IOP aims to help universities adapt to changes in disabled student support

25 May 2016

The IOP has launched a project to help physics departments adapt as the onus for funding disabled students’ support shifts from the government to universities.

inclusive learning
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Called the Inclusive Learning Project, the IOP’s initiative will involve working with several universities to identify good practice and producing a new guide to inclusive learning in physics, particularly in the light of universities’ changing responsibilities.

Most disabled students in England currently have access to Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs), funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to enable them to study in higher education. From this September, responsibility for supporting most disabled students will be transferred to universities through their duties under the Equality Act 2010. Only new disabled students needing exceptional and specialist support, and students from the devolved nations, will still have access to DSAs.

The IOP’s head of diversity, Jenni Dyer, said: “In order to help support physics departments through these changes we are setting up a new project to look at what the Institute can do to promote and support a more inclusive learning environment in physics higher education.

“In the first phase we will visit seven physics departments in England with a small team including consultants in disability and STEM issues. For each department we visit, we will write a confidential report about the inclusive practice already in place and provide information about further ways to embed inclusive practice.”

The aim is then to produce and disseminate a guide to inclusive learning and the Equality Act in physics, which will replace the IOP’s existing guide, Access for all.

Issues that the project will consider include management, training, the physical environment and teaching and learning, as well as disclosure of disability and policy on reasonable adjustments.

Dyer said: “We want to encourage departments to adopt inclusive practices that will benefit everyone and to ensure that they are as well-equipped as possible to respond to the changes. The more we can do to embed inclusive learning, the fewer individual adjustments will have to be made.”

Dyer wrote a piece for the IOP blog about the project and related issues to coincide with Global Accessibility Awareness Day on 19 May.