DEVELOPING AN INCLUSIVE EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT IN A UNIVERSITY CONTEXT
The main quest that motivated this research study was to create knowledge that helps to tackle the issue of providing proper educational support to university students with disabilities. While working on issues of disability in the past five years, we realized that in spite of modern university education being more inclusive and more accessible to all, as evidenced by the recent increase in access and enrollment rates, some barriers to developing and implementing inclusive university education policy in Russia still exist. Being a constituent element of lifelong learning, inclusive university education is certainly available for people with special needs. However, many questions remain as to the way in which educational courses and fieldwork can be organised. As university researchers, we have the opportunity to explore these and other related issues drawing on our involvement in an inclusive adult education project in Chelyabinsk. We seek to show how diverse perspectives open up a whole new world of possibilities to adult students with special needs.
It can be safely assumed that creating a conducive environment for inclusive university education requires serious planning in terms of physical factors, communication technologies, curriculum design, and teaching styles. The present study makes an attempt to delve deeper into these issues by considering the opportunities of advancing Internet e-learning functionality for students with disabilities, providing them with on-line curriculum that serves the learning content according to students’ learning and access needs. The paper illustrates the importance of stimulating networking and cooperation between universities as well as facilitating the development of virtual learning communities for people with special educational needs. A special focus is made on promoting employment opportunities for university graduates with physical disabilities. The results of the study should be seen as a framework which can be used for developing an inclusive, barrier-free educational environment in a university context. Exemplary content that demonstrates the potential of the inclusive educational environment has also been developed.