Disability and Learning Support Service

Accessible placements

Guidance for staff arranging accessible work and teaching placements for disabled students.

Key people involved in organising placements

  • Placement organiser (within the University)
  • Student
  • Course organiser and/or tutor
  • Disability and Learning Support Service
  • Placement provider representative (within the relevant Agency/Authority).

Responsibilities in organising placements

The University and the placement provider both have responsibilities and often overlapping duties to disabled students on placement regardless of whether the placement is arranged by the Academic School or by the student. The responsibility to ensure students are not disadvantaged on placement or through the placement finding service falls to the University. However the responsibility to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students on placements resides with the placement providers. This requires continuous negotiation between both parties.

Academic Schools should encourage students to disclose disability, specific learning difference, neurodiverse or health condition well in advance of individual placements being arranged. This is to ensure that appropriate and relevant support can be discussed prior to placements being identified.

The Schedule of Adjustments generally considers teaching and learning on campus therefore it does not always translate over into a working environment. These guidelines are designed to assist staff in ensuring disabled students are appropriately supported whilst on placement. Note these guidelines are not intended to provide a definitive list of questions and issues you should consider. Support may differ greatly from student to student.

Identifying and selecting an appropriate placement for disabled students

Early communication with the student and Disability and Learning Support Service prior to the placement being selected is necessary to identify what needs to be considered.

For example:

  • Geographical/physical location - can the student travel distances?
  • Pace and pattern of work - can the student work full-time?
  • Availability of local health services - will the student require nearby access to local health services whilst on placements overseas or out of town?
  • Administrative requirements - can the student deal effectively with the amount of reading and writing required?
  • Physical attributes of placement - can the student undertake physically demanding or enduring activities?

Support issues to discuss with Placement Provider

Once the support needs have been established, early communication and negotiation with potential placement providers is required to discuss what support the student will require to ensure the best way to accommodate this.

For example:

Q. What arrangements can be made for a student who cannot take notes? A. The placement provider may be able to arrange for the student to record notes and discussions with clients.

Q. What arrangements can be made for students who use voice recognition software or specialist equipment? A. The placement provider should arrange a quiet place for the student to work in.

Q. Will the placement provider have to provide specialist computing equipment or software? A. Many students will have their own equipment/software funded through Disabled Students' Allowance. However, some negotiation between host and provider may be necessary for the provision of other equipment

Q. What arrangements can be made for students who need ergonomic furniture? A. The placement provider should provide or arrange appropriate seating.

Q. What arrangements can be made for students who use Personal Assistants, Sign Language Interpreters, Guide Dog? A. The placement provider would need to arrange additional space for any assistance required as well as ensuring that assistance can be accommodated on visits, in classrooms etc.

Q. What if the student requires materials in alternative formats such as Braille, electronic, large print or on coloured paper? A. The placement provider may have to provide this for the student.

Health and safety

The assumption is that in almost all cases adjustments can be made and should always be sought; however additional consideration may have to be given to the health, safety and welfare of students and the people they are expected to work with. In some cases an individual Risk Assessment specifically to take account of the student's impairment may have to be carried out in addition to the generic risk assessment required for all work placements. This is the responsibility of the University, although in practice the placement provider may carry this out. The Disability and Learning Support Service can advise if this procedure is necessary.

For example:

  • Assessing the environment for latex or chemical compounds which a student may be allergic to
  • Establishing emergency contact details and general first aid procedures should a student go into anaphylactic shock, have a seizure or become hypoglycaemic or hyperglycaemic
  • Fire evacuation procedures during an emergency for people with impaired mobility.

Anticipating support needs

Academic Schools should anticipate the difficulties that disabled students might encounter and consider these when liaising with placement providers. The Disability and Learning Support Service can offer guidance with this. Good practice would be to audit existing and new placement providers for accessibility and flexibility. This can save time and effort when identifying placements for disabled students with individual support needs.

Monitoring of placements as good practice

Students' experiences on placements should be monitored to ensure the appropriate support is in place and still relevant. Students should have a named University contact (usually the course tutor) and should be encouraged to report any concerns that they have regarding their support and progression to their contact as well as to the Disability and Learning Support Service. This can be an example of good practice in anticipating support needs.

Written agreement

A written agreement highlighting the student's support requirements would be useful. This would ideally be between student, placement representative and placement organiser.

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