Fire Away

I’m not sure exactly how many specific questions I had while doing this assignment. Lots of big-picture, thought-provoking topics to consider and things to think about, but a lack of specific questions that any one person could really answer. So here are some of the thought-questions that are on my mind:

1. Should there be some kind of mandatory training for addressing ADA needs in certain fields or for everyone? Should it be something taught in schools?

I just come into both the library information science world and now the education world without much prior knowledge (and certainly without much prior experience) about ADA and being accessible. This is obviously pretty problematic. I definitely feel I should’ve been required to take a class specific to it in library school (there was no requirement for my cultural heritage information track, but maybe it’s required for library school media or something else?), but should only specific programs be learning about this? How can we teach our children about ADA and disabilities and particularly, designing and teaching for those with disabilities? Oh look, I’ve explained my question with more questions. Sigh. Okay, so maybe I’ve decided that there should be some kind of training or education required both in schools and particular jobs; how would that go about? Or do people work or teach in places that have such programs or trainings? I’d be quite curious to know!

2. On that same thought, should websites be required to be accessible/ADA-compliant? Or should companies that make website design and such be required to provide the tools necessary to make sites compliant? Could you ever see this be something mandated by legislation? Pros? Cons?

This is really interesting for me to think about too. I’d kind of say no, nothing should be absolutely required, because that’s a very slippery slope (then why shouldn’t everything be translated into Spanish, or written in kid-friendly language, or so on and so forth), but on the other side of it, we’re cutting off so much of what makes up our society and culture to those who have certain disabilities and I bet a large portion of us are doing it rather unknowingly. I feel like society is pretty ignorant about things like ADA compliance, which is unfortunate, but going back to #1, if we’re not taught it…

3. I'm still really interested in how other countries go about many of the issues that we've talked about in this class and I'm really curious how other countries handle disabilities and regulations like ADA when it comes to education and technology. From the readings, it sounds like the US is doing pretty well in terms of the regulations, but how are other countries doing with adopting assistive or adaptive technologies? How about particularly in education? 

I don’t have much to comment on for this, simply because I don’t know anything about it. I know I could do research… but if you’re going to be asking experts, that’d just be faster! Also, Dan, any commentary you can provide on this? Has anyone had any experience overseas with this? Or how about with international students??

Looking forward to hearing peoples’ opinions and experiences!


6 thoughts on “Fire Away

  1. I like the idea of a learning opportunity with mandatory attendance. I wouldn’t call it training, that implies that once you’ve been “trained” you are somehow totally competent. Anything that involves diversity is going to be a lifelong effort in building understanding. Of course these are ongoing debates- should we call it “cultural competence” or “cultural humility” or neither? But I think everyone would benefit from some time spent on what’s *actually* in the law, as opposed to people’s assumptions about what’s legal or not because they heard about a guy…

    I’m also intrigued by the idea of some sort of mandate for websites. Cost is going to be whined and fretted about no matter who is paying. As we know from experience, people are much more likely to do something if you give them the tools up front instead of just vaguely encouraging them to “go do X.” We discuss this in the basic speech class- your “call to action” in your speech needs to be specific and give people a starting point. Don’t just ask people to “tell your representative.” Name a congress or senate person and give out their e-mail address right then! Same with the web question. Go beyond posting a reminder that says “oh yeah you might want to use alternative text and stuff.” It needs to become a best practice that hosts build in the tools for making sites accessible.

  2. Question 1. In my experience, the only real pre-service instruction with regard to ADA, IDEA, and Section 504 came through the special education arm of training. In my regular education courses these topics were broadly mentioned but not dealt with in detail. Within the special education training, more information was made available, but not really significantly more. I think the biggest problem is the ever changing nature of these statutes. For example, it has only been within the past couple of years that schools began to be aware of Section 504. Prior to the determination of a court of law that schools had to diligently address Section 504, students who were determined to not meet eligibility criteria under IDEA for special education services were simply pushed back into the regular education setting with no services or accommodations. In the past two or so years, the policy/practice has changed so that students who do not meet IDEA eligibility are automatically evaluated for Section 504 eligibility. Within the special education department of the school, training has been required to address this change. This training, however, has been limited to the special education staff. It has been up to the special education staff, then, to pass along this knowledge to the regular education staff. So to answer your question more directly, yes this training needs to occur in every area of education training.

    Question 3: Most other developed countries do not educate students with special needs. In those countries where promotion is dependent on passing specific tests, those students who do not pass the tests are simply routed into other avenues of “education” such as trade schools or other less educationally demanding arenas.

  3. Question 2: In response to your question I think that there should absolutely be a way either privately or publicly for people who fall under ADA to be able to complain tot he company. There voices should be heard and it would be one central location for complaints in which the company in theory should read and consider how to address these complaints. Should ADA complaints be anonymous?

    1. In larger institutions there is usually an office that handles ADA complaints and they will do so anonymously if possible (and desired). It does seem to me that, if is possible to pursue a complaint without revealing its source, it should be possible. Many people will not report problems, I think, otherwise.

  4. Regarding International parallels to ADA, you might find the ADA Legacy site and this site linked from there of interest. Hopefully Dan (or anyone else!) who has experience with ADA-like legislation in other countries will chime in.

    #2 is an interesting question in the context of online learning (I mean digital strategy :). I’ve had blind students in courses and deaf students in courses and chose to make the necessary accommodations for them at the time I became aware they were in the class (interestingly, with both students who were blind, they only told me when the course was well underway…neither worked through the official university offices). Most smaller institutions seem to operate this way—making accommodations as needed—simply due to the burden of time (and associated cost). And by cost, I don’t mean the costs of accessible design in general, which are relatively easy to handle, but for dealing with the costs of providing alternate formats for the increasingly diverse kinds of media and formats being used to make online learning richer. For me this is the most difficult area of philosophy/ethics and legality: it is perfectly legal to operate this way, but is it as ethical as I’d like? I’d be interested to hear Sarah’s thoughts on this as well, since her role at UAA is similar to mine and she has a strong interest in this area.

    re #1: I certainly think that accessibility should be part of every curriculum and most courses. I know that it is specifically a part of the defined outcomes and curriculum for some programs at UAF, but in most cases it isn’t addressed at all unless the instructor chooses to do so independently. And yet it’s hard for me to think of a program in which it *shouldn’t* be an explicit part…

    Some of your questions will be interesting, I suspect, for the guest speaker (about whom I hope to have more information very soon!)

  5. I know I’m chiming in later than (Chris) hoped, and will say I’m not an expert just can provide insight in my experience and observation within Higher Education (more on this in my longer post for the collection).

    Addressing question 1: The issue of proactive versus reactive accommodations has been in the for front of the struggles I have seen from between students, faculty, academic departments, and the Disability Support office. There is no doubt that the more proactive design strategies (captions in videos, checking webpages before deployment, creating tagged pdfs from your word docs) saves on the bill later could alleviate issues when a student makes a request and now we (understaffed DSS office and the unknowing faculty) need to somehow make 100 scanned-in pdfs readable or caption 30 half-hour lecture captures.

    I think there should be mandatory training for faculty and departments on accessibility for students. Wherever I have worked and been involved in training, I have always included this as part of our technology training. Its always in the form of awareness training with examples and where to start. That being said, training on how to teach online, or how teach at all, is not “required” anywhere I have been employed (although I have seen this elsewhere). Although FERPA training is required. So where is our required online accessibility module, right?

    To address question 2: Websites for federally-funded institutions and agency are required to be accessible. At higher Ed, this is any public-facing digital material for students from the website itself, to marketing videos, to course lecture videos that are public). This is hard to enforce from a federal level. Some states, like Minnesota, have strict state laws for this therefore another layer of awareness, enforcement, and pro-activity. Add another layer of the possibility of getting sued for not providing this (check the most recent MIT/Harvard case and no question pro-activity in this realm can c.y.a. in the long run- in time and money. I think this scenario also relates to Dan’s questions about hard and fast dollar equations for accommodations:

    I have always thought of “reasonable” accommodations in different way than we are focusing on it here in this collection. When a student 1.identifies with DSS and 2. Makes an accommodation request, that the institution (DSS office- working with faculty and department) provide the accommodation in a reasonable amount of time, as to not let the student fall behind. This means acting fast takes much staff time to figure out initially. This can get hindered by (as Chris experienced) students not identifying and requesting through the official routes, or weeks into the class.

    As far a required accommodations for employees, this adds another layer. I personally witnessed, ironically as I completed my thesis on planning for accessibility in Higher Education, one of my graduate committee members suffer through a quick onset of Parkinsons. She shared with me her struggle to ask for accommodations through our institution (I believe this was with HR, not the DSS office, which only handles student accommodations). I don’t know the entire story, but I do know she frustrated with the response and the treatment. She left her career very shortly after in early retirement as she continued to help me complete my degree requirements.

    I am not as familiar with the laws in workplace accommodations, but I did feel like her experience was probably not uncommon, and devastating to watch, as you know that basically putting any effort in to trying to fight a battle with an employer to keep working was the last battle she probably needed or wanted in her life.

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