In this project we have distinguished between ‘accessibility’ and ‘inclusion’. We define accessibility as the legal requirements that higher education institutions have in terms of ensuring that disabled staff and students can access buildings, infrastructure and resources through reasonable adjustments (e.g. ramp access to buildings, screen reading software, hearing loops). Accessibility is part of our inclusive education framework, but we see this as a minimum requirement. For us, inclusion goes a lot further than this, enabling all staff and students to participate fully in educational activities on an equivalent basis to their peers. For example, ‘accessible’ might mean a wheelchair user can physically get into a space, whereas ‘inclusive’ would have furniture and other students arranged so that the wheelchair user can interact with their peers on an equal basis.
We also distinguish between equality and equity. Equality is where everyone is treated the same, provided with the same resources and opportunities, but can still lead to unequal outcomes as it doesn’t recognise the individual circumstances that underpin success. Equity recognises that some people are at a structural disadvantage compared to others, so each person is provided with the resources and opportunities they need to achieve the same outcomes as their peers.
We adopt an intersectional approach to inclusion (Crenshaw, 1986), recognising that individual students might belong to multiple historically disadvantaged groups. Inclusive education also recognises that students are individuals, not just members of a demographic ‘group’. Two students from the same ‘group’ might have very different experiences, so we must take care not to fall back on stereotypes or generalisations about what a particular student needs.