WED: Designing accessible courses - a reflection on the use of UDL and OERs to create an open education course (Danny Ball)

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Danny Ball
8 January 2017

Since 1974, disabled students in England have been able to apply for non-repayable grants, known as ‘Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)’, to assist with the additional costs incurred whilst completing higher education study (Willetts, 2014). Such grants provided allowances for specialised equipment, non-medical assistance such as note takers and specialised tutors, books and consumables, as well as travel allowances (Disability Rights UK, 2015). In addition to the support provided by DSAs, the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 placed a legal duty on businesses and education providers to take positive steps, referred to as ‘reasonable adjustments’, to remove barriers faced by people, due to their disability (Citizens Advice, n.d.). This includes making changes to the ways things are done e.g. provision, criterion or practice; physical features of buildings such as entrances and exits; as well as the provision of extra aids or services such as: induction hearing loops, providing information in alternative formats etc. (Citizens Advice, n.d.).

Despite the reasonable adjustments implemented by higher education institutions (HEIs), the costs of the DSA provision have risen sharply from £101.3m in 2009-10 to £145.8m in 2012-13, an increase of 44% (Weale, 2015). In 2014, the Minister for Universities and Science announced a series of changes to modernise the existing system to ‘rebalance’ responsibilities for student support. Thus, ensuring that the limited public funding is available to those most in need, and provides the support they require (Willetts, 2014). The changes are designed to move away from a system of individualised support funded by DSAs, to one where HEIs play a greater role in supporting all students, regardless of whether they have a disability or not.

With these changes coming into force from September 2016, HEIs within England have been required to review and, if required, revise their current student support arrangements to ensure they are prepared for these changes and can support learners effectively (McNaught, 2016). Whilst there are many small and simple changes academic staff can take to improve the accessibility of their teaching such as: providing information ahead of sessions, creating learning materials which meet accessibility guidelines and encouraging students to record teaching sessions etc. (Canterbury Christ Church University, n.d.), this does not resolve the underlying issues. As McNaught (2016) summarises ‘[t]eaching and learning pedagogies, practices and technologies can inadvertently create barriers for students with disabilities’, to overcome these a different approach is required.

To address some of the challenges raised by these recent changes and the need for HEIs to make anticipatory, rather than reactive changes, this conference presentation will provide an overview and demonstration of a short online course being developed by the author. Built using the Canvas open education platform, this short course aimed at academics working within UK HEIs, will provide a more in-depth overview of the changes to disabled student support, whilst also introducing delegates to two educational frameworks; Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Inclusive Curriculum. Building on research undertaken by Marquis et al. (2016), this course will utilise a flipped learning pedagogy; whereby the learning materials are placed online and classroom sessions are used to enable deeper exploration and discussion of the topics raised (The Higher Education Academy, n.d.). The work-in-progress can be viewed at:


Canterbury Christ Church University (n.d.) Changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances [Online]. Available at (Accessed 1 January 2017).

Citizens Advice (n.d.) Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people [Online]. Available at (Accessed 2 January 2017).

Disability Rights UK (2015) Applying for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) [Online]. Available at’-allowances-dsas (Accessed 3 December 2016).

Marquis, E., Jung, B., Fudge Schormans, A., Lukmanji, S., Wilton, R. and Baptiste, S. (2016) ‘Developing inclusive educators: enhancing the accessibility of teaching and learning in higher education’, International Journal for Academic Development, Routledge, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 337–349 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 21 December 2016).

McNaught, A. (2016) ‘Minimising pain, maximising gain: top tips for supporting learners affected by DSA changes’, JISC Blog, 19 February [Blog]. Available at (Accessed 4 December 2016).

Scope UK (n.d.) What is the social model of disability? [Online]. Available at (Accessed 2 January 2017).

The Higher Education Academy (n.d.) Flipped learning [Online]. Available at (Accessed 23 December 2016).

University of Leicester (n.d.) The social and medical model of disability [Online]. Available at (Accessed 2 January 2017).

Weale, S. (2015) Government to cut funding for disabled university students [Online]. Available at (Accessed 2 January 2017).

Willetts, D. (2014) Higher education: student support: changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) [Online]. Available at (Accessed 2 January 2017).


Extra content

Conference session teaser trailer with subtitles - YouTube

Danny Ball
13:53 on 8 January 2017 (Edited 13:54 on 8 January 2017)

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