark and the Yr3 studio - would be difficult to accommodate a person in a wheelchair for example but not impossible
  • we currently have a student with a broken arm who is unable to take part adequately in the current projects and is struggling with writing/typing an essay - I will be advocating she contacts the unit to access the Dragon software
  • we are able to be flexible within our programme in terms of managing short term disability issues such as the broken arm - this particular student can be assessed on previous work of course but can also opt to complete the requirements of the project at a later date or enlist the help of others to complete parts of the project
  • not sure how an ongoing disability would be managed within a course that does require a level of (skill) physical agility and dexterity
  • mental illness and psychological impairment seems to be a more common problem with students - this is managed through a strong staff support network and referral to the appropriate agencies
  • we have recently implemented a staff pastoral care programme where each staff member is allocated a cohort of students from each level and year group that they are 'responsible' for in terms of pastoral care - so far this system is working well, is supported by management and means an even distribution of responsibility for staff
  • I am interested in the issue of equity in terms of files on blackboard etc and will certainly pass on the need for using easy access files
  • being flexible in terms of all delivery of teaching and learning and especially in terms of access and equity is an ongoing challenge - each case requires individual assessment
  • inclusion of the student in the solutions is essential as sometimes the 'institution' makes sweeping decisions on what is best for students without fully consulting.


Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Tracy, it is common (and perhaps fair) for lecturers to think that their topic requires a certain ability that renders it not suitable for people with disabilities. But this assumes a person studying wants to practice in a certain way, if at all. There are many people who might just want to learn about the thing as much as possible - knowing full well they may not be able to function as the "industry" expects. They may be simply exploring an interest to see if there is a way they can engage that someone hasn't thought of yet.

That's why I think flexible learning, in particular the use of the Internet and a range of media can really offer these people more of an opportunity. Now all we have to do is get it out from behind Blackboard to help them feel more confident to think that way!

Tracy Kennedy said...

Thanks leigh - I guess I was considering the physical requirements of the technical aspects of the fashion design degree - you are right in pointing out that some students take a course for interest only or parts of courses to further knowledge rather than with the expectation of using a skill in practice. The implications for flexible teaching and learning therefore become wider ranging as you suggest. Will certainly consider this more within the fashion school context.