Creating an Accessible Learning Environment at Higher Education

  1. An accessibility statement is a display of commitment to inclusion and accessibility in curriculum delivery. We recommend having a statement in all course syllabi and outlines.
  2. Each student would have different communication access requirements or preferences in contacting. Providing different modes allows students to be able to reach out in a way that is most accessible and effective to them.

Example of Statement of Access in Course Syllabus and Outline
The team behind this course is committed to providing equitable access to full participation for all students. If you anticipate or experience any physical or academic barriers based on disability, please contact us or the disability service office immediately to discuss options. We welcome feedback that will assist us in improving the learning experience for all students. To begin this conversation, please contact _________ [provide multiple modes of contact such as voice call, text messaging and email].

Regardless of platform, software or file format, the following Core Skills of accessibility apply.

  • Alternative Text and Image Description
  • Contrast
  • Headings
  • Links
  • Lists
  • Tables

This bite-size resource from University of Minnesota gives a digestible guide on the above core skills.

Most video platforms now have automatic captioning but it is often not accurate enough. It is however useful as a first draft for you to review and do manual edits for better accuracy.

  1. Youtube automatic captioning with manual review and edit
  2. Panopto automatic with manual review and edit

The following links guide you on how to implement the core skills on the different platforms.

Examples of access personnel include but are not limited to:

  • Sign language interpreters
  • Captionists
  • Audio describers¬†
  • Note-takers
  • Personal care assistants

These roles might be undertaken by external service providers, internal personnel such as student access workers, or caregivers (in the case of personal care assistants).

Here are some useful pointers about working effectively with access personnel:

  • Qualified access personnel adhere to a code of professional conduct, which usually emphasise ethical issues, confidentiality and respect for all personnel involved. These should be understood and respected by staff and students working with access personnel. 
  • Talk to or communicate directly with the student using the access services instead of the access personnel. 
  • Access personnel are not participants in class. Avoid asking them for inputs, opinions or to participate in class activities and discussions. 
  • Access personnel have to be alert and focused on their job at all times. Avoid asking them to assist in non-related tasks such as distributing handouts, setting up equipment or engaging in casual conversation during active class time. 
  • Do not tell access personnel to leave out any information that is accessible to the rest of the class. This includes information not related to the lesson content (such as jokes or informal chit chat), because social communication is also an important part of the educational experience.

The SEN Fund (Special Educational Needs Fund) is administered by the respective Disability Service Offices (DSOs), a unit required by MOE to be set up at each of the publicly funded Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) since 2014. This unit may be known by different names in the IHLs, such as Disability Support Office, SEN Support Office, Diversity and Inclusion, Learning Accessibility Office, Accessible Education Unit etc. In most IHLs, it is usually located within the student services or student affairs function.

If you have a student with disabilities and may benefit from this funding, contact your institute’s DSO to find out more.

The following information is extracted from Ministry of Education (MOE) press releases. The full press releases can be obtained at:

  1. 2014 MOE Press Release: Enhanced Support for Students to Access Opportunities in IHLs
  2. 2017 MOE Press Release: Increase in SEN Funding cap for High Needs Students in IHLs

“The SEN Fund was first established in 2014 by MOE to support students with hearing impairment (HI), physical impairment (PI), or visual impairment (VI) to access post-secondary education at the polytechnics and ITE. There is no income criterion to access the SEN Fund.

Each polytechnic and ITE college will be able to tap on the SEN Fund, to help Singapore Citizen students with physical or sensory-related impairments purchase assistive technology devices and supporting services such as signing interpretation and Braille printing. Each institution can use up to $5,000 per student with physical impairment to purchase assistive technology devices. Up to $25,000 will be made available for each student with visual or hearing impairments to procure assistive technology devices and supporting services.

Publicly-funded universities and arts institutions (Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and LASALLE College of the Arts) will provide the same support to their students with SEN.

In 2017, a new High-Needs category with a raised subsidy cap has been introduced. Under this new category, students with severe hearing impairment (HI), physical impairment (PI), or visual impairment (VI), will now be provided with up to $70,000 over their course duration to purchase the necessary Assistive Technology (AT) devices and support services for their education. “

We know how busy you are! You might not have the bandwidth to go through the many resources out there on the Internet. The following resources are curated and recommended here for their simplicity and clarity in their presentation with options for you to deep dive into specific areas where needed.

  1. Designing an Accessible Online Course
    by Explore Access under University of Arkansas – Partners for Inclusive Communities

  2. Visual summary of Accessibility Quick Guide
    by Portland Community College