Chapter 1: About the Guideline

This Guideline is one of the deliverables of the research project on enhancing learning experience for students with visual impairment in higher education funded by the HKU Teaching Development Grant.

1.1 Objectives

  • To advance the equality and diversity in the learning environment and experience at HKU and other higher education institutions.
  • To address the environmental and attitudinal barriers experienced by students with disabilities.
  • To raise the awareness of the significance of accessibility.
  • To serve as a guideline to empower and facilitate staffs and students to co-create an inclusive campus.
  • To enhance the learning experience and whole-person development of students with disabilities in higher education.

1.2 Methodology

1.2.1. Framework of the Guideline

  • Ecological framework

This Guideline emphasized an ecological framework to conceptualize the co-creation of inclusive environment at higher education institutions. It emphasizes the importance of joint contribution to an inclusive campus. It cuts across the temporal, cultural, government, community, inter-university, intra-university, environmental, language and symbolic, technological, interpersonal, and individual perspectives.

  • Person-oriented approach

The Guideline systematized the recommended inclusive practices based on the stages of tertiary education from students’ perspectives. It facilitates a more person-oriented, situational, and stage-wise planning to foster these practices. The stages of tertiary education involved broadly include:

    • University application
    • Admission
    • Orientation
    • Living on campus
    • Academic study
    • Graduation
    • Post-graduation

1.2.2. Data collection

  • Document analysis

It was conducted to review existing policies and support to students with disabilities in higher education institutions. Information was collected from the websites of the 76 higher education institutions listed below during April and May 2019. Since six higher institutions were listed on more than one indicator, the total number of institutions involved was 76 instead of 82.

    • 8 local universities funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC);
    • 33 local self-financing post-secondary institutions listed on the website of the Government’s Committee on Self-financing Post-secondary Education;
    • Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts;
    • the top 10 universities listed on the “Overall”, “SDG 4 Quality Education”, and the “SDG 10 Reduced Equality” indicators, respectively, of the University Impact Rankings 2019 by the Times Higher Education; and
    • the top 10 universities listed on the “Inclusiveness” indicator of the QS Stars University Rating System 2019.

Websites of nongovernmental organizations serving people with disabilities, government papers, and research reports relevant to accessibility and inclusive education were also reviewed.

  • Focus group interviews

Thirteen focus group interviews of 30 participants from various universities in Hong Kong in total were conducted using a semi-structured protocol. It gained in-depth understanding of the barriers students with visual impairment encountered, challenges university staff encountered when supporting students with visual impairment, and good practices of accessibility services at universities. The participants included:

    • Three groups of 8 current students with visual impairment;
    • Four groups of 10 alumni with visual impairment;
    • One group of 2 academic staff with experience in supporting students with visual impairment at universities;
    • Two groups of 3 non-academic staff with experience in supporting students with visual impairment at universities;
    • Two group of 4 current students without visual impairment but having experience in supporting students with visual impairment at universities;
    • One group of 3 current students without visual impairment or experience in supporting students with disabilities at universities.
  • External review

The first draft of this Guideline was reviewed by an external panel of 14 international members. The panel composition included academic staff with and without visual impairment, non-academic staff, current university students with and without visual impairment, alumni with visual impairment, human rights advocates, and advocates for inclusive education. We revised the first draft based on reviewers’ feedback to produce the current draft.

  • Research team members’ input

The diverse background and living experiences of the research team members further enriched the data collected. The diverse experiences include inclusive education, law and disability rights, working on accessibility support in university, counselling, current undergraduates with and without visual impairment, and current research staff with mobility disability.

1.2.3. Data synthesis

  • Ecological framework was adopted to synthesize all the data collected and generate a compilation of recommended inclusive practices of teaching and learning at various stages of tertiary education.

1.3 Target audience

The Guideline can serve as a common ground for the ongoing discussion and co-creation of inclusive campus. It helps anyone understand more about the topic. It may particularly help you if you are having the following roles.

1.3.1. Current students with disabilities

  • It facilitates you to anticipate and identify suitable accessibility practices at different stages of learning in university as early as possible for timely arrangement.
  • It serves as a reference to guide your request of required accessibility services.
  • It facilitates you to introduce some inclusive communication strategies to fellow students and university staff to minimize negotiation.

1.3.2. Current students without disabilities

  • It provides practical insights into inclusive communication strategies to facilitate your interaction with people with disabilities.
  • It facilitates you (e.g. committee members of student societies) to design more inclusive events and seek advice from relevant units as early as possible for timely preparation for accessibility.
  • It may also help when you experience temporary disability suddenly (e.g. if you broke a leg and had to use wheelchair for few months) and require certain accessibility services.

1.3.3. University staff

  • It facilitates university staff members to learn more about accessibility arrangement related to the areas of work they are responsible for. For example:
    • when students with disabilities are being admitted into your Faculty;
    • when you need to draft departmental rules about accessibility;
    • when you need to orientate new students;
    • when you need to give advice to students with disabilities;
    • when you have students with disabilities in your class(es).

1.3.4. Prospective students

  • It raises the awareness of potential facilitators and barriers as well as suitable accessibility practices at different stages in university for timely arrangement.
  • It facilitates you to be better prepared for the transition from secondary school education into university education.

1.3.5. Advocates

  • It is useful for policy discussions on the progress of inclusive education in Hong Kong.
  • It helps you to introduce to a layperson the rights-based practices of inclusive education at higher education institutions in Hong Kong.

1.4 How to read this Guideline?

1.4.1. Suggested usage

  • Step 1: You may go through the Table of Contents to get a basic idea of the scope of the Guideline.
  • Step 2: You may read Chapter 2 Rights-based guiding principles to understand more about some guiding principles related to the rights-based approaches to inclusive practices.
  • Step 3: You may identify and focus on particular sections and recommended references related to the specific areas you are concerned about.
  • We highly encourage anyone who pick up this Guideline to go through the whole Guideline to have a more comprehensive understanding of inclusive practices at higher education institutions. The underlying concepts and practices of different areas are interrelated.

1.4.2. Points to note

  • The phone number 23452345 and e-mail address <[email protected]> that appear throughout the whole Guideline are intended to be made up for illustration purpose only. They are not real contact information of any institution.
  • The research team strives to provide up-to-date information as well as functional hyperlinks of the recommended resources mentioned in this Guideline. However, some hyperlinks might be edited or removed by the corresponding contributors after the publication of this Guideline.
  • The following chapters introduce a compilation of guiding principles and recommended practices that foster inclusive environment at higher education institutions. The research team strives to conduct an ecologically sound and comprehensive recommendation of inclusive practices at higher education institutions. However, the compiled list is not exhaustive.
  • References and examples are arranged in alphabetical order unless otherwise specified.
  • The recommended practices basically target students with disabilities. However, the strategies advocated in this Guideline are central to good teaching and learning practices and will benefit all students regardless of disability status.