For new Individual Support Plans (ISPs), advisers in the Inclusive Support Team will endeavour to ensure they cover any relevant adjustments for both online and in-person teaching. However, it will not be possible to review and update all existing ISPs. With this in mind, the following information has been put together to show some of the concerns disabled students may have, and some simple steps to make online learning more inclusive.
Make adjustments for students with ISPs in a online and in-person learning environment
There are a number of challenges which online learning may present for students:
Some students with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) will find unstructured time at the start of sessions challenging. Once a student has missed a session, it may be harder to join next time as the anxiety builds.
Students with mental health conditions or ASC may ordinarily arrange to meet friends or catch public transport to a physical lecture - without these structures it may be easier to opt out of an online session.
Increased screen time is particularly fatiguing for students with physical conditions, visual impairments and specific learning difficulties (SpLDs). Students may not be studying in appropriate spaces or with appropriate furniture.
Students with mental health, ASC and SpLDs have expressed concern that they are more ‘visible’ in an online session and would have opted to be seated at the back or out of eye-line in a physical space.
Students with ASC may find it difficult to know how to ‘turn take’, and when it is appropriate to interject. It is generally harder to pick up on social cues online, so students may find it challenging to pick up on cues as to when it is time to move on.
Some students may need to use assistive technology (for example speech-to-text).
Some students, particularly with SpLDs, have difficulty processing and typing quickly.
Auto-captioning can be unreliable, and in particular lots of interjection can create additionally confused and inaccurate captioning and does not make content accessible to hearing impaired students without editing.
Screenreaders (used by some students with visual impairments) cannot access a shared screen. In addition, text may be too small to be legible for those with visual impairments.
Implementing these approaches will help students with an ISP to engage with online learning. They contribute to an inclusive and accessible digitally enabled programme, particularly the areas of coherence and community. Information and instructions that is accessible to students and attends to the challenges they may face supports coherence. The approaches help to consider the challenges that some students may have within the community.
Anxiety about joining webinars and group video calls
Establish permission to join sessions with the camera switched off during a session. Making it clear that this is ok will help students with conditions such as anxiety or ASC, who may worry about doing the 'wrong' thing in online sessions.
Generally it is better not to overtly draw attention to students who join late. The chat function might be used to welcome someone without interrupting the speaker.
Having a task, question or image displayed for students to interact with or consider while they wait for the main session to start can help add structure to the start of the session.
Students requiring more frequent breaks
Students may need more movement breaks or time away from the screen. Depending on the content and structure of a session, it may be helpful to schedule breaks in, or to make it clear to students that they can take movement breaks when needed.
Concerns around how to contribute to synchronous online sessions
The chat function can be helpful as a tool along with notice of when to contribute. However, be aware that if there is a lot happening in the chat, some students may find it difficult to track the verbal/visual information of a lecturer speaking and the chat simultaneously so sufficient time should be given.
Establishing protocols in advance will help students structure their contribution. Some things to think about might be:
A digital equivalent of putting your hand up.
Indicating directly when questions can be asked in the session, and the method(s) by which they can be asked.
A time limit on contributions, which should be indicated in advance.
Unreliability of closed captioning
Where transcripts are created using automatic software, the transcripts should be edited before being shared with students. See ‘How to Zoom’ for advice on captions in zoom. Guidance on editing Zoom transcripts is available at Using audio transcription for cloud recordings. Find out how to edit YouTube captions on Google’s support pages.
Some students with hearing and/or visual impairments may have difficulty accessing synchronous events due to the restrictions of the software’s accessibility features. Synchronous online events should be recorded, corrected, and provided in an accessible format to be reviewed asynchronously as is required under the module level requirements for consistency in the framework for ensuring digitally enabled programmes for study.
As with all face-to-face sessions, most students with visual or hearing impairments or SpLD need access to a recording (at least audio) of all academic contact sessions. Students should be notified of any sessions where this will not be available so that they can make their own recording.
In the rare occasions when recording is not permitted, e.g. where the session will cover confidential, personal, or sensitive information or another student making a significant contribution has asked that they are not recorded, consideration should be given to students who need recordings.
Issues with sharing screens
Sharing materials in advance will allow students to access the content prior to sessions, for example so that they can view with a magnifier or screen tint.
Students using Assistive Technology may face additional challenges if the content / session isn’t designed with accessibility in mind, reducing their capacity to process information effectively. Staff with questions about making content accessible for Assistive Technology can contact the Assistive Technology Suite (ATS@brookes.ac.uk), or
Inclusive Support Service (firstname.lastname@example.org
Ensure all relevant activities are added to the Student Study Plan for the module in question.
All online resources should be compatible with the UK Digital Accessibility Standards 2020. See Creating Digitally Accessible Learning and Teaching Materials Brookes Moodle course.
Use the Blackboard Ally tool to help check the accessibility of the content you have prepared.