Power outages, planned closures and concerns about the rising cost-of-living will impact some students more than others. Listening to students who are disabled, or have long term health conditions, will help you to create a strategy that supports the wellbeing of everyone.
Communication is key
Ensuring information is accessible will make it easier for everyone to read. A huge benefit of accessible content is that it will display well on a mobile phone, which is the way many students will receive updates.
If you share alerts through an app, be mindful that students with diverse user needs may not be able to access these on their phones, unless these apps have been designed and tested for accessibility.
A reliable and accessible way to share urgent information like class cancellations or facilities news is by text message. If you don’t have a text messaging system, have a look at the Janet txt framework.
Providing digital information that meets accessibility standards is not only good practice, it’s now a legal requirement. Jisc provides lots of practical guidance on how to get started.
Consider diverse needs
Students with support needs and who thrive with a routine, may need more time and reassurance to adjust to changes. Also think of students who have travel arrangements or one-to-one support that will need to be rescheduled or adapted.
Ensuring that information about any changes goes out as early as possible and is in clear language (think Plain English) will help. Clear, understandable language benefits everyone. It will be especially appreciated by students who are learning English and will reduce misunderstandings.
From isolation to inclusion
For many students, college and university life provides a sense of belonging. Feelings of isolation may intensify if it is a difficult winter. Including diverse student voices and gathering insights from support staff will help to identify specific areas of concern or need.
Students with disabilities, or long-term health conditions (including diagnoses of mental illness) could be particularly worried about being at home during planned power outages. Encourage them to get in touch with their energy supplier, which should be operating a priority service register. Also look out for emerging government guidance in the coming months.
Planning for challenging times in a way that considers the experiences of vulnerable students will help to create a robust approach that leaves no one behind.