● Consider designing an inclusive course - that is, taking into account accessibility from the start of course creation - as opposed to first designing a course and only subsequently looking back to try and make it accessible. (Assistance is available - see below).
● Inclusive design benefits all students, not just students with disabilities. For example, some students with anxiety find multiple low-stakes assignments and quizzes easier to navigate and prepare for than one big high-stakes exam. This kind of course design has also been shown to improve learning outcomes for all students. Reluctance to cooperate with other students and incentives to cheat are both reduced by having a number of low-stakes assignments, rather than a single high-stakes assignment. Thus, structuring course assessments with students with anxiety in mind could benefit all students in the class, not solely students with disabilities.
● The more accessible your class is for students with disabilities, the fewer accommodations students will require to participate in your class. As an additional benefit, when your class is more accessible for students with disabilities, it will be more accessible for students without disabilities too! The paradigm of Universal Design recognizes that disability is just one facet of an individual’s identity and that disability is neither negative nor an inherent barrier to access. Universal Design asks us to consider for whom an environment, task, item, or program has been designed, and to whom the current or proposed design creates a barrier to access. We are then asked to consider the modifications to the environment, task, item, or program that could be implemented to remove the identified barriers so that all who would like to participate can do so.
Resources for Universal Design:
1. Shaw, Scott, and McGuire’s 2001 article, “Principles of Universal Design for Instruction” is a good introduction to the nine principles of Universal Design and how they can be applied to increase the accessibility of your classes and assignments.
2. Acting Associate Director for Accommodation Services and Lead Disability Specialist and Supervisor, Carolyn Swalina, is available to consult with faculty who would like to discuss increasing the accessibility of their courses and assignments. Faculty can contact Carolyn to request an individual consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Additional information on teaching and inclusive design can be found here: Teaching and Inclusive Design