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Applying UDL to a Training Program on Digital Accessibility

Description
At the University of Maine, instructors typically understand the need to make their courses accessible but few adopt accessible practices consistently, primarily because of the increased workload. In addition, faculty often realize this work is required at the start of a class when notified of a student with an accommodation request. When instructors develop a course with our instructional design team, a request for accommodations is typically not a cause for concern since we promote Universal Design for Learning practices and work with faculty to develop accessible course content. However, not all instructors work with us and many don’t know where to start when they receive a request for accommodation. Additionally, our interventions were punctual and we were only really reaching instructors who had received advance notifications but not members of the general population who would benefit from this educational training. We have identified a number of barriers to instructors learning about creating accessible courses. These barriers typically fit under three main categories: misconceptions and beliefs around disabilities and accommodations, perceived time constraints or lack of institutional support, and lack of awareness and technical skills. Too many instructors are still operating under a model where they would only start to think about accessibility in their course if they were to receive a request for accommodation. It requires a shift in mindset to move away from a compliance model to a model where faculty consider accessibility at the course design level, along with a solid training program that meets faculty where they are at in their journey to accessible courses. After gathering ideas on how to build a training program to support the needs of our instructors in learning how to design and teach courses with accessibility in mind, we were able to launch a new program this fall. Our program, modelled after Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices, invites instructors to engage in a variety of ways and formats with the goal to promote incremental change overtime and facilitate the shift in mindset we believe is needed for the adoption of accessible practices in courses. The program consists of: 1. a self-paced course where instructors can find thorough resources and examples of digital accessibility addressing misconceptions and beliefs around disabilities and accommodations and building the technical skills they need to create digitally accessible course content, 2. a semester-long community of practice where a group of instructors is asked to make commitments to a focused change strategy, and 3. a series of “plus-one strategy” workshops where instructors learn about one specific skill to make their courses accessible with the goal to normalize the continual work we all need to engage in to make our materials accessible to all. Our program is bookended with a pre- and post-evaluation of courses that faculty can complete at the start and end of each semester. This presentation will provide a detailed overview of our program and highlight the changes we made along the way to better serve our teaching community using the feedback loop. I will also discuss future directions for this program as we continue to expand support.  
Audience
  • Higher Education
  • Information & Communications Technology
  • K-12 Education
  • Employment & Human Resources
Audience Level
Intermediate  
Session Summary (Abstract)
In this session, we share the digital equity and e-inclusion training program we designed to move away from a compliance model to a model where faculty consider accessibility at the course design level. Our program is built for instructors but its tenants can be applied broadly to other populations.  
Session Type
General Track  
Topics
  • Digital Accessibility
  • Education
  • Evaluation & Remediation

Presenter

  • Elisa Sance
    Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, University of Maine

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