This post was written by Ashley Willcox (UTS student and Digital Accessibility Ambassador).
The LX.lab has recently released Students Explain Digital Accessibility – a suite of videos about making your learning and teaching accessible. These videos were created in collaboration with UTS students who have a lived experience of disability – our Digital Accessibility Ambassadors. In the second part of a series of posts accompanying the videos, Digital Accessibility Ambassador Ashley Willcox writes about the difference that accessibility adjustments have made to her studies.
Access requirements are crucial for all teachers to learn about as they enhance every students’ opportunity to learn. I have personally had a recovery from an acquired brain injury so audio technology helps me concentrate and manage associated fatigue. From an educator’s perspective, an awareness of accessibility requirements will improve your teaching practice.
My experience with accessibility adjustments
I was motivated to be a Digital Accessibility Ambassador as I have benefitted from accessibility adjustments. I want teachers to understand how much they can help students with accessibility requirements. There were times when I struggled to pass and adjustments helped improve my grades to achieve Distinctions and complete my first degree, a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Writing. I am currently enrolled in the Master of Teaching in Secondary Education majoring in English. This is a testament to how much students with accessibility requirements can be supported with simple adjustments. It can also encourage students to stick with their studies.
Creating an accessible classroom is important so that each student has the required support and opportunities to succeed. It is helpful to cater to different accessibility needs, create a safe space and a positive learning environment for all.
Assistive technologies that I use
I had never needed adjustments until after I had a car accident. I did not initially utilise them as often as I should have and that is what this blog post is for: to encourage others to embrace assistive technology, extensions and ways that can benefit learning. It has been a long recuperation process for me and that is why I am confident in using assistive technology – I now realise how much it benefits my studies and career. Previously, adjustments were something I tried to use as a last resort. However, over my many years of study, I discovered they should be the first source of support I turn to.
For example, an audio speaker. The computer program Read&Write benefits me as I can convert text to audio. When I try to read texts without it, I can lose focus. So, it helps enhance my focus to have the audio speaker feature. Assistive technology makes what used to feel impossible, possible. If everything can be converted to audio files it helps me read through the information more effectively.
Using podcasts for learning and teaching
Some of my subjects have included podcasts, which have been really helpful for me.
- Podcasts help get to the point of what the subject requirements are.
- Weekly podcasts can be a perfect guide to prepare for the subject classes, helping students stay organised with weekly tasks and accurate assignment preparation.
- Podcasts are also excellent guides when studying to refresh with study materials.
- I can replay the same information multiple times to fully absorb it.
- Make sure podcasts have a transcript for students who are deaf, Deaf, hard of hearing, or have other hearing related accessibility requirements.
Clearly written and structured content has also been crucial. As academic studies have dense readings it takes me extra time to interpret, synthesise and paraphrase. This is a skill I am still developing so anything that assists the process improves my learning and results.
Adjustments meant achieving what felt impossible
I wanted to write from my lived experience – as someone who has an invisible injury that people would not know about unless I explained the details. The impacts of cognitive fatigue can be debilitating at times, so I developed strategies to pace my studies and manage it. There were times when I struggled to read. That I was able to overcome this to achieve Distinctions, my first degree and now excel in my masters shows how much of a difference accessibility support can make. There are ways to succeed and assistive technologies should always be supported. My recuperation process has inspired me to be a teacher to help students achieve success.
Here are some links that provide more information about assistive technologies at UTS.
- The LX Resources Clear and accessible learning environments collection
- UTS Library Accessibility Services
- Software available to UTS students
- How to get Read&Write
- A short video on using Read&Write at uni
Feature image by pch.vector