Higher Education

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 435–448 | Cite as

Including young people with disabilities: Assessment challenges in higher education

  • Joan Hanafin
  • Michael ShevlinEmail author
  • Mairin Kenny
  • Eileen Mc Neela
Original Paper


Within a European context, facilitating the increased participation of marginalized groups within society has become a cornerstone of social policy. In higher education in Ireland this has generally involved the targeting for support of individuals representing groups traditionally excluded on the grounds of socio-economic status. More recently, people with disability have been included in this consideration. This approach has tended to focus on physical access issues and some technical supports. However, access is multi-faceted and must include a review of pedagogic practices, assistive provision (technological and personal), student’s engagement with their workload (e.g. recording) and evaluation procedures: achieving accreditation levels commensurate with ability.

This small-scale Irish study examined the experiences of two groups of young people with physical disabilities and with dyslexia in two higher education institutions. It was apparent that for students with physical disabilities and with dyslexia, assessment practices were fraught with additional limitations. Assessment practices were mediated for these students through the physical environment, the backwash effect of assessment on curriculum, the availability and use of assistive technology, and through the attitudes of staff and students. It can be concluded that access issues within higher education have been inadequately conceptualized and as a result failed to address fundamental issues around assessment for students with physical disabilities and with dyslexia.


Access Assessment Attitudinal issues Assistive technology People with disabilities 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan Hanafin
    • 1
  • Michael Shevlin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mairin Kenny
    • 1
  • Eileen Mc Neela
    • 1
  1. 1.Education DepartmentTrinity CollegeDublin 2Republic of Ireland

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