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Inclusive learning and teaching

Provide support, adjustments and inclusive learning materials.

The way that teaching and learning is provided may present barriers which disable people with impairments from fully accessing and benefiting. Providing support and adjustments can remove these barriers and ensure all students can access the teaching and learning they need. Barriers can be:

  • physical, for example the design of the learning environment or the types of course materials used
  • procedural, for example the way a course is delivered and assessed
  • social, for example negative attitudes of staff towards disabled students

People with different impairments, and people who disclose similar impairments, may experience different disabling barriers on different courses.

To encourage a socially inclusive approach, HEIs will need to ensure that academic staff have appropriate training to review their own practices and adopt more inclusive learning, teaching and assessment approaches. Staff need to understand their duties to make reasonable adjustments and be aware of the advice and support services for disabled students within their institution.

Disability legislation: practical guidance for academic staff 

Disability legislation: practical guidance for academic staff (revised) provides practical examples of how academics can support disabled students to reach their full potential to succeed and participate in all areas of their programmes and promote a more inclusive approach to learning, teaching and assessment.

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Within lectures, barriers often relate to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ delivery style and the fact that adjustments for disabled students are often not anticipated at the lecture preparation stage.

Course leaders and developers should play an active role in removing barriers by building accessibility into all courses and ensuring that competence standards are non-discriminatory.


Academic staff produce a wide range of written materials for students, including course handbooks and lecture notes. Careful consideration needs be taken to ensure written documents are accessible to the full student body – both to ensure an inclusive environment and to meet the requirements of disability legislation.

Written information may be a barrier for some students, such as those who are blind or partially sighted. If a document is poorly designed or contains unfamiliar terminology it may be difficult to understand and navigate by students. However, documents may also be inaccessible as a result of the way in which the content is produced or formatted. To reach a diverse student audience, and anticipate any needs they may have, it is vital that accessibility is built into all forms of written communication.

Accessible written formats include email, Braille, Easy Read, and large print. A disabled student’s requirements will depend on their impairment, as well as other factors. For example, many blind people do not read Braille, but instead prefer to receive information by email or on audiotape.

HEIs in Scotland are now required to fund the digitisation and reformatting of course materials. Digitisation and reformatting: recommendations from current provision in Scottish higher education presents examples of practice and recommendations for developing provision of accessible electronic text from a number of Scottish HEIs.

Equality and diversity in learning and teaching in HE: compendium of papers

In April 2014 and again in April 2015 Equality Challenge Unity (ECU) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) held joint conferences in Scotland. ECU have published a compendium of papers from a selection of the workshops delivered at these conferences.

Practical resources

Related Publications

Disability legislation: practical guidance for academic staff (revised)

Provides academic staff with clear information about how to apply disability legislation to teaching and learning.

Digitisation and reformatting: recommendations from current provision in Scottish higher education

Recommendations from Scottish HEIs on providing accessible electronic texts for students.

Academic teaching staff: developing equality and diversity skills, knowledge and values

This report aims to help higher education institutions (HEIs) ensure that academic staff have the knowledge, skills and confidence to deliver the curriculum.

Understanding the interaction of competence standards and reasonable adjustments

A competence standard is a particular level of competence or ability that a student must demonstrate to be accepted on to, progress within and successfully complete a course or programme of study.