Specialist Area: Accessible and Inclusive Practice
I have long had an interest in accessibility in part due to my own disability and use of assistive technologies. During my undergraduate degree the disabled students’ allowance-funded technology I received was truly enabling. The changes made to this funding by the coalition government (Willetts, 2014) mean that if I were a student today I would not be eligible for such support. This decision motivated my onward path. While working full-time and studying for my MSc in User Experience Design (2015-2018) my practice developed to consider the intersectional experience of using technology, leading me to inclusive practice. During my degree I completed analyses of interface designs, specialising in digital health, and ethics, and I became aware of design biases that can manifest in information systems1. E-learning systems are not exempt from this and due to legacy base code often have inflexible interfaces, meaning that for example, there are no fields to accommodate pronouns. I challenge e-learning system vendors to do better. I do this by regularly volunteering for user experience studies as a participant. I use vendor feedback channels to recommend changes to interfaces and propose and then encourage colleagues to vote up new features2.
I believe that, in addition to awareness and to acknowledgement of the inequalities surrounding technology and broader pedagogic practice, one must also constantly learn both academically and practically by listening to the lived experiences and views of others. This criticality is exemplified by healthy questioning of day-to-day practices, for example the language that I use, and suggesting my team also take time to reflect. I take this further by sharing my learning, as well as our team’s practice back to the university and the wider learning technology community3. I also try my utmost to interweave inclusive concepts into my teaching materials4.
To ensure that my practice is informed, I seek to educate myself by listening to the lived experiences of others. At the university I attend race awareness speaker sessions, decolonising the curriculum events and I am also the secretary for the Staff Race and Faith Network (RFN). This involves editorial work on blog posts to raise awareness. I also facilitate events and represent RFN on the Harassment and Bullying Working Group, where I have provided accessibility recommendations to support disclosure processes. In 2019-20, I worked on a secondment with the Learning and Teaching Hub, writing and editing inclusive practice guidance5. I am also part of the Jisc Accessibility Leadership group6, learning from this group has been integral to the development of my specialism. Joining the group was the right thing at a challenging time when I needed some validation for the work I was doing.
I believe that part of exemplifying change is to model humility. In 2019 I ran an ethically approved pilot study into the use of a telepresence robot in the classroom to support remote student attendance. The project failed for technical and user acceptance reasons; the benefits outweighed by privacy concerns. I felt it was essential to be open about this failure by sharing it on our blog and the ALT-MEMBERS listserv7.
I act strategically, forging ways to build institutional knowledge and to improve awareness. For example, I used the ALT-MEMBERS listserv to find a keynote speaker on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an approach with potential to address accessibility and inequalities, for a webinar co-hosted with University of Sussex TEL team. This was part of a four-week programme of change-making actions and events I led for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) in 2021 after I successfully established GAAD at the university in 2020.
Willetts, D. (2014) ‘Higher education: student support: changes to Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)’, Hansard: House of Commons written ministerial statements, 7 April. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/higher-education-student-support-changes-to-disabled-students-allowances-dsa (Accessed: 23 May 2021).
Evidence: Excerpts from a talk I gave about the ethics of ‘bring your own data’ in healthcare (2019). Reporting results from my dissertation for MSc in User Experience Design ↩︎
Evidence: Please refer to Core Area 3(a) evidence 4 ‘GAAD blog post from week three (06/05/21)'. The section ‘why is accessibility important’ provides a good example of my practice in this area. ↩︎
Evidence: Writing Announcements in My Studies (Blackboard Learn) (2021). Link to Sway | Sway accessibility view. Refer to the sections ‘the text-based content…’ and ‘Check that your announcement contains the right information’. ↩︎
Evidence: Inclusive Practice guide for Existing web pages and blogs (2019). Guide written during my secondment with the Learning and Teaching Hub (formerly Centre for Learning and Teaching). Produced in Adobe InDesign for PDF and ePub. ↩︎