Liz Zadnik on More fun with accessibility!

What a way to wrap up July!  Liz Zadnik here with some additional thoughts on accessibility – specifically how we can create learning opportunities that are inclusive and accessible to as many people as possible.

We’re often tasked with sharing our research and evaluation findings with others – how can we make sure as many people as possible can engage with the content?  Universal design is a research- and science-based set of principles that guide the creation of physical environments and products in an accessible and equitable way.  These principles can guide the construction of buildings, as well as curricula (which is what we’ll focus on today).

Lesson Learned: Learning happens in multiple ways and different parts of the human brain.  Effective learning environments acknowledge and create opportunities for all of these different parts and processes to engage with the content or activities:

  1. Representation, or “the what of learning,” includes language, symbols, and images that accompany content.  How a person perceives information may be influenced by ability, disability, language, culture, or learning strengths.
  2. Action and expression, or “the how of learning,” which pertains to the ways learners communicate comprehension.  When we’re thinking about providing options for action and expression is essential.  
  3. Engagement, or “the why of learning,” refers to learner motivations, actions, and internalizing of information.  Just like the other processes, this too can be influenced by many physical, emotional, and social contexts.

We may think there are a finite number of learning styles – visual, auditory, kinesthetic.  But this is only a small piece of the puzzle.  

Hot Tip: Just like alternate formats for online materials, consider other ways to represent your work.  Data visualization.  Word document files (for things that can be edited).  Colorful PDFs with graphics or texts organized in boxes.  It’s an opportunity to stretch your creative muscle and consider how people are going to absorb your content and be motivated to read it or take action.   

Rad Resource: There are a number of resources online

  • CAST offers a number of free tools based on their research projects, intended to help professionals create and support flexible learning environments.
  • The National Center on Universal Design for Learning offers guidelines in a number of formats and languages.
  • Colorado State University’s Access Project has a bunch of practical resources for professionals in higher education.  

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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