Disability Inclusion in higher education is a long process because of the obvious barriers (attitudes, discrimination, and stereotypes) that persons with disability experience in their day-to-day life. Through observation of both the social and physical environment at Higher Educations Institution, it was very important to come up with training that will facilitate the change of mind of the HEIs staff. All most all the teaching staff have no background of special education and that makes it hard for them to know how to make a learning environment for learners with disabilities conducive.
Due to that, the period of June to December the trainings on disability inclusion in education at Tangaza University College focused on improving the learning environment in university and also assistive technology. Lecturers, students and library staff were trained on different days. For the lecturers, different expertise was invited to come and train. The first trainer to come and train the lecturers was the Disability Inclusion Co-ordinator (Prof. Paul Mbugua) from Kenyatta University (Physically challenged). This was decided because of his experience of serving the Directorate (Kenyatta University) for over 7 years.
Prof. Mbugua’s training majored most on class learning, accessible learning materials (course syllabus, course outline, course notes, and PowerPoint slides), mode of delivery especially when you have a student with visual impairment and a deaf too. He emphasized on describing the pictures and diagrams that lecturers use to emphasize a point during the lecture. He further added that, for the visually impaired to participate fully, the lecturer should call their names during the lecture and ask direct questions to them because if you say “You” they will not know it is them.
The second trainer was Mr. Wilson Macharia (Blind), a Lawyer by profession, working at Strathmore University. The first thing he said was, teaching students with disabilities is easy if you understand them. He advised the lecturers to ask the student first whether how he is teaching is ok and if not, how he can improve. Mr. Macharia advised the lecturers to use words instead of figures when setting a financial examination paper for visually impaired. This is because it will be easy for them to read. The other advice was to make sure the exams are printed in big prints for the low vision. Students with disabilities to be given 30 minutes extra, either before or after exam because they could be slow in typing when doing an exam since they are using a screen-reader program.
During the training he insisted to lecturers to be firm to students with disabilities by demonstrating to them they are able and can be useful people in the society. This will build their self-esteem.
Due to the Lecturers trainings, the mode of delivery in classes has changed. Lecturers are aware of the presence of students with disabilities unlike before. The assumption that all students can read hard copy notes has changed and lecturers provide soft copies to all students including those with disabilities. Because of the trainings, the lecturers describe the diagrams and illustration in their PowerPoint notes during lectures, such a great improvement. The lecturers liaise with ICT department to make sure the student’s portal can be accessible to students with visual impairment. This has worked very well and it is a great achievement for all students.
The performance of students with disabilities has improved because the examination is set in such a way that they can do it. Students with visual impairment are given examination in soft copies and once done they submit in the same mode. This has improved their esteem and they feel well accommodated in the learning process. The course contents are accessible to all students.
One of the methodology is group assignment where students are supposed to write a short research paper. After the lecturers trainings, lecturers became more sensitive and advised students with disabilities not to do the assignments a lone. They should be in the groups of their classmates who are not disabled. The lecturers facilitated in grouping the students and this has boosted the esteem of students with disability because they feel appreciated.
The School of education at Tangaza University College has installed webcam to record the lecture proceedings so that they can give the audio to the students with disability especially the blind. The move of installing the webcam in classes was after the lecturers training series. Some lecturers insisted it will take them long to convert all their lectures in soft copies, so they requested the management for the recording of the lectures. Further, the school of education, through several meetings with lecturers, after the disability inclusion training in education, decided to draft a special education certificate course curriculum, aiming to start the training to the students in the beginning of 2020.
The department of youth studies, equally developed a curriculum on child and vulnerable adults protection and safeguarding certificate course which was equally influenced by the disability inclusion lecture series to the lecturers. The first three months (March to May) disability inclusion training to lecturers were intense and so that informed quite a number of changes. The changes started being actualised in the second set of trainings (June to November 2019).
Generally, the attitude of lecturers towards students with disability changed tremendously because now they have the knowledge, skills and right attitude. They understand their roles in a class with students with disability, they are not afraid to engage them because they now know how to interact and support them.