2006 Conference General Sessions






E.A. Draffan

Dolphine Computer Access LTD

The Old Rectory


Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 2EU, UK

Day Phone: 012 738-73600

Email: ea@emptech.info


In the United Kingdom students in higher education are eligible for the Disabled Students Allowances (DSA). These are non-means-tested grants, payable to both full-time and part-time students whether studying on a campus or working through distance learning courses, such as those offered by the Open University. These allowances are provided by the government through local educational authorities, usually after a study needs assessment has been undertaken by an Assessment Centre, located in an educational institution or within a region. The DSAs cover four areas:
• Specialist equipment allowance for assistive technologies such as screen reading or text to speech systems, speech recognition, alternative input devices etc.
• Non-medical helper allowance — for example note-takers, interpreters, specialist study skill support.
• General Disabled Students’ Allowance — to cover, for example, insurance, access to the internet, Braille paper and photocopying costs.
• Reasonable spending on extra travel costs.

Over the years a variety of different services have grown up around these allowances and some of these are now being quality assured, with for example regular audits of both the centers that provide the assessments and the companies that provide the technologies. However, these audits do not cover technology training companies or those who offer study skills support outside the institutions.

The reports that are generated from the study needs and strategy assessments cover all aspects of the student’s disability in relation to the course they wish to undertake and their proposed learning environments. Their skills, prior knowledge and use of technology are assessed whilst new technologies may be introduced and other aspects of support discussed.

The equipment provided is designed to help support the students with their course and is orientated towards assistive technology that integrates with courseware or the virtual learning environments used. Although the majority of the equipment tends to be electronic in nature, and covers the widest range possible for those with disabilities, it may also include ergonomic items to an increase comfort levels when working with a computer or overlays, handheld magnifiers etc when working with paper based resources.

Around five percent of the student population has a disability according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency of which a large proportion has specific learning difficulties including dyslexia or LD. Most of these students receive hardware and software linked to enhancing their written language skills. It is these students who form the bulk of the survey and have offered comments as to which technologies have helped them the most in their studies.

In the past it appears to have proved immensely difficult to capture the views of students regarding their use of their technologies and the training received. This presentation aims to illustrate how one study was undertaken that succeeded in capturing data relating to these issues but also acknowledges the pitfalls encountered along the way.

Some students contact suppliers’ technical and maintenance departments having received their equipment. The survey highlights some of these issues and whether they are related to the assistive technologies or other aspects of the technologies provided.

Outcomes for Audience: To become aware of some of the views students may have about the equipment they receive to enhance their studies in higher education and the technical issues that may arise.

Prior Knowledge of topic assumed: Low
Contains advanced technical content: on occasions

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