I enjoy learning and teaching others about accessibility. In a recent webinar hosted by the DO-IT Center at University of Washington Accessible Design of Engineered Products and Technology (ADEPT) program, Stanford University’s Dave Jaffe referred to accessibility as:
“Accessibility is a design criteria, goal, constraint, or product feature that allows people of differing abilities to share & use common resources.” -Dave Jaffe
We usually refer to human beings with less ability as persons with a disability, whether these may be vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive, developmental or a combination of them. According to a 2016 CDC report, 61.4 million of adult Americans (age 18 and over) or 1 in 4, reported some type of disability. Out of this section of our population, 38.3M (15.5%) reported hearing and 26.9 (10.9%) reported vision issues (Tables A-6b and A-6c).
“Disability is a normal variation of the human condition.” –Gregor Wolbring
The 2017 U.S. Disabilities and Inclusion report by the Center for Talent and Innovation Group (CTI) reported that 30% of professionals have a disability and 62% of employees have invisible or not easily identified disability.
Also in 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that the percentage of students between the ages of 18-24 who disclosed having a disability was 11.4%. However, these numbers only represent students that have 1) enrolled at one of our schools, 2) disclosed that they have a disability, and 3) provided the necessary documentation to receive accommodations from their Disability Services Office.
These numbers grossly underestimate the actual number of students with disabilities that we serve in undergraduate and graduate schools. We may not be able to tell who those students are because the most prevalent form of disability on college campuses is hidden/invisible disabilities (learning disabilities, anxiety, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, etc.).
In a recently published interview by University of Washington IT Partnerships, I mentioned that “People don’t always realize they are not making things accessible”, how important it is to create accessible materials and provide creators of content with “…the tools to make it happen”.
In my work at the UW Bothell Office of Digital Learning and Innovation (DLI), I support mainly faculty and staff, but also get to work with students in supporting teaching and learning at UW Bothell. Aside from supporting tools we use for teaching and learning such as Canvas, Poll Everywhere, Zoom, G Suite, etc., I also work on promoting active learning pedagogies, learning communities, Small Group Diagnostics (SGIs), eportfolios, accessible learning paces, and yes, accessibility.
Our Universal Design for Active Learning (UDAL) initiative is based on principles, research and best practices of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with added emphasis on learner engagement and flexible learning environments, both digital and physical. UDAL is being integrated in faculty development, student support materials, online and hybrid course design, classroom design and faculty learning communities. With UDAL, universal design and accessibility go hand in hand.
One of the projects I put together is an accessibility basics online course, called Accessibility 101: Principles of Inclusive Design. It contains topics from creating accessible documents and creating accessible web content to universal design and advocacy. This course is an adaptation for University of Washington based on the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) course originally created by Jess Thompson in 2017.
This asynchronous course is offered a few times a year and is open to faculty and staff at UW. Information is available on the UW Bothell Accessibility website. We also have a self-paced version that is publicly available.
I am thankful for the support at the DLI to lead and develop our UDAL initiative under the leadership of Andreas Brockhaus, Executive Director, as well as all the opportunities to learn from and collaborate with the great colleagues at UW Access Technology Center (ATC) and the UW DO-IT Center. Also, thanks to Jess Thompson for leading the charge at the SBCTC and freely sharing accessibility course materials.
Remember… All of us have different levels of ability in many areas, let’s be inclusive and always share great content with others in ways that are universally accessible to all humans.