Teaching and learning accessibility

A man in a black shirt sits at a desk with two computer screens in front of him.The technology industry needs more people who understand both technical and accessibility aspects of design. But they are hard to find. That’s because teaching accessibility and inclusion in university courses is still in its infancy. Helping technology students to get their head around accessibility for people with disability has its challenges. In his article based on a case study, Julian Brinkley discusses the challenges for teachers and students, but says it can be done.

“By the conclusion of the semester students were able to both describe the characteristics of various disabilities and how they relate to computer and technology use while demonstrating a baseline ability to design technologies for use by disabled persons.

“These findings collectively suggest that stand alone courses focused on accessibility may prove effective at supporting the goal of introducing topics of accessibility to computer science students and students from related disciplines.”

The title of the article is, Participation at What Cost? Teaching Accessibility Using Participatory Design: An Experience Report

Abstract: As institutions respond to market demand in their training of the next generation of technology designers, there is an increasing awareness of the need to add accessibility to computer science and informatics curricula. Advocates have suggested three strategies for including accessibility and discussions of disability in courses: changing a lecture, adding a lecture or adding a new course. In this paper we report on our experiences with the latter; incorporating accessibility within two new graduate and undergraduate inclusive design courses taught concurrently. We found that while the use of participatory design was decidedly effective in supporting student learning and ameliorating ableist attitudes, creating and managing teams comprised of students and visually impaired co-designers proved challenging. Despite these challenges, overall, students demonstrated steady growth in their grasp of inclusive design concepts as they tackled accessibility challenges through a series of mobility-related group projects. Efficiencies were also realized through the concurrent teaching of both courses though the pace of course deliverables proved challenging at times for undergraduates. We argue that a review of our experience may help others interested in teaching accessibility related courses, specifically in course design and execution.

This paper is from the 51st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE ’20), March 11–14, 2020, Portland, OR, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 7 pages. 

You might also be interested in another paper from the same symposium: A Systematic Analysis of Accessibility in Computing Education Research.

From the conclusion, “Our study highlights two main needs in computing accessibility education. The first need is to create a research roadmap for covering and reinforcing accessibility knowledge with clear learning objectives and evaluation methods across several core and elective courses. Second, to implement this roadmap, we need to create and investigate the efficacy of usable accessibility teaching materials to support instructors.”

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