You have attended your orientation meeting for students with a disability. You have survived the frenzy of Fresher’s Week, you have had some meetings with teaching staff and other students, and the start date of your course is approaching. If you have not already had a meeting with the Disability Service, now is the time to make an appointment for a Needs Assessment.
This is the meeting at which you discuss your strengths and challenges, and any anticipated needs as they relate to your course.
- It takes about an hour and if you would like your parents / carer / guardian to go with you, you should arrange this in advance. Parents are not automatically invited to attend this meeting as you are considered to be an adult, and responsible for your own learning if you are aged 18 years or older.
- You will discuss and agree upon the supports that you need in college, which are called reasonable accommodations.
- The Disability Service will prepare a Needs Assessment document which sets out all of this information.
- You will decide which people in college should receive this, in other words, who you are happy to ‘disclose’ this information to, and how much information about your disability it is necessary for them to know. Your choice.
What do we mean by Reasonable Accommodations?
- Accessible classroom: for example, appropriate seating, provision of interpreters.
- Modified teaching: for example, peer mentors, class buddies, small groups, classroom assistant, non-verbal cues and flashcards, colour coded timetables.
- Modified assessment: for example,verbal rather than written responses, split examinations, spacing of examination timetable, rest breaks.
- Inclusive curriculum: for example, access to eBooks, audiovisual materials, large print handouts, modified workloads and homework, additional time, use of a laptop.
For work placement or an internship
- Changing the work environment: for example, desk away from a noisy area, additional lighting, clear signage in texts and graphics.
- Providing equipment or devices: for example, spelling and grammar software, hearing loops, flashing alarms, large format calculators and telephones.
- Modifying responsibilities: for example, giving non-essential tasks to other people, allowing time off for medical appointments, adjusting working hours, providing job share opportunities.
For accessing your course
- Providing an accessible environment: for example, ramps or lifts, reserved parking spaces, bathrooms, interpreters, wide doorways and aisles.
- Providing access to information: for example, electronic text or audio versions of leaflets, manuals, instructions, and guides.
Your right to reasonable accommodations is protected by law. In a fully inclusive world, they would not be necessary.
Who pays for the supports?
After your needs assessment, the college will apply to the Fund for Students with Disabilities for money to cover the costs of your supports, but you need to bear in mind that as the number of students with disabilities attending college has increased over time, financial resources have decreased.
What do I need to think about?
It is a very good idea to prepare a Needs Assessment Checklist at home, and it might include questions such as:
- What is the name of my disability or learning support officer in this college?
- How can I contact him or her? Where is his / her office?
- What will make me eligible for funding / financial support in this college?
- What documents do I need to give you so that I can receive support?
- Will I receive the same learning support that I received in school?
- Will I receive the same personal assistance that I received in school?
- Will I have access to Assistive Technology?
- Will I have examination accommodations and does the disability service arrange these?
- Will the college make academic texts available to me in alternative formats (electronic, audio, braille, large print)?
- How do I let academic staff know about my needs in classrooms / lecture halls?
- Is there a link person that lecturers can talk to if they have questions?
- Who do I need to talk to if these accommodations are not provided?
- Who can I talk to if I am having difficulty accessing lecture material, notes, books and online materials?
If you are going to an FE college to begin a PLC, be aware that the college may not have a Disability Officer or a Disability Service. You should make an appointment with the Principal of the college to discuss your reasonable accommodations, well before the beginning of your course.