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13 September 2021

How to Create a More Inclusive Learning Environment for Students with Disabilities

Now that universities are returning to in-person instruction this fall, the question of accessibility is one that needs to be answered. You may be concerned about how to accommodate students with disabilities and create a more inclusive learning environment for them. Here, we’ll discuss some useful ideas for ensuring students with disabilities get the most from their education. 

Emphasize Technical Accessibility at the Outset

An inclusive learning environment is one that supports the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of students with disabilities. But it takes effort to make this a reality in our world. The IT department can prioritize accessibility by conducting an honest assessment of their current learning programs. 

Some fixes are relatively easy, like investing in better automatic speech recognition software so closed captions are accurate. Others may involve more complicated efforts that require developing creative workarounds for problems that don’t have obvious solutions. Take a thorough look at how your current system is used by students with disabilities and, if you can, gather their feedback. 

Identify How to Make Physical Spaces More Accessible

The act of “getting around” can be a roadblock to many students. How wheelchair accessible is your campus? Many universities have old buildings or pathways with areas that could use a boost when it comes to mobility improvements. For especially large campuses, consider setting up a golf cart transport system or campus shuttle with volunteers or employees who can be hired to transport students with disabilities. This enables them to get to class comfortably and on time. 

Physical spaces are another area where improvements can be made. Students with disabilities are not a monolith. It’s helpful to consider how the learning environment can accommodate many different individuals. For students with visual impairments, spaciousness, multi-sensory learning, and better lighting are beneficial. For those with learning disabilities, quiet spaces are game changers.

Foster Inclusivity With Clear Communication Techniques and Faculty Support

The most challenging part of inclusivity is to create a culture that supports faculty and staff understanding what accessibility resources exist and how to actively promote them. Otherwise, students will find it much more difficult to access those resources. When educators aren’t aware of how to help or guide students with disabilities, everyone is left frustrated. 

To help bridge the gap of understanding between faculty and staff, you can offer diversity and inclusion workshops, along with sensitivity training.

We have a responsibility to ensure that students with disabilities get the most from our merged digital and real-world learning environments. Keep these tips in mind when you take a closer look at how your school can foster an inclusive community. 

You can learn more about how CMD-IT promotes academic and career development for people with disabilities here.