Why prepare? The reasons may seem obvious but nevertheless need emphasising. As a professional you are judged on how well you perform – by students, your institution, external bodies and in other contexts. Higher education is becoming increasingly competitive and more regulated. Teachers are now expected to meet professional standards that are more explicit and demanding than ever before. You and your employer institution now operate in a framework where you can be held legally accountable for the way you treat disabled students.
Preparation has always been an important part of teaching. It is particularly important when teaching disabled students because their needs are often different to those of other students. Also there are serious consequences for students, for you and for your employer institution if you fail to do so.
Your preparation covers three main areas.
Preparation is not just important for you. Disabled students may find it important to prepare themselves for your teaching so that they know what is likely to be involved and are clear about your expectations. If a student has an individual learning support worker then they may need to work together to prepare for your sessions.
When you are preparing to teach you may not necessarily know that you have a disabled student in your class. For example, mental health difficulties are often not disclosed by students, and there are other hidden disabilities. So even if you have not prepared adjustments for a particular student you should be aware of some of the more common barriers to learning experienced by some students and make sensible anticipatory adjustments wherever possible.
There are many issues to consider when identifying a student's needs, but it is important to remember that they may fluctuate from day to day. As the course progresses, try to review with students whether you are meeting their needs.