Welcome from Ann Heelan, Executive Director, AHEAD
Welcome to the first edition of the AHEAD Journal. This journal is not a newsletter nor is it an academic journal. It is a space for you working out there on the ground to share innovations, your examples of good practices that deserve a showcase. Most importantly it is a celebration of what has been done and is done by the champions of disability in higher education, be they disability support officers, academics or professional staff. It is also a sneak peek at how this is evolving. The 4.6% of students with disabilities can grow and increase to become 10% to 12% comparable with our international counterparts.
The commitment of the higher education sector to increasing the diversity of the student body together with the greater use of technology, a deeper understanding of how the brain works combined with a move to learning outcomes have produced an environment in which massive change is inevitable. We now recognise that the traditional model of packing students into stuffy halls to take notes is at best boring and does not suit many students, but it excludes a diverse student body with dyslexia or disability that the sector wants to include. In essence, we want the current champions to recruit more champions of disability in higher education, in the library, in faculty, in careers and other students in the classroom.
One interesting model emerging from the US and the EU is Universal Design in Learning (UDL). In a nutshell, it means designing the learning environment with flexibility and variability so all students can learn. While this can mean many things to many people, it is an emerging model of inclusion and there’s a lot of buzz about it. New collaborations and synergies are emerging. Academics and disability support staff are coming up with exciting innovations every day by gaining a deeper understanding of the student condition and its effect in education. They are becoming more open to embracing the possibilities of technology, and teaching in a way that enables students to have the same opportunities to learn.
The role of the journal will be to capture the emerging knowledge about universal design, to understand and debate the issues that arise for staff and students, to showcase new ideas and innovations. Let the conversation begin!