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Good Practices on Specific Learning Disorders from UAb

UAb provides accessible pre-formatted templates (in accordance with universal design) to be used by teachers (non-experts in accessibility rules) when they produce teaching-learning materials. In addition, guidelines and examples of good practices and tips for problem solutions are provided in a document with recommendations, produced by the teachers that work in the Accessibility Project, aimed at the teaching staff, nonteaching staff, and programme coordinators. This document includes recommendations and hints for adjustments valid for various kinds of special needs. Since it is considered at UAb that every adjustment that is important for students with special needs and does not disturb other students should be put to practice, various procedures are expected to be implemented even if there are no students with special needs in that class (e.g. pdf documents created, not as image, but using OCR become accessible to screen readers, and are also better for anyone that needs to do word search). As far as students with special learning disorders are concerned, the following recommendations (concerning web design in Moodle) are meaningful:

• Clear organization of the virtual classroom and of messages with instructions (avoid excessive complexity; large amounts of information; large number of formulae or of graphic marks such as italics, underlined, bold...);

• The structure of the virtual classroom must be as simple and clear as possible (e.g., with dates clearly stated, and with topics organized down-top so that the most recent topic appears first);

• Graphics, diagrams, mind maps... should be completed with detailed explanations to avoid reading difficulties;

• Accuracy of the provided instructions and stability of the information, avoiding changes. Other possible adjustments are:

• Extension of home loan of books from the library;

• Deadline extensions for work delivery.

Student-directed counselling focuses on questioning the relevance of their disclosure to teachers. Students are free to consider that their cognitive difficulties are mild and that they do not need any support during their study process, and just need a time extension during exams (electronically programmed by non-teaching staff). When students consider that their situation must be reported to teachers, they can use a model of presentation, where they state their difficulties and choose from a list the kind of support that they consider adequate to his/her specific situation.

Adjustments, of pedagogical or technical nature, concerning specific students are considered in teachers’ meetings with the coordination team of each study programme. In fact, a representative of the Accessibility Project is available to attend these sectorial meetings whenever there are students with special needs enrolled in that specific programme. It is intended that adjustments comply with a balance that supports the students, without harming the scientific requirements of the study programme. The success of the adaptations aiming at levelling equal opportunities for students with specific learning disorders during the study process are closely monitored by teachers.

During exams, students with specific learning disorders have extra time. There is also the possibility of doing an oral exam, upon request. From 2020 on, because of the pandemic, UAb’s exams are no longer in person. Therefore, students can take them in their own homes, with their computers (with access to orthographic correctors, and calculators).

For what concerns interaction with colleagues, the Accessibility Project has created a web space in Moodle intended for the interaction between students and former students with special needs. Apart from the dissemination of information that may be of interest for the group (special grants, internships…), this space is destined to be a dialogue environment among students and with former students, so that they can learn from each other, get to know inspiring cases of success, and strengthen their self-confidence. There are no designated mentors since the group functions as a whole, strategically addressed at the integration and support of new students, and thus preventing dropouts. 

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.