By Rachel Luna
Accessibility is a team sport, and students are great teammates to recruit. Involving students in efforts to increase accessibility is a win-win solution. First, everyone wins when campus environments are more accessible. In addition, bringing students into the process can provide robust learning opportunities for all involved by increasing awareness of accessibility issues and gaining enhanced technical knowledge. Not to mention, there are potential psychosocial benefits for students particularly in regards to developing self-efficacy, advocacy, and leadership skills. Here are a few ideas for involving students in your campus accessibility efforts:
- Solicit Feedback – Are you updating your website, creating campus accessibility guidelines (see this example at University of Wisconsin, Madison), or considering a new software vendor? Invite students with disabilities to beta test and provide feedback on your websites, applications, and projects.
- Program with Student Organizations – Does your campus have a student organization regarding disabilities (such as Student Awareness for Disability Empowerment at Cal State Monterey Bay)? What about one for STEM majors? Perhaps the groups could collaborate on a program featuring demonstrations of assistive technology available on your campus.
- Teach Student Staff – Do you have students who produce marketing materials or web content? Train them on principles of universal design in education and encourage them incorporate the new concepts into their work. Or, have them explore on their own and present what they learned during a staff meeting.
- Collaborate in the Classroom – Does your institution have computer science or programming classes? Connect with a faculty member and suggest captioning videos as a class project. You could provide campus videos that have yet to be captioned and students could have hands-on learning of these technical skills in a social justice context by working with content that is relevant to their community.
- Provide Student Employment or Volunteer Opportunities – What accessibility services or programs are provided by your campus? Students can often be hired as notetakers, cart drivers, or other assistive aides. Technology peer mentors (like the ones at Portland Community College) can teach fellow students how to effectively use computers and technology.
What are ways you involve students in efforts to make your campus more accessible and inclusive? Comment below or tweet me with your experiences and ideas!
Special shout outs to Kathryn Magura (@Kmagura), Gregg Wandsneider (@blindfaith21), rita zhang (@12itazhang), Amy Jorgensen (@AmyLJorgensen), and Kaela Parks (@KaelaParks) for engaging in discussions with me to inspire this post and introduce some of the examples.