Inclusion: What does it mean in practice?

Inclusion is a key element of Goldsmiths’Learning Teaching and Assessment Strategy 2017-2021 (inclusive curriculum is one of the strategic aims).

It is increasingly important that we develop a Goldsmiths definition of what we mean by inclusion so that we all work in the same direction.

In disability terms, this means we need to clear about what we mean by accessibility. Accessibility is about identifying all the barriers to learning faced by the range of disabled students. Once we are clear about the barriers we then need to identify the structural changes required to address these barriers.

The progress made in widening awareness and understanding of reasonable adjustments is a good thing, but there is a tension with the inclusion agenda. Some staff are under the impression that making reasonable adjustments is creating an inclusive environment, whereas in fact individual adjustments just enable the inclusion of individuals one by one.

Reasonable adjustments can never lead to full inclusion, as by making adjustments we are treating each person in receipt of adjustments differently to those who are not deemed “disabled” students.

The starting point is the same – we identify disabling barriers. However inclusion is about removing the barriers altogether across the institution, not just on an individual basis. Full inclusion is therefore about adopting an anticipatory approach to adjustments. It is about universal design: “the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.” Once we are able to do this, individual reasonable adjustments would only be required for a small number of individuals whose disabilities we could not reasonably foresee.

Some examples:

Example 1: Barriers to listening and note-taking during lectures

What is the disabling barrier?

Difficulties in listening and taking notes at the same time (visually impaired students, dyslexic students, hearing impaired students).

How can you make individual adjustments? (only for disabled students)

Allow disabled students to record lectures.

How can you make anticipatory adjustments? (applies to all students)

All lectures recorded using lecture capture technology and / or lectures are delivered in ways so that note taking is not necessary.

Example 2: Barriers to writing during exams

What is the disabling barrier?

Difficulties with writing by hand (visually impaired students, dyslexic students, physically impaired students).

How can you make individual adjustments? (only for disabled students)

Certain disabled students can type exams.

How can you make anticipatory adjustments? (applies to all students)

Provide laptops for all exams.

Example 3. Barriers to active participation

What is the disabling barrier?

Students unable to work at a consistent pace due to fluctuating illness / students whose impairment means academic work takes much longer.

How can you make individual adjustments? (only for disabled students)

Students with long term conditions allowed deadline adjustments.

How can you make anticipatory adjustments? (applies to all students)

A flexible approach to deadlines.

You might also find these slides helpful for exploring inclusive communication and interaction with respect to various types of disability: