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Print Impairment in Higher Education
Emma Jane Rowlett, PhD Student, University of Nottingham
This research looks at adjustments made for university students who have a print impairment (i.e. cannot read standard print because they have a visual impairment, dyslexia, or other condition) under the Special Education Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) and associated legislation and codes of practice.
The study came about as a result of my own experiences as a print impaired undergraduate student and my involvement with disability issues and campaigns within my university. These experiences have led me to approach my research using the principles of the Emancipatory Research Paradigm and the Social Model of Disability.
This research considers how students access course related materials such as text books, lecture notes, presentations, software and other sources. Whilst the legislation requires 'reasonable' adjustments, this research considers that in order to be truly reasonable an adjustment should also be 'appropriate' and 'effective'. This leads to the assumption that beyond the legal imperative to meet a perceived need is the moral obligation to meet students' real needs.
Qualitative evidence to inform my research was collected under three strands during 2006-2008. The first strand involved semi-structured interviews at three UK universities with print impaired students who receive adjustments and staff who make adjustments or define policy that affect adjustments. The second strand consisted of a questionnaire completed by print impaired students throughout the UK, administered by email and instant messaging programs. The third strand was a review of documents produced by the three universities studied in the first strand, including their Disability Equality Schemes.
The findings from these strands have been systematically analysed and responsively allocated to a coding framework created by drawing out similarities and differences between the information collected within each strand. This paper introduces these findings.
This research was carried out as an ESRC funded PhD studentship supervised by Professor Gillian Pascal and Professor Justine Schneider in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham.
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