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Accessible and Inclusive Practice

The following tips, positives and challenges are notes taken from the live student-led panel session "Hidden disability & online teaching: the student experience".


Just because you don’t know, doesn’t mean you don’t have a disabled student- Students may mask or not declare. Make things accessible to all students


  • Provide tasks and questions before the seminar to motivate online engagement and give time to prepare.
  • Clear expectations of what is expected from a session or breakout room before online teaching begins.
  • Do not pick on students to answer questions.
  • Encourage students to turn on their cameras in breakout rooms but only if they feel comfortable too.
  • Shorter breakout rooms are preferential.
  • Use interactive tools such as Padlet/Vevox which allow anonymous participation and a lasting record of discussions.
  • Turn cameras on for lip reading and speak clearly for captions.


  • Record to allow students to repeat and review in their own time.
  • If there are reasons why it can't be recorded be honest and open with students.
  • Use interactive tools such as Padlet/Vevox which allow anonymous participation and a lasting record of discussions.
  • Turn cameras on for lip reading and speak clearly for captions.


  • Create a resource for new students on how to use Moodle.
  • Use moodle checklists to help organisation.
  • Use a consistent format/template on Moodle and label content clearly.
  • Ensure up-to-date content and links.
  • Tell students when a new resource is added or changed.
  • Use reminders for upcoming deadlines and tasks.
  • Avoid walls of text- break information down.
  • Be clear about time expectations for activities and reading- for e.g. if you have 'x' amount of time do 'y'.

Being supportive

  • Disability is an individual experience- ask students what support they need, don't assume you know.
  • Be clear about expectations and in communications- clarity is key!
  • Recognise if students are reaching out, they may need support. Be available, approachable, and positive
  • Make it clear who to contact and how to contact the department about disability-related issues
  • "Nothing about us, without us"- talk to and involve disabled students.
  • Ask students about their preferred terminology- if you are unsure, don't be afraid to ask
  • Provide clear opportunities for students to ask questions and seek clarity or support.


Removes physical barriers of learning environments- more accessible, able to adapt, less stressful, more relaxing.

Lectures recorded

  • Improved experience for D/deaf and hard-of-hearing students - Lectures can be repeated, rewound, and revisited, volume can be adjusted, and auto-captions can be used.
  • Can control pace, repeat, pause to own preferences.
  • Able to 'Google' and seek clarity as the lecture progresses which improves understanding and processing
  • More relaxing and engaging- removes worry to 'listen in the right way.’ For example, autistic students may mask autistic behaviors to appear more neurotypical, which can be extremely stressful and exhausting. Find out more about masking from Autism@Warwick's 'What I wish you knew- a guide for staff from autistic students'.
  • The chat function provides a record of conversation which can be revisited.
  • Being able to do lectures at your own pace/time that suits you has made learning more flexible and accessible as can study around fatigue/flares.

Online seminars

  • Breakout rooms with structure- prompts/questions in advance is a positive learning experience.
  • Using Vevox/Padlet to anonymously answer improves engagement and reduces anxiety.
  • The chat function provides a record of conversation which can be revisited.
  • The flexibility of environment: students can attend from the location that is most conducive to learning for them personally.
  • Removal of the commute to campus meaning when students are having a flare, they are more likely to be able to attend as they can do so from the comfort of their bed, leading to more consistent attendance.
  • Talking to a screen is less intimidating than talking to a physical room full of people, meaning those with e.g., anxiety disorders are more likely to participate.
  • Can turn cameras off if need to stim, walk around etc. during the class to maintain focus whilst staying listening to the session.

Teaching materials

  • Clear signposting and communication to resources.
  • Moodle checklists provide links to specific places/activities but can also provide clarity about what is required for each section. Avoid providing links without clearly stating what the link is for if it is essential or additional reading, what aspects of the module it relates too and how much time (on average) you expect a student to engage with the resource.
  • Online resources are more likely to be compatible with screen readers and other assistive technology than hard copies. Moving everything online has given disabled students access to more of their courses than ever before.
  • Accessibility of materials: the physical library isn’t always accessible for all, even with provisions, everything now being online means disabled students can study at home/in the environment most accessible for them.


One bad experience is enough for students not to return to a lecture/seminar


  • Inconsistent presentations and structures across modules, resulting in difficulties accessing course materials.
  • Lack of structure with online teaching (e.g. reduced timetable), which results in difficulties organising, prioritising and managing workloads.
  • Staggered and different assignments.
  • Restricting access to further modules until all activities on previous modules are complete can disadvantage students who are have taken time off and need to catch up, but also causes anxiety and uncertainty of upcoming workload.


  • Online lessons are missed when the location is not clear.
  • Uncomfortable with cameras/microphones turned on.
  • Breakout rooms can be challenging without cameras and microphones, and can also exacerbate anxiety due to not knowing what is expected, who will be in the room and lack of overall structure.
  • Camera off prevents lip reading for D/deaf or hard of hearing students.
  • Staying focused in discussion sessions and remembering what was said.
  • Difficulties with sensory processing causing anxiety.
  • Anxiety in seminars that academics will ask questions on the spot.
  • People not blurring their backgrounds/muting mics/busy backgrounds making it harder for neurodiverse students to focus.


  • Unclear expectations, ambiguous explanations, lack of tangible examples of assessment.
  • Online exams have been problematic for some due to losing the formal environment of the exam hall making it harder for them to focus. Home environments may not necessarily be supportive environments for study and can be harder for students to focus.
  • Departments using remote proctoring has increased anxiety for many and disabled students are more likely to be flagged by system biases e.g., lack of eye contact, looking around etc.
  • Open book/24 hour/7-day exams: unsure how to tackle them and divide time especially for students with executive dysfunction issues – more likely to underperform or burn out than non-disabled peers.

Teaching materials accessibility

  • Poor quality audio recordings and transcripts and auto-captions are not checked for inaccuracies.
  • Text-heavy teaching materials.
  • Not using image descriptions in PowerPoints.
  • Materials are not always compatible with assistive software, such as document scans as image files.
  • Barriers to accessing support.


  • Teaching staff are too afraid or lack the confidence to ask about disability and appropriate terminologies.
  • Written responses can come across poorly when students have asked for help. Difficulties judging tone from an email, and responses may be abrupt, ambiguous, or may simply just take too long to reply.
  • Unsure how to adapt their teaching and learning materials to be accessible, or do not understand the negative effects for students and how detrimental inaccessible resources can be.
  • No personal connection between staff and students due to the distance caused by online learning meaning that they aren’t as invested in students.
  • Online learning has caused a detachment between staff and students meaning they can’t see when students are struggling.


  • Students feel unable/discouraged to ask for help.
  • Delays in support are being provided.
  • Unsure where to go to seek support within Departments, and what support is available departmentally and what support is provided by Disability Services.
  • ‘Hoop jumping’ and form filling, often every year.
  • Information overload- new technology and acronyms not explained properly