Accessibility Tools

Research continues to affirm that when higher education (HE) institutions, policymakers, and society work together to support inclusive practices, students in HE regardless of their ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, religious orientation, and SES tend to succeed not just in educational outcomes but also in life. However today many HE institutions grapple with how to support minoritized students to succeed in HE. This is due to several reasons including but not limited to a lack of will, efforts at following up on policies and inadequate preparation and tools needed to provide support. This situation often leads to disengagement, feelings of exclusion, and communication issues that incite reactionary behaviour rather than engaging with coursework.


How do HE institutions make the transition from reactive programmes to proactive programmes? In other words, how can the institutions move away from damage control mechanisms to preventive measures today? How can HE institutions transform themselves to become institutions where partnerships are forged and where staff, students, families, and the community proactively collaborate to build student success?


Answers to the above questions were found in a systematic literature review of 44 peer-reviewed articles published between 2001-2021 conducted within the framework of this project called “Designing and Supporting Inclusive Practices in Higher Education”, co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union ( The review study revealed that in order to move toward inclusive education, HE institutions must transform/take action in three broad areas including policies, practices and accessibility.  


Inclusive Policies in Higher Education

Regarding policies, HE institutions must engage in:

  • Periodic policy reviews, have audits and use checklists to evaluate university facilities and services.
  • Having compulsory training for administrative and teaching staff on inclusive practices, for example on topics such as supporting students, building inclusive environments, and using technologies;
  • Implementing diversity and sensitivity training which includes identity self-reflection of behaviours and differences and recognition and demystifying any presumed stereotypes, measures aimed specifically at ensuring access, participation and completion of socially marginalized groups in higher education was another aspect of university-level inclusive policy addressed in the review. One such measure was targeted enrolment initiatives.
  • Widening information channels regarding university applications accessible to minority parents and students. This include giving more specific information regarding possible options (e.g., identified funding sources, various models, and how to start talking with institutions about starting a program) and providing this information earlier.


Inclusive Practices in Higher Education

Practices for promoting inclusion in higher education identified in the literature review were as follows. 

  • The curriculum was projected as critical in facilitating inclusive practices in higher education. Indicators in the studies that pointed to how the curriculum could facilitate inclusion in HE: learner-centred design, collaborative learning, flexible assessment, individual course guides and flexible and expanded learning opportunities for students who need that.
  • Regarding teaching and learning for inclusion in higher education: multiple instructional methods, flexible course design, inclusive relationships and atmosphere, various/accessible teaching materials, flexible assessment methods, various/accessible teaching content, and extra tutorials were underlined to be useful. Intentionally orchestrating inclusive relationships and atmosphere in higher education teaching and learning is a significant contributor to inclusive HE.


Accessibility in Higher Education

Finally, to be inclusive, institutions of higher education can facilitate inclusion by promoting accessibility through:

  • Ensuring easy access to campus facilities both indoors and outdoors. For instance, having gender-inclusive bathrooms, forms and housing options for students.  Creating pathways which are accessible for students with disabilities and ensuring that each building and library is clear, safe, and barrier-free to allow for smooth travelling to and from each facility and elevators, water fountains, and public areas (i.e. circulation desk, reference or information desk, stacks, etc.).
  • Presenting a friendly physical environment enabling more space for self-study on campus, computer centres, more private study areas both in the library or individual departments as well as quiet work areas and group work areas that are equipped with identifying AccessAbility stickers. 
  • Ensuring transportation is planned to accommodate the needs of disabled people while making campus maps accessible in different formats.  
  • Embedding digital solutions within higher education teaching and learning to facilitate inclusion. Essentially, digital support such as assistive technology and software such as screen readers and Dictaphones, appropriate screen sizes and audio-visual support can enhance accessibility to course content and materials for vision and hearing-disabled students to keep up with coursework.
  • Promoting social accessibility, which is the presence of mutual positive social contact, acceptance and friendships between students and their disabled peers can bolster inclusion in higher education for people with disability. Institutions of higher education should purposefully engage in activities that encourage involvement and interaction among students thereby promoting positive social contact, acceptance and mutual respect.