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Celebrating Different Minds with the University of Northampton

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Headshot of Nadine Shambrook

This week (18th-24th of March 2024), marks Neurodiversity Celebration Week, an annual initiative that challenges the misconceptions about neurological differences, aiming to transform how neurodivergent students are perceived and supported by schools, universities and organisations. 

To mark this occasion, we caught up with Nadine Shambrook, who works within Marketing and Student Recruitment at the University of Northampton to discuss what they are doing to provide an inclusive learning environment to support neurodivergent students as they aim to break the mould of what higher education can be. Making sure that students regardless of disabilities, additional needs, or language can transform their lives and those of others too.

1. Why is it important to the University of Northampton to support its neurodiverse students?

Everyone is entitled to have an equal opportunity to study a course that helps them get onto their desired career path. At UON we are proud to welcome all students and we actively encourage neurodivergent students and those with other disabilities and additional needs to apply. We have a dedicated ‘ASSIST’ service to support our student learners and our in-house team of tutors and mentors provide specialist 1:1 support for students and apprentices.

Neurodiverse students bring a wealth of experiences, perspectives and opinions which can strengthen and broaden an institution. With a more diverse student population, schools, colleges and universities can help grow into the future.

2. What Diversity and Inclusion strategies does the University of Northampton have in place to ensure all students are provided with an inclusive learning environment? 

We are the national adult community learning organisation for Wales. We provide access to education from Pre-entry Level learning to Level four qualifications.

3. Why is inclusion important to the University of Northampton?

The University of Northampton is committed to providing a vibrant, ethical and sustainable work, study and living environment that values equality, diversity and inclusion. 

Some examples of what we are doing to improve accessibility include: 

  • Our university has a student equality diversity and inclusion forum which has two further groups feeding into it. One is the Disability Coordinators Group and the Staff Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum. At all meetings, the groups are considering ways in which our university accessibility can be improved. 
  • Training (synchronous and asynchronous) has been developed for all staff to ensure they are aware of the requirements and have the skills needed to update materials.
  • Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) are required for new policies and services and ensure a focus on the range of people expected to access that material.
  • We have implemented the Recite Me toolbar to support student user experiences on our website. Giving students, staff and our website visitors the ability to customise their digital experience with a screen reader, multiple reading aids, styling features, and an on-demand live translation tool. 
  • Our highly trained, skilled and experienced teams of specialist tutors, autism mentors, mental health mentors and disability advisors offer support, information and guidance through every step of the student journey, from application to graduation. 


4. How does being inclusive help you attract new students while retaining current ones?

Creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment, that is safe, cohesive, and free from fear and discrimination helps us attract a diverse range of students to our university. Inclusivity promotes a sense of belonging, encouraging current students to stay and engage with our community. By demonstrating our commitment to this, we are enhancing our institution’s reputation, appealing to prospective students and reassuring current ones of their decision to enrol. 

Through the provision of specialist student-centred support, we can ensure our neurodivergent and disabled students achieve their full potential as we strive to remove barriers when accessing and engaging with all aspects of the UON student experience. 

5. Why did you believe it was important for the University of Northampton to provide an inclusive digital experience for students?

Going to university can be a daunting time for anyone, and this can be amplified if you face accessibility barriers online. By ensuring an inclusive online experience we can provide support to applicants who are navigating their journey to university, and support them when making one of the most important decisions of their lives. 

6. Why did you choose Recite Me to support your student’s experiences online?

Recite Me assistive technology helps our students and applicants understand the information on our website in a way that best suits their individual needs. Allowing visitors to customise their digital experience to their preference, for instance, our website visitors can now zoom into text or images with a powerful magnifying glass. They can listen to sections of text spoken aloud; and can change colours and background. 

We hope that the adoption of Recite Me on our website will enable more students to search and apply for our courses, find out university information and learn about student life here with ease. This would result in a decline in students seeking accessibility support.

7. So far, have you had any responses to the assistive tools on your website? 

At this point, the toolbar has only been live on our website for approximately 20 days, however looking at data and statistics of clicks, Recite Me is being used. In just 3 weeks, there have been 1,633 launches of the Recite Me toolbar, being used to read 5,146 pages of content on our website. Knowing that it can help anyone who visits our website, whether they are new students, parents, or the community, is a great response to us.

For more information on Neurodiversity, check out our blog, An Introduction to Neurodiversity an Online Barriers.  

Become Neurodivergent-Friendly Today

At Recite Me, our goal of achieving online inclusion for all starts by creating awareness and helping others to understand the opportunities presented by improving web accessibility. By guiding our clients through this process, we can make a positive difference together.

Recite Me website open on different devices with the toolbar launched

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