Lights, Camera, Action: Training actors with disability

A man stands against a greenbox bacground with lights and cameras around himWhat’s involved in training actors with disability? This is one topic that needs a lot more exploration now that people with disability are being included in productions. One place to start is the material that’s been developed for Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Deric McNish’s book chapter, Training Actors with Disabilities, provides an interesting perspective on the issues and discusses various approaches to theatre courses. You will need institutional access for a free read. The chapter can be purchased from SpringerLink.

Abstract: This essay presents accessible training methods for students with disabilities in college acting, voice, and movement courses. It presents teaching strategies selected from a survey of prominent professors, as well as from actors with disabilities that have worked professionally and completed an actor training program. This paper presents some valuable perspectives on a largely unexplored topic and offers multiple approaches, including ways to adapt popular acting, voice, speech, and movement pedagogies for the greatest variety of students, ways to effectively communicate with college students with disabilities, ways to apply Universal Design for Learning in practice-based theatre courses, and responsible strategies for portraying disability identity during in-class scene work.

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Not Stupid, just Dyslexic

A boy sits at a desk, pen in hand ready to write on the paper.Going out of your way to find a solution for one group of people doesn’t always work. That’s what they found when they tried to find the best solutions for helping people with dyslexia. It turned out that the best solutions were those that made reading easier for everyone – the universal design approach. The special reading and writing solutions set them apart and made people “feel stupid”. The conclusion of this study therefore advises that it is better to work within the universal design paradigm than try to develop separate materials for people with dyslexia. The title of the paper is, “I’m not Stupid” – Attitudes Towards Adaptation Among People with Dyslexia. It is available from SpringerLink but you will need institutional access for a free read. It is also a book chapter in International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction.

Abstract: A significant portion of the population have dyslexia, which is commonly associated with reading and writing difficulties. In the context of developing materials well-suited for users with reading disorders, one solution has been to develop materials especially targeted at dyslexic users. However, how are the attitudes among users with dyslexia towards adaptation? In this paper, we report the findings from qualitative interviews with 20 adults with dyslexia. The main finding was that they were sceptical towards adapted products, among others because it made them “feel stupid” and because the adapted format affected the reading experience negatively. In this paper we argue to instead work within the universal design paradigm, trying to develop products and services usable by all people, thus reducing the need for particular user groups to utilise “special solutions”.

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UD for Learning: An indigenous perspective

Placed in a rural setting a wooden barn type building displays the cultural icons and two totem poles of the Alaskan NativesThe education system in Alaska is an interesting place to research the potential for applying the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) in a culturally diverse and indigenous context. The article by Krista James explores examples of implementation of the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators within a UDL framework. Similarly to Australia, Alaska’s indigenous population has experienced loss of culture and forced assimilation with Western educational systems taking over the education of their children. James concludes that the Alaska Cultural Standards for Educators and the UDL framework are not just easy to connect, but many of the standards are already ingrained in the core principles of UDL. You don’t have to be an educator to appreciate this article.

The title of the article is: “Universal Design for Learning as a Structure for Culturally Responsive Practice”, in the Northwest Journal of Teacher Education. 2018. There is a link to a 30 minute video at the end of the article.

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Tactile or 3D?

A metal model showing a town layout in relief with Braille on buildings and streets. There is a church and lots of houses and a town square represented.Three researchers from Monash University carried out a study to see if 3D printed models offered more information than tactile graphics such as maps. There were some interesting findings that were presented in a conference paper. The abstract gives a good overview:

Abstract: Tactile maps are widely used in Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training for people with blindness and severe vision impairment. Commodity 3D printers now offer an alternative way to present accessible graphics, however it is unclear if 3D models offer advantages over tactile equivalents for 2D graphics such as maps. In a controlled study with 16 touch readers, we found that 3D models were preferred, enabled the use of more easily understood icons, facilitated better short term recall and allowed relative height of map elements to be more easily understood. Analysis of hand movements revealed the use of novel strategies for systematic scanning of the 3D model and gaining an overview of the map. Finally, we explored how 3D printed maps can be augmented with interactive audio labels, replacing less practical braille labels. Our findings suggest that 3D printed maps do indeed offer advantages for O&M training. 

Paradoxically, the freely available PDF version is in two columns and in Times New Roman font – both aspects that are not recommended for people with low vision or for screen readers. The full title of the paper is, “Accessible Maps for the Blind: Comparing 3D Printed Models with Tactile Graphics”.  You can see a related article that found 3D models helped everyone’s understanding.

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Conference attendance from a user perspective

picture of a large audience watching a presentation.When academics organise a conference on health and wellbeing of people, some of the people being discussed are likely to be in attendance and potentially on the speaking program. But how many academic conference organisers think about this? Not many it seems. Sarah Gordon has written a very readable article about her experience as a conference speaker, attendee and user of the health system. Conferences that have content relating to disability are generally considerate of the “nothing about us without us” approach. But when it comes to conferences on mental health, it seems the users are given little if any consideration. While the focus is on mental health in this paper, the comments can be applied more generally. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is referenced throughout and this makes it a long read. The point is made that conferences are part of the right to life-long learning and education, and the right to give and receive information. The application of universal design principles are discussed as a means to create greater inclusion for conferences. The paper is titled, What makes a ‘good’ conference from a service user perspective? by Sarah Gordon and Kris Gledhill, in the International Journal of Mental Health and Capacity Law (2017).

Editor’s note: This is one of the few academic papers available as a Word document with free access. 

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Captioning for business presentations

Aerial view of a crowded conference scene where the session has finished and people are standing, sitting and walking about.Geoffrey Clegg is a university lecturer in business communication who is gradually losing his hearing. He is using his experience to educate his students about the diversity of audiences they will encounter in their workplaces. His paper explores the use of text and also provides students with a framework to question their assumptions about ability and disability that will transfer to their workplace practices. The article goes on to look at captioning research. The article is titled, Unheard Complaints: Integrating Captioning Into Business and Professional Communication Presentations from Sage Journals. Or you can request full text from ResearchGate  or download from iDocSlide.Com.

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Dyslexia and Design

Girl sits with a book flicking pages and looking a little unhappy.In world that values lineal, logical thinking, dyslexia is often viewed as a condition that needs “correcting”. But what if dyslexia is the basis of creative non-linear thinking? Philippa Wyatt interviews two men who say their dyslexia is the key to new ideas and the joining of unrelated ideas. The article begins, “Is Dyslexia a weakness or a strength? Designers Ab Rogers and Jim Rokos discuss how they feel dyslexia enables them to think differently and how, in a moment when the work industry is more threatened than ever by the growing power of the intelligent computer, the non-linear, non-binary mind may be coming into its own.”

Time to re-think and value people who think differently in this world of digital binaries. Perhaps is it not a disorder that children need to overcome. The article was published on the Design Council website.

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Digital and media literacy in learning

A collage of words relating to universal design for learningUniversal Design in Learning (UDL) has been around for a long time and is evolving with the digital times we live in. Cognitive science has shown us that there isn’t an average student anywhere, and that’s why it’s an illusory student. There are three core elements to UDL: Multiple ways of representing content (how of learning); multiple ways to express learning (what of learning); and multiple ways to engage (why of learning). Beyond Universal Design for Learning: Guiding Principles to Reduce Barriers to Digital & Media Literacy Competence  covers the challenges and barriers to accessible learning. It discusses the role of universal design in gaining competency in digital and media literacy. The key point is to recognise diversity – to aim for the average learner is aim for that illusory learner. With the trend to more online learning, UDL is becoming more important to ensure access to the wider population.  

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The case for mainstreaming captioning

A computer screen text says, Hello Melanie, what do you want to do today?Although this article is focused on higher education, the case for captioning could well apply to all education where videos are part of the delivery method. “The Case for Captioned Lectures in Australian Higher Education” concludes that for various reasons, captioning should now be considered mainstream so that more students can benefit, not just students with hearing loss. The article requires institutional access or is available for purchase. But the abstract below is a great synopsis as it gives the bottom line.

Abstract: This article provides a case for the benefits of captioning recorded lecture content in the Australian higher education sector. While online lecture captioning has traditionally been provided on a case-by-case basis to help students who are deaf or hard of hearing, this paper argues for a mainstream approach in order to benefit a range of student groups both with and without disability. It begins with some background on the regulation and technology context for captioning in higher education and online learning in Australia. This is followed by a review of the current literature on the benefits of captioning to a wide range of students both disabled and non-disabled, the perceived barriers to captioning, and how the increasing internationalisation of the university context effects captioning options, both culturally and commercially. The paper concludes by suggesting that it may be inevitable that all recorded lecture content will need to be captioned in the future and highlights the potential benefits to Australian universities to move quickly to embrace this existing technology.”

Authors are: Mike Kent, Katie Ellis, Natalie Latter and Gwyneth Peaty.

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Designing for universal success

graphic of a word cloud related to universal design for learning. Some of the words are: recognition, engagement, action and expression, strategic, networks, learner variability, multiple means of representation.Universal design in learning (UDL) began in the 1980s as a way of designing learning programs to incorporate students with disability. Now it is apparent that UDL is increasing success rates across the spectrum of learners. To keep up with the digital age universally designed software tools are being developed and applied. UDL software is not specifically for students with disability. Rather it is to enhance the learning experiences of all students. In an interview with  Dr Deb Castiglione, Nicole Martin and Trey Conatser of the University of Kentucky find out what UDL software can do for learners in a Q & A session. The way this is written is also a good example of relating information. Here is part of Castiglione’s response to the question, how is UDL different to accessibility?

“UDL is about incorporating principles and strategies to meet the needs of all learners (including those with disabilities) from the beginning of course/content design/development. By integrating accessibility practices into the mix, you can reach a larger percentage of student needs. For example, if you were to caption a video, not only would you meet the needs of an individual that is deaf or hard of hearing, but captioning also benefits English language learners, students with reading difficulties, as well as those whose hearing ability is affected by noise, or in situations where playing sound is not an option (e.g. no speakers, quiet environment such as the library, sleeping children/spouse, and so on).”

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