Studying - and accessing disability support - at University during 2020-21 Semester One

You may be wondering what to expect when you begin - or return to - your studies at the University of Sheffield in Autumn 2020. The University is planning for a blend of face-to-face teaching in small, socially distanced groups on campus, supported by digital delivery. Where teaching is taking place on campus, specific COVID19-related arrangements will be in place to ensure the safety of students and staff, in line with UK government guidance.

For general information on how the University will deliver learning, teaching and assessment during the 2020-21 Autumn Semester, please see:

Whilst there will be elements of this new 'blended model' - and the restrictions under which we need to work - that may benefit some disabled students, we are aware that for some it may pose significant challenges. This webpage aims to provide disabled students with information about how they can access additional consideration/support specifically in relation to the COVID19 arrangements the University has in place, as well as information on how aspects of University disability support will work during the Autumn Term.

This guidance is not exhaustive, and is also subject to change as the University responds to updates in government policy, etc. If you have a question about your own support/learning experience which isn't addressed by the information below, please email disability.info@sheffield.ac.uk or (if you have already accessed disability support from DDSS) email your Disability Adviser directly.

Most importantly, if you are a disabled student who is newly-starting at the University of Sheffield in Autumn 2020 - or are a current student who is yet to access disability support - please do take the steps outlined on our 'setting up support' web pages to begin the process of accessing disability support at the University. The majority of the support we offer is unaffected by the current COVID19 conditions in place, and will be tailored to ensure it is helpful to you in your studies.

Additional consideration/support relating to the COVID19 arrangements the University has in place:

I am unable to wear a face covering/mask - what should I do?

You do not need to wear a face covering if doing so will provide a barrier to you effectively engaging in learning/teaching, or risks exacerbating the symptoms of a health condition. For example:

  • If you have a condition which causes you breathing difficulty
  • If you have an impairment which causes you to experience acute sensory sensitivity
  • If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress

All University staff and students have been encouraged to be respectful of the fact that some people will not be able to wear a face covering. If you cannot, you should not be challenged on this. You will certainly not be required to provide any evidence regarding the reason why.

If you would feel reassured by knowing that you can show someone something which says you do not have to wear a face covering, you can download a 'mask exemption badge' template on the DirectGov webpages. However, this is not required.

I am reliant on lip-reading and/or facial expressions to communicate. In face-to-face teaching sessions, I will need those I am working with to NOT wear a face mask which obscures their lips/mouth. How can I request this?

The University is currently finalising a process to ensure that those working with disabled students with this specific support requirement will have access to the necessary equipment/space to meet it.

Please contact DDSS as soon as possible to let us know that you will require this adjustment. If you have not done so already, please also ensure that you provide us with written diagnostic evidence of your impairment: without sufficient evidence we will be unable to request this adjustment on your behalf.

  • If you are a current student and already a DDSS service-user, email your DDSS Disability Adviser directly
  • If you are an applicant, or a current student who has not yet accessed DDSS, please email disability.info@sheffield.ac.uk

For reasons related to my impairment, I cannot attend campus for face-to-face teaching - what should I do?

Where at all possible, we would encourage all students to plan on attending face-to-face University teaching sessions. However, we also understand that some disabled students - and particularly students who have conditions which render them 'clinically extremely vulnerable' - may have concerns about attending campus at present. The University's Autumn term 2020 webpage is clear on this point:

'We know that some students may be unable to travel to Sheffield, due to international travel restrictions, visa delays, medical reasons or a disability. We are committed to ensuring that you are not excluded or disadvantaged for this reason, and you will not receive a penalty if you cannot attend. You will be able to access our induction activities and all our digital learning online, until you are able to join us later in Semester 1 or at the start of Semester 2.'

If there is a specific reason linked to your impairment or personal circumstances that means you do not think you will be able to attend campus in the Autumn 2020 Term

...and you are an applicant who is scheduled to begin your studies this Autumn - please complete this Remote Attendance Notification form

...and you are a current student - please contact your department to make them aware of this and to discuss this further

If you do not think that you will be able to attend University due to an impairment but you have not yet accessed disability support at the University, we would also encourage you to start the process of doing so as soon as possible. Providing evidence of your impairment and having a discussion with a DDSS Disability Adviser about your support requirements means we can:

  • Ensure that you have a bespoke package of support in place which may help you to attend face-to face teaching but should also make it easier for you to effectively undertake remote learning
  • Ensure that your department is provided with a Learning Support Plan (LSP) which outlines the nature of your impairment and specific ways you can be supported in your studies. This information is likely to be helpful for the department to refer to - both when they consider any request to not attend face-to-face teaching (and so that they can liaise with DDSS to discuss individual requests for this adjustment), and also to inform how they support any student who is only able to undertake remote learning at this time.

Information on how aspects of University disability support will work during the Autumn term:

Information for students who access - or are eligible to access - exam adjustments (e.g. 25% extra time)

As the Autumn Term 2020 webpage makes clear, 'all formal invigilated exams in the autumn term will be replaced by online forms of assessment. You will not be required to be on campus for final assessments.'

If you usually require exam adjustments but have not yet accessed DDSS to discuss your need for these, please still do so as soon as possible. Ascertaining disabled students' exam support requirements and referring you for appropriate exam adjustments is a central part of our work.

We will communicate details of the exam support adjustments you usually require with both the Exams Office and your academic department. This will ensure that these adjustments will be automatically put in place for you in future exams sessions. It will also mean that if your support requirements cannot be met by the design of any of the assessments you are scheduled to sit during Semester one, your department can be in touch with you directly with information about adjustments they will make to these assessments to ensure that you are not disadvantaged in them.

In some cases you may find that your usual exam support adjustments are not available to you in some of your 2020-21 Semester One online assessments. This will depend on the exam adjustments you normally have in place, as well as the format of the online assessments you will take.

Take the example of a student who is usually entitled to additional time (e.g. 25% extra time or rest breaks) in exams. In the Autumn 2020 Term, instead of a 3-hour long exam the department sets a 24-hour 'take-at-home' exam: students are advised that they can choose when they work on the exam during this time. In this scenario, the disabled student in question would not need to be permitted extra time/rest breaks. With a 24-hour window to produce the work, all students – including disabled students – should have enough time to demonstrate what they know to the fullest extent (as well as pacing their efforts) without the need for additional extra time or rest breaks.

The University's 301 Academic Skills Hub has a guidance webpage which provides an overview of the different kinds of online assessment commonly used and how to prepare for these.

If you have a question about how – or whether - the exam adjustments you normally have will be in place for your online assessments

Please wait until the departments you are taking modules in have provided you with details about the format these assessments will take, as this may well clarify how the department will ensure that your disability support requirements are accommodated. If you still have a query at this stage, please contact the Exams Officer in your department directly in the first instance.

If you are not sure whether assistive software you already use on your computer will be compatible with the format of an online assessment you have been set

Please contact the University’s Digital Learning Team (digital.learning@sheffield.ac.uk) for advice and guidance.

If you have a query which your department cannot answer about how your exam support adjustments can be accommodated in an online assessment you have been set - please contact DDSS (disability.info@sheffield.ac.uk), or email your Disability Adviser directly to raise this.

Additional support/guidance support for students on learning online

In addition to accessing DDSS support, we would encourage all eligible disabled students to apply for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)

DSA provides disabled students with a bespoke package of support - often including assistive software and access to ongoing specialist 1:1 support sessions - to ensure that they can produce work that is representative of their ability whilst remaining well. You can find extensive guidance on what DSA can cover and how to apply for it on our website.

For information and guidance on how to study as effectively as possible at the University of Sheffield

Visit the University's 301 Academic Skills hub. The '301' pages include a useful overview of how to access the different academic skills services remotely.

For information on ways to make your computer easier to use

The AbilityNet website contains guidance on simple changes you can make to your computer to make it easier for you to use when you are undertaking online learning or assessments - including: