Creating accessible tutorials and small groups

On this page we list some strategies that will assist tutors in meeting the needs of disabled students in tutorials. Many of these strategies can be thought of as good practice for non-disabled and disabled students alike.

  • The tutorial relationship is in many ways an ideal context for ensuring that the individual needs of students, including those with a disability, are met. Learning about the needs of students for tutors and colleges as a whole starts at the admissions stage and some adaptations may have to be arranged before the student arrives. This following list is far from exhaustive of all eventualities and is only indicative of the kind of issues you may need to explore with a disabled student.
  • Tutorials are usually held in the tutor's own room. This location may need to be changed if, for example, the route to it is not wheelchair accessible, if there is background noise, or if lighting is insufficient
  • Ensure that all members of the group can see each other clearly. This is especially important for sensory-impaired (this term refers to impairments of vision and hearing) students. A semicircle is often the best seating formation to allow enough room so that wheelchair users can sit within the group
  • Provide students with reading lists in advance (several weeks prior to term starting) allowing those who require text in alternative formats plenty of time to have these transcribed
  • Allow students sufficient time for taking notes in your tutorial, if this is difficult for them they may use a laptop computer or recording device, or another person may act as their notetaker
  • In discussion ensure that only one student speaks at any given time (this is vitally important for students with a hearing impairment). Some disabled students take longer to process auditory information, and some may have difficulty picking up on visual cues that signal when it is appropriate to join in. Others may take longer, due to speech impairment, to get their message across.
  • Asking students to read a text and respond immediately in a tutorial situation can present particular barriers. Some students, for example those with vision impairments or dyslexia, may take longer to read and digest information. It may help if this material is given to students prior to the tutorial, so they have had a chance to read it before discussion begins.
  • If giving references in the middle of a tutorial, it can help disabled students if these are written down, students with hearing impairments and dyslexia may find it difficult to take down a reference that is only given orally
  • If another student is to lead the tutorial, suggest that they provide a copy of their notes to all students at the start of the tutorial and inform them beforehand of any specific communication needs of their audience
  • Provide a copy of any OHPs or slides you will use in advance.
  • Students who use an interpreter will require any new terms in advance so that the student and interpreter can agree on an appropriate sign. Sign language interpreters need short breaks during their interpreting: five minutes every half an hour is recommended. Ensure the tutorial stops during this time or plan an activity that does not require the use of verbal language.