Creating a Digitally Inclusive Culture – a 20 Year Journey

Thursday, May 19, 2022, marked the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and I was privileged to give a talk at University College Cork at their Inclusive UCC Symposium – Creating Inclusive Assessment and Digital Experiences. This was my very first in work in a physical setting since March 2020 and everyone made the experience more than enjoyable and so welcoming. At times I completely forgot at others I thought ‘wowsers this is weird‘. I was only sorry that it was only a fleeting visit.

Having spotted a post by Karen Costa on Twitter about a book called Emergent Strategy, by adrienne maree brown, earlier in the year I was intrigued enough to buy my own copy. I immediately loved the linkage with nature and biomimicry and so it seemed a perfect lens through which to frame strategic approaches to inclusivity and digital skills. This was my first foray into translating, or viewing my own professional approach to inclusion through the lens of emergent strategy. It is such a rich view and so aligned to my love of nature. My slides are embedded below and I will get a rough transcript together soon.

PDF version of the slides

In addition to other fantastic talks, a student panel provided crucial perspectives and insight into what what is actually required for inclusive approaches to teaching and learning. I noted down some of their key points:

  • Meeting and being with others is so important, so much learning takes place outside the classroom
  • Laughter in the classroom is so important to create an inclusive learning experience
  • Lecture recording, was repeatedly raised as an essential element of university
  • eBooks – not only more accessible but when annotated by lecturers and students are even more beneficial. The ability to tag is also really helpful and less competition than a physical copy.
  • Students working full time challenge traditional concepts of access, flexibility is essential.
  • People are more anxious and it is very important that blended/hybrid is kept beyond the pandemic period.
  • Diversity of assessment – lack of access to hardware is not thought to be the limiting factor. Access to hardware and help/advice from student support is important.
  • Option of online is still considered more inclusive.
  • Lack of diagnosis is still a large barrier for students. Limited by definitions.
  • Concept of assuming what intelligent is is evolving.
  • Enjoyment is key such as during assessments.
  • Need more national funding.
  • UDL helps hidden disability.
  • Don’t throw away the beneficial parts of online learning.
  • exams are insane“, make at least 50% continuous assessment and rooted in real life as well such as presentations, blogs, portfolios etc.
  • A 72 hours exam reflects workplace setting – deadline realities, discussions, research and time to prepare.

I’ll end with a quotation from one of the student’s on the panel who put into words our shared feelings, in a way that no one else in the room could have articulated better:

Here we are passing the mic between each other when a year ago we were disinfecting our groceries.

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