It is hard to believe that there is only one more week to the 9x9x25 blog challenge. I have read many great posts and learned a lot from this generous community of educators and bloggers.
This week I am going to address something that is near and dear to my pedagogy and practice which is accessibility and inclusion. Inspired by CogDog’s great post on image descriptions, I thought it was time to write a bit on what I think of when I think of accessibility and inclusion in terms of curriculum as well as in terms of teaching and learning. Irene Stewart also posted a great post on temporary disabilities and how instructors engage with disability in the classroom, in policy, and in practice. Both of these posts demonstrate that a discussion should be on going on the praxis of accessibility and inclusion.
Like with most things in education and academia terminology causes a lot of what seems like talking at cross purposes when discussing access. It would not be a blog post by me without a bit of etymology. The term accessible has a complex etymology which can also add to the cross purposes. The term accessible comes from the late Latin accessibilis meaning “coming near, an approach, an entrance” (accessible). This is from the 1400s and a new connotation of the term from the mid 1600s came to mean “easy to reach” and again in the 1960s the meaning of accessible became “able to be readily understood.” The evolution of the term incorporates the holistic understanding of access, about how access is an approach, a way to allow others to reach all spaces or understand information in different ways. It is very much in line with the different accessibility frameworks that people mean when they use the term such as the following:
- Accessibility in the AODA definition of the term.
- Accessibility in terms of class and financial barriers to education.
- Accessibility in terms of inclusion (who is missing in this classroom). This is somewhat tied to point 2 above.
So how do we address all these different paradigms? We address them by focusing on inclusion. Inclusion is another interesting word etymologically. Inclusion is from the Medieval Latin inclusivus which in its adjective form means “characterized by incorporating a great deal, leaving little out” (inclusive) and what an exact and wonderful way to think about access. All classrooms, educational spaces, and educational materials should leave little out and include a great deal. This is not just about proper font types and sizes, or UDL principles of multiple means of representation and engagement. This is about who is present and who isn’t in our spaces and why those folk may be missing. So my 9x9x25 challenge for this week, for those of you who accept it, is to look around your classrooms and your workspaces and think about who isn’t there and why they are missing- let’s think about what can we do to bring those folk who are missing into these spaces either from a larger systemic or practical approach.
“Accessible.” Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/accessible?ref=etymonline_crossreference
“Inclusive.” Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/inclusive