‘Improve your learning’ campaign fights to help students with disabilities at uni
48.22 per cent of students don’t know how to report an accessibility issue
The “Improve your learning” campaign was created to improve the accessibility of lectures at Lancaster University. Led by the Students with Disabilities Officer, Molly Lawson, a survey was carried out to produce a report to determine where the system is going wrong and fight for improvements in the current system regarding accessibility for students with disabilities. They have a team of about 50 people who contributed towards creating the report, ranging from undergraduates, postgraduates, EDI and faculty reps.
“It’s not working for disabled students”
We spoke to Molly Lawson about the importance of this campaign, she told us: “We are all united by the common goal of wanting to improve the accessibility of the university and fight for things like lecture capture, captioning etc.” She continued to state that while the university has already implemented good policies such as ILSPs (Inclusive Learning and Support Plans), “it’s not working for disabled students.”
“[The] survey garnered a total of 573 responses”
Regarding the “key findings and recommendations” part of the “Improve your learning” report, it stated that the “survey garnered a total of 573 responses across all departments and year groups at Lancaster University”. With a large sample of data to pull findings from, the report concluded that while “48.21% of respondents considered themselves to have a disability, a chronic illness, a mental health condition or an SpLD, only 38.96% of respondents reported that they had an ILSP.”
Therefore, this report shows that only 9.25 per cent of respondents who said to have a disability have an Inclusive Learning and Support Plan to assist their needs. This presents the fact that there is a large gap between those who are suffering from a condition and those who are getting support.
“19.7% of students felt that the process to get an ILSP was hard”
Interestingly, the report found that “53.89% of students stated that they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the ILSP system”, therefore this implies that these support plans are benefiting students with disabilities. However, the report also stated that “19.7 of students felt that the process to get an ILSP was hard or extremely hard.”
Therefore, the current system is working, but it needs to be easier to access to help more students with disabilities. Notably, “29 students requested improvements to the ILSP system in an open-box question”, demonstrating that the current system isn’t perfect and there is room for improvement.
“(48.22%) responded that they did not know or definitely did not know how to report an accessibility issue”
Students should be able to report issues easily and effectively without feeling uncomfortable for needing assistance or having a problem. The survey found that “81 students (48.22%) responded that they did not know or definitely did not know how to report an accessibility issue.”
Additionally, the report stated that “More students feel uncomfortable than comfortable with the idea of reporting an accessibility issue.” Therefore the system needs to change for students to report any issues in a safe environment.
“Recordings of lectures should continue when face-to-face teaching resumes”
The survey found that many students with disabilities found it useful when there was an adequate amount of time between online lectures being uploaded onto Moodle and the seminars taking palace. The report stated that: “The University has an official policy of seven days, but this does not seem to be happening across the board and it is clearly an issue that students feel strongly about.”
The survey found that 31 students requested that “recordings of lectures should continue when face-to-face teaching resumes.” While this seems to be a common request by many students across campus, the idea of going back and accessing lecture content is even more important for students with disabilities.
Furthermore, the report states that many students who took the survey said that “uploading PowerPoint slides to Moodle in advance of lectures would be beneficial.”
“We request a university review of the ILSP system”
In response to the survey findings, the “Improve your learning” campaign strives to change the current system at Lancaster University to aid lecture accessibility for students with disabilities. Therefore, three recommendations have been outlined in the university report to consider to make a change.
The first recommendation is a request for the university to review the ILSP system. Additionally, they want “greater training for academics on how to help students with ILSPs” and “Making the process to get ILSPs easier.”
“We request a review of the current system of reporting accessibility”
The second recommendation is to request the university to review how students report accessibility issues to make students more comfortable with asking for help. The report also says that they want “More advertising about how to report an accessibility issue.”
There are currently Disability Representatives in every university department; however “their role does not include helping students with disabilities on an individual level.”
“We request certain changes to academic delivery”
Then finally, the third recommendation is that the university adapts its academic delivery. This final request asks to keep “the seven-day period between when online lectures are uploaded and when students receive teaching”.
Moreover, they want to make “lecture recordings “opt-out” rather than “opt-in” for academics, to assure that as many are uploaded as possible.”
Hopefully, this report will help educate the university on why they should adapt their policies to change the current system to accommodate the needs and wishes of students with disabilities.
You can sign the petition for the university to consider the recommendations in the Improve Your Learning report here.