5 ways universities can be more accessible and inclusive in higher education

Students entering higher education with a disability is rising, according to most recent reports, there are roughly 17.3 percent of students have a known disability. This, coupled with a renewed focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in higher education has led many institutions to revamp and reflect on how they are ensuring all students succeed. Inclusive education practices primarily focus on providing access and opportunity to students with a disability to create a learning environment where students of all abilities, backgrounds, and identities are welcomed, valued, and supported to participate in all aspects of higher education. 

Factors affecting inclusive education  

There are several key factors that can impact the success of inclusive education: 

  1. Attitudes and beliefs

    Inclusive education requires a shift in mindset from viewing disability as a deficit to recognising the diverse strengths and needs of all students.

  2. Curriculum and instruction

    The curriculum, teaching methods, and assessment practices used in the classroom must be designed to be accessible and engaging for students with diverse learning needs. This may involve providing differentiated instruction, using universal design for learning principles, and offering multiple ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge.

  3. School culture and leadership

    Strong, committed leadership that promotes inclusive values and provides the necessary resources and support is essential. 

  4. Accessible course materials

    Ensuring that all course materials, including lectures, readings, and assignments, are available in formats that are accessible to students with disabilities, such as digital text, audio, and video.

  5. Flexible assessment

    Offering a range of assessment methods that allow students to demonstrate their learning in ways that suit their individual needs, such as oral presentations, group projects, or alternative formats.

  6. Inclusive pedagogy

    Incorporating teaching strategies that cater to diverse learning styles, such as active learning, collaborative learning, and the use of technology to enhance engagement and participation.

Inclusive education in higher education 

In the realm of higher education, inclusive practices are increasingly recognised as essential for fostering equitable learning environments. This involves rethinking how courses are taught and assessed to ensure that all students, regardless of their backgrounds or learning needs, have equal opportunities to succeed. Inclusive practices in higher education encompass a range of strategies, from diversifying curricula to reflect a variety of perspectives and experiences, to employing teaching methods that cater to different learning styles and abilities. 

In Symplicity’s webinar, we addressed some strategies to build inclusive education practices in higher education. Here are some takeaways: 

5 ways universities can be more inclusive  

  1. Develop inclusive policies and procedures:

    Ensure that the university's policies, procedures, and decision-making processes actively promote and support inclusive practices. 

  2. Provide comprehensive support services:

    Offer a range of support services, such as disability support, mental health counseling, and academic tutoring, to meet the diverse needs of students. 

  3. Foster an inclusive campus culture:

    Actively promote a campus culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion through events, workshops, and community-building initiatives. 

  4. Invest in inclusive facilities and technology:

    Ensure that the university's physical spaces, digital platforms, and technological infrastructure are accessible and inclusive for all students. 

  5. Engage in ongoing training and development:

    Provide regular training and professional development opportunities for faculty and staff to enhance their understanding and implementation of inclusive practices. 

By addressing these key factors and implementing inclusive practices, universities can create learning environments that truly support the success and well-being of all students.  

Watch our full webinar discussion on this topic here.

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