Chapter 14.3: Academic support - Course preparation and in-class arrangements

14.3.1. Ensure accessibility of class venue and classroom furniture

  • The course venue might be changed if the classroom is found to be inaccessible.
  • Make accessible seating arrangement, for example:
    • A corner seat might be relatively more convenient for students with guide dogs.
    • Seats with enough lighting might facilitate students with visual impairment, and deaf or hard of hearing students who require sign language interpretation.
    • Wheelchair-accessible seats.
    • However, students are free to select the seats they prefer. Respect individual choices.
  • Make writing pads accessible for both right-handed and left-handed students.
  • Assist students using hearing aids with hearing loops in lecture theatres.

14.3.2. Ensure accessibility of teaching and learning materials

  • Teaching and learning materials, such as PowerPoint slides, PDF, and video clips should be accessible.
  • Wordings and images used should be inclusive and nondiscriminatory and reflect social diversity.
  • Add text description to teaching materials which are graphical in nature.
  • The videos played in class should be captioned.
  • Course instructors may also consider the availability of e-books or audio books from publishers when adopting a textbook.
  • Note that format conversion (e.g. from print to Braille) takes significant amount of time. To help ensure students receive the required alternative formats (e.g. Braille) on time to keep up with the class, course instructors should provide the required teaching materials / references / test and examination papers to the library and/or relevant departments for format conversion as early as possible.

14.3.3. At the beginning of the course

  • Course instructors should provide course outlines to facilitate students with disabilities to identify potential barriers and required accessibility services early on so that timely arrangements can be made.
    • include an accessibility statement in the course outline such as: “To discuss and request accessibility services, students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the course instructor and the Accessibility Service Coordinator at 23452345 or <[email protected]> as early as possible”.
    • describe inherent requirements of the course
    • describe the teaching and learning approaches and expected in-class or out-of-class activities.
    • explain to students how they will be assessed, set assignment deadlines, and schedule tests.
    • plan ahead and stick to the weekly topics and scheduled activities as stated in the course outline.
    • give advance notice if there will be changes in the topics and/or activities and provide suggested preparation.
    • shortlist the “must-read” items in the reference list of the course and inform students with visual impairment as early as possible to reserve more time for format conversion
  • Course instructors can invite students to voice out their needs on the first day of class by making public announcement or in welcoming email before the first day of class, etc., such as: “Please feel free to contact me to discuss and request accessibility arrangements”.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the students, course instructors should ask them as privately as possible. Do not spotlight particular students because of accessibility arrangements to the rest of the class.
  • Students with disabilities can talk to the course instructors and request the teaching materials as early as possible for timely transcription into alternative formats. The student should specify the preferred format beforehand.

14.3.4. Teaching process during the class

  • Refer to Chapter 2.6 Universal design for teaching and learning.
  • The course instructor should do their best to provide students with the learning materials for the coming class as early as possible. It allows some time for students with visual impairment and/or print disabilities to convert the learning materials into alternative formats before the class.
    • If there are any new materials for the class, the course instructors should do their best to provide students with visual impairment and/or print disabilities with these new teaching materials in alternative formats at the same time. In case this is impossible, alternative solutions should be provided. For example, the course instructors may read aloud the new content to the whole class.
  • Try the best to use multiple ways to present the materials.
  • Name and describe the surroundings, people and objects on the go in class and during activities to facilitate students with visual impairment to orient.
  • Read aloud what is presented on the board, the overheads, or in handouts. Pace the presentation of class teaching materials. Allow sufficient time for students to find information from the class materials.
    • Be very descriptive when providing visually dynamic materials. Avoid simply pointing to the board or screen and saying abstract and visual-oriented phrases such as “this picture” or “that line”.
    • Avoid relying on only colours to highlight different information. Use a combination of text / symbol and contrasting colours (i.e. not green or red) to indicate different information to make it more accessible for students with colour weakness or colour blindness.
  • Use the microphone and pause from time to time when speaking in class.
  • Avoid speaking too fast to ensure clear expression. It also allows sufficient time for sign language interpretation.
  • Avoid turning your back to the student or standing in front of a light source when speaking as it would affect lip-reading.
    • Face the class when speaking. Avoid covering the mouth while speaking as it would hinder lip reading by some deaf or hard-of-hearing students.
    • Course instructors may use the microphone for FM transmitter that is connected with the hearing aids of deaf or hard-of-hearing students.
  • Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) Service offers real-time captioning of the class to facilitate deaf or hard-of-hearing students’ understanding about what teachers and fellow classmates are saying in class.
  • Provide sign language interpretation.
  • Notetakers might attend the classes with students with disabilities and take notes for them. The notes will be delivered to the students with disabilities within a specified period of time (e.g. within 48 hours after the class) in the format required by the students (e.g., electronic notes). Students with disabilities receiving this notetaking service must attend the classes in order to receive the notes.
  • Allow the use of assistive technological study aids in class, e.g. visual/hearing aids, notebook computers.
  • Allow the participation of personal assistants and service animals.
  • Provide lecture capture service. Allow audio- or video-recording of the class so that students can revisit the class content at their own pace. However, the audio- and video-recording can only be accessed by the students concerned for personal study purpose. It cannot be shared with any third-party.

14.3.5. In-class activities

  • Design class activities that are able to accommodate students with a wide range of disabilities and accessibility needs. Refer to Chapter 2.6 Universal design for teaching and learning.
    • Some class activities involving high degree of mobility might exclude some students with disabilities.
    • Use multiple ways to engage students in the class activities to fulfill both the students’ needs and the inherent requirements of the class activities.
  • Make use of information technology to engage the whole class including students with disabilities in class activities, such as Splashtop Classroom. Once the applications of the instructor and students are connected, students can view, control and annotate over class content directly from their own devices such as notebook computers and tablets with corresponding assistive technological software and/or hardware installed.
  • When appropriate, invite sighted students to group with students with visual impairment for some in-class activities and/or assignments upon agreement by the students involved.
  • Allow extended time to finish in-class tasks as some students with disabilities might take longer to go through the materials.

14.3.6. Course attendance

  • Flexibility in attendance should be allowed as a disability-related accommodation, e.g. due to regular clinical appointments.
  • Notetaking service does not substitute the class attendance of the students with disabilities.

14.3.7. Examples of practices of local universities

14.3.8. Recommended practices of overseas universities