Learning Support Responsibilities Preparation

Learning support and teaching (Part 1)


All academic, trades and training programmes are accessible in all respects to  disabled learners and tauira. Staff design and implement appropriate teaching and  learning strategies using universal design principles and alternative formats. 

Best practice standards

  • Teaching staff plan and employ teaching and learning strategies and reasonable accommodations to make course delivery as inclusive as possible for disabled learners, without compromising essential programme standards or components. 
  • Effective learning support strategies and reasonable accommodations for disabled learners exist for online learning, distance education or other flexible delivery modes such as e-learning.
  • Where possible, disabled learners have the same access to academic and  vocational placements, including field trips, work placements and study abroad, as other learners.  

“I think the biggest problem that teaching staff have today is that they don’t  know that they’ve got someone in their classroom who needs something until it’s  so late that they can’t do anything about it. And then we’re playing catch up.” 

- Academic Staff, Tertiary Institution.

Ideas and resources

  • If we are to create an inclusive teaching, learning and assessment environment for disabled learners, tertiary providers must create the infrastructure that makes it easy for teaching and other staff to support these learners.  
    For example, institution-wide policies and procedures for providing lecture notes in an accessible electronic format, support for teaching staff with copying, enlarging and transcribing information, tests, exams and other  assessments, and for when these learners have more complex needs.  
  • Academic, teaching and technical staff should have the support and training necessary to enable them to meet the requirements of disabled learners, so they can: 
    • Offer a flexible curriculum taking into account different ways of learning and demonstrating competence.
    • Recognise the learning implications for disabled learners.
    • Make adaptations to delivery appropriate for learners with different impairments.
    • Offer appropriate and effective academic support and guidance for these learners.
    • Advise learners of inaccessible course parts prior to starting, and develop solutions.
    • The Principles of Universal Design in Education and Universal Instructional Design are used in the development of courses so all learners can fulfil course requirements with support. 
  • Inclusive teaching and learning strategies include: 
    • Institution-wide policies and procedures for flexible teaching and assessment that encourage the use of inclusive practices as a standard part of course design/teaching. 
    • Anticipating teaching and learning requirements for disabled learners.
    • Adapting teaching to take into account the different ways that learners learn.
    • Rest breaks in classes for learners and support staff (e.g. interpreters, note takers). 
    • Information in alternative formats – electronic, enlarged, easy-to-read (plain English), pictorial, braille and audio recordings of lectures, lecture notes, video captioning and transcription of videos, tactile diagrams.
    • Electronic handouts can be easily converted into large print or alternative formats.
    • Access to electronic information sources through the library.
    • Arranging material in advance for learners and support staff such as an interpreter.
    • Using assistive technology (e.g. using radio microphones).
    • Showing willingness to discuss support and invite learners to approach them privately.
    • Staff seeking advice from disability support services staff to help to develop effective support.
    • Co-operative links with other institutions/community agencies to share equipment and staff.
    • Seeking accessible academic and vocational placements for disabled learners. 
  • Consider developing a national set of resources rather than everyone developing their own to reduce cost and time. In Australia they have the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training.

Engaging disabled learners

  • Speak with disabled learners about their preferences for how they receive  information and how their learning is accommodated. 
  • This includes the impact of: 
    • Large or small groups, individual study, classes, library, workshops, field  trips, etc.
    • Different environmental conditions and times (e.g. noisy, quiet, bright or  low light, morning, afternoon or evening, the pace at which they study). 
  • Staff should not make assumptions about a learner’s requirements. Instead  ask disabled learners about what might help or what the real effects on  their learning and assessment might be. They will have useful suggestions:  “Nothing about us without us!” 

What you need to know

  • Consult with disabled learners before talking with other staff about them and remember your obligations under the Human Rights and Privacy Acts from earlier sections.  
  • The quotes above about COVID-19 and the difficulties with online learning  for some disabled learners were consistently raised by disability support staff from various tertiary providers who attended the special interest groups. 
  • One staff member said, “We need to value family/whānau as co-partners  because the knowledge that can be brought by that [partnership] can actually  circumnavigate a whole lot of those things we stumble over as you try to  discover what that student’s needs are. So when you’ve got somebody else  who can provide you with a ton of those answers, right from the beginning ... [it’s better as] a co-partner approach.”

Some key themes from the special interest groups about learning support and teaching: 

“Biggest barrier is that some tertiary institutions don’t know the supports available.” 

“Scanned copies of course readings photocopied from books are not accessible,  especially when they are photocopies of photocopies with old fonts. So this makes  the resources inaccessible.”  

“(Hidden disability) it’s really easy to be overlooked unless you are advocating  really strongly.” 

“Staff expect physical and sensory impairments among learners, but ADD and  chronic fatigue are not taken into consideration and lecturers may not know the  flow-on effect of their actions.” 

Current Disabled Learners.

Learners with hidden disability reported this made it difficult getting recognition  for the need for learning support and lecture notes, support with transport and  parking, group work, or arranging assistive technology. They were also burdened  by having to pay for costly assessments with medical professionals. 

Disabled learners talking to someone responsible for postgraduate support and  pastoral care can make a difference with postgraduate study. 

Some learners reported it is very hard to get readers and writers or proof-readers with technical knowledge of subjects like sciences, music or French. This needs to  be taken into consideration.  

3. Accessible Curricula - Good Practice For All (2002). Carol Doyle and Karen Robson edited by Simon  Ball and David Campy. University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC). 

This page is current as of May 2022 Print this page