Episode 3 of Accessagogy Transcript

Episode 3- Accessible Pedagogy is Not Just UDL

0-0:13 Orthotonics Accessible as Gravity plays and fades out

0:13 Hello and welcome to Accessagogy a podcast about accessibility and pedagogy. I’m your host Ann Gagné and this podcast is recorded on treaty 13 on the traditional land of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

0:30 Welcome to episode three! In this episode we are going focus on the many aspects that make up what could be considered accessible pedagogy, how accessible pedagogy is definitely not just UDL or universal design for learning, and all of the different teaching and learning both material and demographic contexts that need to be taken into account when we talk about accessible pedagogy. 

0:58 Accessibility as you may have seen has a bit of a scope issue when it comes to higher ed. What I mean by that is that accessibility is important and can be seen in many parts of higher education and because there are many different aspects to it, sometimes when folk use the word accessibility they use it in a way that conflates with other ways and therefore people may be left not getting the support that they need because there’s a belief that it should be in the scope of someone else’s role.

1:34 So let me explain. In your institution you probably have someone whose responsibility is to take care of the accessibility of your institutional or departmental websites. Where I’m from that usually falls under the scope of the AODA office, or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Office, it may be the folk who deal with ADA if you are responsible for this in your institution if you are in the United States, or it could be part of the educational technology team. So you can see we are already getting pretty muddy because where this responsibility lies from place to place depends on the institution.

2:25 Another accessibility aspect comes from the built environment of the institution. Again, where I’m from that falls under the AODA office and depending where you are in other provinces or in the United States or in other countries like in the European Union or Australia for example, there may be separate office like facilities where these aspects reinforced.

2:52 So here we have two things that are directly connected to accessibility, such as website accessibility, and built environment accessibility, that both connect to accessibility in teaching and learning spaces but are rarely the place where instructors get to have any feedback or control about what happens. When folk use the word accessibility they may be thinking or talking in reference to those things or they could be talking about something else, which could be what is often talked about in relation to accommodations for example.

3:30 When folk talk about accessibility, it is rarely in relation to what could be holistically understood as accessible pedagogy. Accessibility is often framed as the issue of Accessibility or Disability Services in your institutions depending on what that office is called where you are. And yes they are certainly partners in this, but for the most part their mandate is usually student facing.

4:00 Their mandate is to help support students with accommodations. And there has been a lot of conversation and literature about how even getting accommodations in higher education is a barrier both financially systemically for so many students. Accessibility services is rarely the space where conversations about accessible pedagogy are had, unless it is in relation to some assistive technology supports that a student may need in the classroom, and how that will be put in place with the instructors’ existing pedagogy.

4:42 When others start talking about this other thing called inclusive pedagogy, this can also be taken to to mean the same thing as accessible pedagogy. The thing that often times when folk talk about inclusive pedagogy, is that the main focus is on racial or cultural inclusion when it comes to pedagogical design of courses or representation in assessments or reading lists for example.

5:15 Rarely are those conversations had with an intersectional awareness, for example how a student could be Black and disabled, or Asian and queer, or Indigenous and queer and disabled, or Latine and a first generation student and disabled. So inclusive pedagogy gets used as this sort of catch all term that may include accessibility, but sadly rarely does.

5:43 So if we are keeping track, and we are going to use a nice contextual accessible pedagogy strategy here which is summarizing, in higher ed accessibility can mean a website, it can mean the built environment, it can mean the accommodations a student may or may not get from accessibility services, or rarely within some catch all term called inclusive pedagogy. It is easy to see why actual discussions about accessible pedagogy don’t really happen because people think they’re happening in all these other spaces and really they aren’t.

6:23 So then comes this other thing where institutions start using this term access which others on the outside of the institution can kind of further conflate as seeing as the institution demonstrating a care for accessibility, but what they usually mean by using the word access is one of two things.

6:48 One is literal access to the educational space, which is often used in terms of access programs that support marginalized students or first generation students for example. The second is access in terms of technology, so programs that give an opportunity to acquire the technology that learners may need to use in particular disciplines. Cait Kirby and I have an article out for peer review right now about this conflation, and I’ll be happy to share it if and when it is published.

7:23 For that last meaning of access there may be some overlap there in relation to accessibility, such as assistive technology or tools that are used, but again because intersectional awareness is lacking in so many places, rarely do we get access programs that consider that there could a Black first gen disabled student.

7:49 So where does that leave us? A lot of these places and offices seem to be talking around the idea of what is needed in terms of teaching and learning, but not about actual accessible pedagogy. So that takes us to a place that a lot may have heard of since the pandemic which is, UDL, or Universal Design for Learning.

8:16 Because of the increased interest in UDL principles of engagement, action and expression, and representation, now folk believe that if they have UDL awareness, or have put UDL principles in place that they have achieved accessible pedagogy. And I am here to tell you, that no sorry, that is not how it works as much as some of the “for all” discourse that some people who are part of the UDL community would like you believe, accessible pedagogy does not end with UDL.  I will also link to an article that I wrote about this already in the show notes as well as a great Twitter thread from sarah madoka currie about this. Basically I’m here to say UDL is not accessible pedagogy, is more like UDL is part of accessible pedagogy, it’s more of a yes and situation.

9:19 So a lot of the things that we already mentioned are part of the things we need to think about in a more holistic manner when we talk about, you know design, and use of accessible pedagogical praxis. So if you want to share this episode with folk and they didn’t have time for the nice like 9 minute or 10 minute overview that I just did and they are really pressed for time and want to have the high level overview of what accessibility pedagogy actually is tell them to start here.

9:52 So here are the three main components that are part of accessible pedagogy considerations.

9:59 One, accessible pedagogy thinks about the space where learning happens. This means either virtually or on campus and even the learning that happens outside of class time, or asynchronously.  Look at the seminar room, the lecture hall, the Zoom room, and any other LMS which is learning management system component you use to support learning. Are there barriers present that could prevent learners from being able to participate or engage in ways that they would like to participate?

10:34 Are their physical barriers, stairs, columns that create poor sight lines, echoes, those kinds of things. Connected to this is there technology in those spaces that will actually support accessibility, microphones, light dimmers, chairs that fit different body types, designated wheel chair user space, those kinds of things. For your online and hybrid spaces, are there captions, are there opportunities for learners to modify the virtual space in the way that is accessible to them. I’m going to link in the resource in the show notes a resource that I created that you can feel free to share with others about how to do an accessible learning audit of your spaces so this may help you with that.  

11:26 Two, accessible pedagogy is about the tools. What websites, technologies, and softwares are you asking the learners to use or are part of your course and are those accessible? This is a partnership that needs to be done with the educational technology folk on your campus, and those that are responsible for procurement to make sure that what is procured for your institution is accessible. However, as people like Sarah Silverman and Brenna Clarke Gray have noted there is gap between who is buying the tech that we use, and if those folk are actually trained in useability and understanding useability beyond the VPAT which is the voluntary product accessibility template that company may give you, and some nebulous WCAG which is the web content accessibility guidelines compliance that they note. A lot goes into accessible procurement and this is necessarily a part of accessible pedagogical design because you want to make sure that you are not using tools that students can’t accessibly use.

12:38 Three, and finally, think about the accessible design of the course and this is where UDL can help, but not be the be all end all. Things like due dates, choice, flexibility, the kinds of instructions given about assignments, multimodality, the actual document that has the assignment information on it and whether that document itself is accessible, and how I’ve mentioned before things like captions, alt texts, transcripts, and even the course policies and being in conversation about how to make your institutional policies more accessible through advocacy from your course.

13:23 And it’s also important to not just think about sensory disability supports for learners who are d/Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, maybe have apraxia and think for example of also neurodivergent learners those with ADHD, Autism, schizophrenia, OCD, and PTSD, just to name a few. Now that there are a lot of conversations about neurodiversity in higher ed, I’m again bit worried that neurodiversity or ND as it is used is going to become like UDL in that folk will think of when it comes to accessible pedagogy that all they need to think about is ND or ND learners, when there are a lot of other things like I have noted in this episode like tools, and space that need to be considered.

14:13 Accessible pedagogy needs to be in conversation with larger inclusive pedagogy frameworks in a real intersectional and in a supportive way. But thinking about the space, on campus or virtual, the tools, and the technology, as well as the actual accessible design of your courses, assignments, and activities are all part of accessible pedagogy. So, as you can see it is a lot more than just UDL.

14:46 So that’s it, a little bit longer of an episode, 15 minutes or so, with an overview of what accessible pedagogy is or at least what it should be when we talk about it in higher education spaces.

15:01 Remember that I also want this to be a space where you can ask questions and share concepts that you would like me to discuss as well. So if there’s anything that I mentioned here about accessible pedagogy that you would like me to clarify or more resources that you need, please ask.

15:17 As well if you have ideas or aspects of your pedagogy that you would like me to address in this podcast, please feel free to send me an email at accessagogy so that’s acc e ss a gogy at gmail dot com. I will try to include as many suggestions as I can in the podcast because ultimately this podcast is for you. So that’s it, that’s episode 3, thanks so much for following along and asking how can I make my space more accessible today? Have a great week!

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