Practical activities may present particular and significant barriers to learning for some disabled students. They may take place in environments such as ICT studios, laboratories, language labs, art studios, workshops, and specialist areas such as darkrooms. They may also include offsite activities such as field trips and study visits.
Conversely, some students may find practical activities easier to manage than lectures or seminars because there may be more freedom to move around and to take time out. In some practical sessions (laboratories for example) expectations may be clearer, whereas in others (such as art and design studios) having your creative work constantly observed may be a source of stress and anxiety.
Practical environments represent important learning opportunities, particularly in subjects such as science and the creative and performing arts. The approach you take to make your teaching as inclusive as possible and to meet the specific needs of disabled students does not differ in essence from the approach in other areas of learning.
The following strategy represents a recommended anticipatory approach.
You may be concerned about the health and safety implications of disabled students working in practical environments.
Practical sessions may last several hours and this may cause difficulties for students who have stamina or concentration problems. Students who find it difficult to manipulate delicate equipment or to use heavy machinery, as well as visually impaired students, may need a practical assistant to undertake these tasks for them, under their direction.
The issues for deaf students undertaking practical activities are essentially similar to those for other learning situations, and much of what has been written in relation to inclusive teaching and teaching in lectures, seminars and tutorials applies to practical work.