Policy and Provision of Learning Supports and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities in Kenyan Public Universities
Wanjau, Agnes Wanja
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The purpose of this study was to examine policy and provision of learning supports and accommodations for students with disabilities (SWDs) in Kenyan Public Universities. An exploratory descriptive survey design was used. Questionnaires, interview schedules, focus group discussion guides, observation checklists and desk research were used as data collection instruments in the study. Criterion sampling was used to select three institutions out of 7 Public Universities as sample group of the study. Total population sampling was employed for SWDs who participated in this study. The faculty, administrators and service providers who participated in this study were selected purposefully. The data obtained by questionnaire were presented and analyzed quantitatively by using descriptive statistics. On the other hand, the data obtained by the use of interview schedules, focus group discussion guides, observation checklist and desk research were presented and analyzed qualitatively. One of the key findings of this study was that two of the studied Kenyan Public Universities had disability policies, however, they had not been released to the public and their implementation was minimal. For the third university the policy was still in draft form due to delays by the administration in ratifying it. A profound finding of this study was that the universities provided few types of accommodations to SWDs. The accommodations provided were also of a narrow range; therefore students did not have an opportunity to choose supports that suited their specific individual needs. The other key finding was that faculty (lecturers) in the Public Universities felt ill prepared and supported to teach SWDs. An overwhelming majority of the members who participated in this study, (90 %), said they had not received any training/professional training in teaching SWDs. Furthermore, well over half of those who taught distance courses indicated that they had not received training in accommodating SWDs in eLearning. A large proportion of the faculty (over 90%) also indicated that they were not familiar with the principles of Universal Design for Leaning. Another profound finding was that SWDs had negative experiences in requesting for supports and accommodations in Public Universities. They were not aware of what accommodations and supports were available to them nor did they receive effective accommodations or supports to enable them participate fully in university education. Although some lecturers were willing to provide accommodations if a student requested, other lecturers were not willing to provide those accommodations. The study found that although disability issues were mentioned in some university policy documents, there were wide gaps between policy and provision of accommodations to SWDs in these institutions of higher learning, as these policies had hardly been implemented. Consequent to these findings a number of recommendations have been made to improve policy and provisions for SWDs at Public Universities in Kenya. First, Public Universities should formulate clear-cut disability policies that are consistent with the Kenya Constitution (2010) and the CRPD to ensure that SWDs are entitled to the required accommodations as mandated by the law. Second, the universities should do a detailed research on assistive devices available to SWDs in the market and provide these to the students. Third, Public Universities should design an appropriate program for training of lecturers on handling SWDs in order to make teaching effective. This program should incorporate the principles of Universal Design. Fourth, Universities should provide necessary supports and accommodations to SWDs with regard to policies, programs and procedures in order to afford them equal opportunity in education. Finally; this study provides a Model for Provision of Learning Supports and Accommodations to SWDs in Kenyan Public Universities, which the universities should adopt in order to give structure to provisions.