Conference Papers

Disabled Student’s perspectives of Learning Development provision. What we have and what we could have?

Inclusive education is a major area of theory and research in Education Studies. The idea of Universal Design is to take into account the needs of all people in the design process. It was originally developed for products and environments by Marc Harrison. Universal Design for Learning has three key principals; flexible means of engagement, flexible means of representation and flexible means of action and expression. However, there is very little research on UDL from a student’s perspective, with most current research focusing on the views of staff (Burghstahler, 2015).

We are in the process of conducting research via a ‘Teaching Innovation Project’ at De Montfort University and would like the opportunity to share our findings. The research project seeks to find out the perspectives of disabled students in order to enhance and develop ‘Learning Development’ provision to better meet the needs of disabled students. A student-centred action research approach is employed in order to enable ‘student voice’ to play a central role in this development work. The research is designed to complement and strengthen work done through DMU’s adoption of Universal Design for Learning and its institution wide ‘Disability Enhancement project’. Whilst DMU has made significant investment in enhanced provision for students with disabilities, and the learning and teaching approaches via UDL, research from the student experience has been limited in informing practice.

The research is taking the form of a series of focus groups conducted in April/May 2017- desined to facilitate conversation between lecturers in Learning Development and self-selecting disabled students, to enable them to work collaboratively in the creation and development of future provision.
This paper will share the findings of our focus groups and subsequent analysis as well as the proposed actions including changes to existing provision and development of new resources. It will also discuss how the student’s will play an integral role throughout this process. This paper will conclude by outlining the lessons learned by working collaboratively with disabled students and what their perspectives can add to the concept of Universal Design for Learning and Inclusive education more broadly.

Forster, E. and Slawson, T. (2017) 'Disabled Student’s perspectives of Learning Development provision. What we have and what we could have?', paper presented to The 13th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 29–30 June, viewed 13 August 2020, <>