Universal Design & Accessibility

By stressing user-centered design and the value of connectivity over static standards, the multimodal composition classroom may facilitate “universal instructional design.” Issues of accessibility are an integral component of instruction planning, and universal instructional design displaces the problems that may be unwittingly produced by support services and assistive technology. While students will continue to disclose non-standard needs in order to have those needs augmented by digital tools such as voice to text software or close captioning, designing courses in which all students are addressed as “multiply situated learners” emphasizes shared strengths over remediation (Price 88).

Instead of accommodating students to meet a standard, multimodal courses have the opportunity to be accessible from their inception. Courses that are already accessible for a range of learners

  • Incorporate digital tools often marked off as assistive into the standard curriculum.
  • Insure the course syllabus, instructional materials, and website are supported by multiple means of delivery
  • “…emphasize the universality of learning differences and…openness to negotiating” needs in both the syllabus statement and the discussions of the syllabus statement at the start of the semester (Price 89)
  • Encourage both synchronous and asynchronous discussions via Blogs, mark-up software, and websites
  • Solicit student discussion and peer feedback in multiple modes

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

Guidance on ADA Standards for Accessible Design

Beyond Accessibility: Treating Users with Disabilities as People.” This article reports the findings of a study of usability of website usability. “The Nielsen Norman Group found that web usability for takes completion is three times faster for users without disabilities. Based on these findings, Nielsen stressed the need to consider accessibility as something more than simply following regulations (as many of his tested sties did) but by eliminating discriminatory practices on the web” (“Revising Notions of Disability and Accommodation: Embracing Universal Design in Writing Pedagogy and Web Space.”) The site also archives useful materials for including individuals through design such as 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design and Usability Guidelines for Accessible Web Design.

Brizee, Allen, Dana Lynn Driscoll, and Morgan Sousa. “Writing Centers and Students with Disabilities: the User-Centered Approach, Participatory Politics, and Empirical Research as Collaborative Methodologies.” Computers and Composition 29 (2012): 341-366.

Though directed toward writing center faculty looking to assess the success of an OWL, the authors synthesize an array of research on disability studies, digital composition, user-centered pedagogy, and participatory design. For the authors a site is “user-centered” if it treats the “technology as an art whose end was the use of a product and not in the design or making of the product itself” (342). Similarly, participatory design aims to “broaden the perspective we have of what computers are and how they are used…in the social, political, cognitive, and practical facets of computer usage” (343). Their assessment model and findings can help guide faculty and students in the composition of already inclusive websites.

Dunn, Patricia A. and Kathleen Dunn De Mers. “Revising Notions of Disability and Accommodation: Embracing Universal Design in Writing Pedagogy and Web Space.” Kairos 7.1

In this hyperlinked essay, the authors describe theory and practices relevant to universally designed multimodal classrooms. They show faculty how to simulate writing project demands in a variety of approaches, and how to include and challenge all students in complex, chaotic, yet generative thinking. These goals inform syllabus design, course web design, and student authored/administered sites. Instead of merely accommodating or complying, multimodal courses can be designed to be already accessible. For example, the authors describe “multimodal reading response logs” due at different times over the course of the semester as a voice recording, an email, a white paper, a visual image, and a 3D image. The authors also experiment with voice to text projects in their class. When the traditionally assistive tech becomes the standard mode of composition, the course is constantly mindful of the relative status of abled and disabled bodies.

Dunn, Patricia. Talking, Sketching, Moving: Multiple Literacies in the Teaching of Writing. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2001.

“Patricia Dunn makes the case for a writing pedagogy that draws upon multiple literacies and then gives numerous, detailed examples of how that theory can be translated into classroom practice. Challenging the assumption that written texts play an almost exclusive role in the production of knowledge in composition classrooms, her book foregrounds other, more intellectually diverse ways of knowing: oral, visual, kinesthetic, spatial, and social pathways. Dunn goes on to describe what she and her students learned when they experimented with Freire’s “multiple channels of communication” and how it helped them gain the metacognitive distance they needed for writing and revision” (GoogleBooks).

Margaret Price. Professor Price researches and teaches in the areas of rhetoric and composition, disabilities studies, creative writing, and digital composition at Spellman College. She is the author of Mad at School: Rhetoric’s of Mental Disability and Academic Life. Chapter two, “Ways to Move: Presence, Participation, and Resistance in Kairotic Space,” may be of specific interest to faculty participating in Domain.

  • Price offers a nuanced understanding of expressivist pedagogy as it relates to issues of accessibility and classroom practice. Practitioners of expressivist composition pedagogy assume writing-in-process can be applied to all students and across the curriculum. Through workshops, peer response, drafting, and revision, expressivist pedagogy observes the complex choices students make to complete the final draft of a writing project. Process-oriented writing pedagogy risks becoming a standard by which student writers are either remediated or excluded.
  • Instead of “lofty radical goals [that] provide little use in day-to-day survival,” Price outlines a series of multimodal class practices grounded in the theory of Universal Design (87). For these practices see the last section of Chapter Two, “A Way to Move: Redesigning the Kairotic Space of the Classroom” (87-102).

—–. “Assessing Disability: A Nondisabled Student Works the Hyphen.” CCC 59.1 (2007): 53-77.

“This article challenges current assumptions about the teaching and assessment of critical thinking in the composition classroom, particularly the practice of measuring critical thinking though individual written texts. Drawing on a case study of a class that incorporated disability studies discourse analysis to student work, ‘Accessing Disability’ argues that critical thinking can be taught more effectively through multimodal methods and de-emphasis on the linear progress narrative” (53).

Model Universal Design for Instruction Syllabi. The Emory Office for Faculty Resources for Disabilities manages the syllabus archive on this site. The archived syllabi outline courses that integrate digital elements such as course management software, E-reserve texts, and presentation tools. Domain participants may want to emphasize, as the archived syllabi emphasize, “multiple means of delivery of content and multiple means of evaluation, as well as clarity in feedback, assignment models, and course goals.”

Null, Roberta L. and Kenneth F. Cherry. Universal Design: Creative Solutions for ADA Compliance. Belmont: Professional Publications, 1996.

Though the authors focus on ADA compliance and the universal design of architectural spaces, many compositionists interested in multimodal and disability studies pedagogy have drawn on the authors’ inclusionary practices. As the Googlebooks blurb explains, “this book reveals how universal design can be utilized in a wide variety of situations and settings, from office spaces to public meeting halls to the individual home. A valuable addition to any design bookshelf, Universal Design brings creative solutions to the challenging demands of the ADA.”