We’ve come a long way with accessibility and Disability rights, but there’s still a ways to go.
Nearly 200 years ago, Louis Braille invented Braille, which gave blind people the accessibility to read and write. In 1925, Samuel Orton, a pioneer for learning disabilities, began to study dyslexia as the first person to view it as neurological rather than visual. The first Special Olympic Games, now a regular occurrence, was held in 1968 thanks to the Kennedy Institute. Here in the UK, the first legislation dealing with educational needs was passed in 1886 with more fitting acts following in the years since. The 2001 Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Act made strides in improving education for disabled students and has seen reforms as recently as 2014. Nowadays, we have the 2010 Equality Act and UN Convention on disability rights to look to for our rights.
This year alone, with everything moving online, we’ve seen accessibility excel for some groups of disabled students, and others fall short. Although I sadly graduated before the move to online learning, for me the ability to have recorded lectures would’ve meant being able to take lectures at my own pace. When my ADHD brain would give me a big old nope to following along, I’d be able to pause and come back when I was ready. For some, online learning is a blessing, and others it’s a curse. We know there is still much to do to make it accessible for those who are hard of hearing, with captioning technology in need of an overhaul, as well as general support for disabilities.
Because of this, the Union held a panel with students and staff to chat about accessibility and what more the University can be doing. My favourite part was hearing what our students thought a truly inclusive and accessible classroom would look like in the future. If you’re keen to watch the record, check this space for when it’s posted.
There’s plenty more to look at on Disability rights and accessibility, and I hope you’re as excited as I am to see what the future has in store for us.
Vice President Education
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