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#Craption part 2: Confronting ethical issues related to classroom accessibility

In response to the book presentations, I made a post regarding the horrible captions on a video shared with the class. The lack of usable captions is of growing concern in higher education, especially as there are more lawsuits being brought against MOOCs (Massive, open, online courses) for providing inaccessible materials. These access lawsuits are being brought against institutions such as Harvard and MIT.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I consider access/universal design to be an ethical issue. Instead of looking from a utilitarian perspective, I consider the care/justice models of ethics – that we should (in the prescriptive sense) consider access to be of utmost importance in design – whether this is physical spaces or course design. To that effect, my final paper and presentation will focus on this topic. Here are some of the questions that I have posed to my interview participant; how would you answer them?

Question 1: How do you define accessibility?

Question 2: How does higher education incorporate accessibility?

Question 3: What is the difference between “accessibility” and “universal design”, in your view?

Question 4: Is accessibility/universal design an ethical issue?

Question 5: What are the effects of incorporating accessibility/universal design?

Question 6: What are the effects of ignoring or not including accessibility/universal design?

Follow-up for Q 5 and 6: How are these effects played out within classrooms? How about in other campus spaces?

Question 8ish: Is accessibility a student issue? Who should be considered stakeholders in accessibility?

Question 9: Is it ethical to put the need for accommodations on the individual, instead of on the system? E.g., for instructors not to “worry” about captioning films/audio in a class unless someone “complains”

Question 10: Should accessibility be considered as a specific part of diversity/inclusion initiatives? How would this practice take place?

Does access/universal really matter? I think it does, and I hope that my presentation (in a few weeks) will help you reconsider the meaning of curb cuts, voice-to-text, and user-controlled settings for everyone.

 

[UPDATE]

As I mentioned, I asked my interview participant, named “Bob” hereafter, the questions I listed above…here were some of their thoughts:

When discussing if accessibility is, as I have been positioning it, an ethical issue, Bob replied

All people deserve to have access to facilities. Without universal design and accessible design, not all people can access the facilities they are wanting [or needing] to. This gives different disabilities privilege and less-known disabilities less privilege. This is this especially troublesome when this concept intersects with access to education….

It absolutely is an ethical issue to put accommodations on the student and a person an actual individual. It tells the individual very blatant message. A message where they don’t actually matter enough to have systematic support for their needs. How unfair is that? Every student should have the access needs that they require to be able to learn fully in any environment.

By placing accessibility needs on the individual no real change can actually be made…Access should be seamless, effortless, unnoticeable by the person with a disability, not something they have to strive for and fight for and be excluded because and discriminated against and retaliated against.

Minion Mic Drop

That said….the physical, structural issues are just a small part of what people have to deal with in terms of accessibility. Attitudinal barriers, as demonstrated in the video below, als have a major impact on accessibility.

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