Back in April, our paper ‘Teaching Accessibility as a Shared Endeavour’ was shortlisted for the Best Communication prize at Web4All 2022. As a result we were invited to write for the October SIGACCESS newsletter – the special interest group on accessible computing. You can read the full report on our project rationale and methods in our article ‘Researching Pedagogy in Digital Accessibility Education‘. Our piece introduces the context of our project, the drivers of our work, our methods and approaches, as well as some of the key challenges in the field for accessibility educators. We also reflect on how pedagogic research methods can make a sustained contribution to computing education practice through research outputs, and a methodological process designed to stimulate dialogue, networks, reflexive teaching and learning development.
We were delighted to present a paper at the 19th International Web for All Conference (W4A’22) on 25 April.
With the theme ‘Accessibility in a Hybrid World’, the conference took place virtually, presenting a range of excellent keynotes, technical and communication papers, the Doctoral Consortium and the Accessibility Challenge.
Titled Teaching accessibility as a shared endeavour: building capacity across academic and workplace contexts, our paper was nominated for Best Communications Paper.
The social model of disability, accessibility legislation, and the digital transformation spurred by COVID-19 expose a lack of accessibility capacity in the digital workforce, indicating persistent gaps in academic and professional education. This paper reports qualitative research with 30 expert educators in academia and the workplace to consider the relationship between these sectors in building accessibility capacity. Their insights highlight important disconnects and contextual challenges that educators must manage and navigate. Digital accessibility is increasingly recognised as a shared endeavour in the workplace. However, in academia, faculty cultures and disciplinary silos can result in responsibility for accessibility defaulting to individuals. To prepare accessibility-skilled professionals, cross-role education and training is necessary across disciplines. With a focus on teaching and training practices, we highlight the need for academia and the workplace to learn from each other and adapt together to generate pedagogies that will better prepare learners for accessibility practice.
Please cite the paper as follows:
Coverdale, A. Lewthwaite, S., and Horton, S. 2022. Teaching accessibility as a shared endeavour: building capacity across academic and workplace contexts. In Proceedings of the 19th International Web for All Conference (W4A ’22). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 4, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1145/3493612.3520451
We’re delighted to announce the publication of our open access research paper ‘Workplace approaches to teaching digital accessibility: establishing a common foundation of awareness and understanding‘ in Frontiers in Computer Science. This paper was published on 18th October 2023, and is part of a growing research topic Advancing Digital Accessibility in Academic and Workplace Education.
Accessibility in the digital world is a shared responsibility, requiring a common foundation of awareness and understanding. However, little is known about how digital accessibility can be effectively taught, and research on workplace teaching and training in accessibility is highly scarce, despite its crucial role in building accessibility capacity in the workforce. This paper considers workplace accessibility pedagogy to focus on aspects of foundational education, characterized as a pedagogically informed set of teaching strategies, cultivated through organizational and workplace cultures and practices. It contributes an analysis and synthesis of pedagogic research with 55 experienced accessibility educators in higher education and the workplace, in the UK and internationally, drawing on insights from expert panel methods including interviews, forums and focus groups. We find that digital accessibility is identified as a necessary core competency for an inclusive digital world. We examine the prevalent approaches that experienced workplace educators use to establish foundational awareness and understanding of accessibility to enable learners to achieve core learning objectives. We report the challenges that workplace educators face, negotiating different contexts and working practices and adapting foundational learning experiences to meet the pedagogic demands of different roles, responsibilities, and specialist advancement. In doing so, we demonstrate that establishing a common foundation of awareness and understanding is the basis for a pedagogic framework for digital accessibility education, with relevance for both workplace and academic settings.
Citation: Lewthwaite S, Horton S and Coverdale A (2023) Workplace approaches to teaching digital accessibility: establishing a common foundation of awareness and understanding. Front. Comput. Sci. 5:1155864. doi: 10.3389/fcomp.2023.1155864
The Teaching Accessibility research team is collaborating with Teach Access in the United States and accessibility researchers, educators, advocates, and professionals worldwide to publish a research topic in the Human-Media Interaction section of Frontiers in Computer Science, an open access journal. Our research topic is Advancing Digital Accessibility in Academic and Workplace Education. Submissions are open for articles covering original research as well as general commentary and opinion pieces. If you have insights and perspectives on digital accessibility teaching and learning that you’d like to share, select the Participate button on the Research Topic page to provide your contact details, so we can keep you updated.
Origins of the Research Topic
In our work researching how accessibility is taught and learned in academic and workplace contexts, we have had the benefit of hearing from a global community of researchers, educators, advocates, and professionals working to build digital accessibility capacity through education. We’ve heard about how the topic is (or isn’t) embedded in computer science, information science, software engineering, design, and other relevant disciplines. We’ve heard about the challenges of addressing the complexity of accessibility topics, building disability awareness and ethical practices alongside technical and procedural knowledge and skills. The need for digital accessibility education is clear, as is the investment among educators in developing effective pedagogy to address the unique challenges of the topic. But digital accessibility is relatively undefined and underdeveloped as a subspeciality in academic and workplace education programs. We see an opportunity to develop greater maturity in digital accessibility by setting up a forum for sharing perspectives and approaches to building digital accessibility capacity through education.
In choosing a forum for generating interest and excitement, and building knowledge about digital accessibility education, we wanted a platform that would generate impact, allowing open access to new viewpoints from around the world. Previously, Sarah Horton on our team contributed to the Web Accessibility research topic for the same journal and section. As of this writing, the research topic page and articles combined represent 25,504 views, and Sarah’s opinion article, Empathy Cannot Sustain Action in Technology Accessibility, has 5,728 total views. This type of impact is substantial, particularly for an academic publication.
Frontiers is an Open Access platform, and articles are available to anyone without login, payment, or advertising. With open access, authors, institutions, and funders cover publishing costs through fees. Frontiers has a Fee Support Program to assist authors who have limited or no funding to cover publication fees. You can learn more about Frontiers and open access journals, and get more details about the journal, fees, and the editorial process. If you have questions about publication fees or any other aspect of the publishing process, please contact the Frontiers Editorial Office at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
We have a team of topic editors, with Sarah Lewthwaite, Sarah Horton and Andy Coverdale from the University of Southampton, UK, Kate Sonka from Teach Access, USA, Gottfried Zimmermann from Stuttgart Media University, Germany, Yasmine Elglaly from Western Washington University, USA, and Scott Hollier from Edith Cowan University, Australia.
Submission deadlines are:
- Abstracts: We are accepting abstracts starting now through 1 July 2022. Note that you are not required to submit an abstract to contribute.
- Manuscripts: We are accepting manuscripts from now through 31 December 2022.
Reviews are ongoing, with reviewers assigned to manuscripts as they are submitted. Articles are published once they are approved for publication by the reviewers and editors, which is much more dynamic than traditional academic publications.
If you are interested in participating, enter your details by selecting the Participate button on the Research Topic page. This will add your name and email to the system, where you will receive notifications about deadlines. And please contact us individually or through the TeachingAccessibility@soton.ac.uk email if you have any questions or concerns.
We are very excited to work with experts worldwide to forge a path toward increasing digital accessibility capacity through education, building engagement with digital accessibility, and supporting disability inclusion in the digital world.
The purpose of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, or GAAD, is to raise awareness about digital accessibility and disability inclusion. For this year’s event, on May 20th, the Teaching Accessibility research team partnered with the US-based initiative Teach Access to host an international coffee hour, bringing together educators from around the world to discuss the unique and rewarding work of teaching accessibility.
Our Accessibility Teachers’ Coffee Hour guests came from 16 universities and colleges, in the UK, Ireland, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the US. They provided viewpoints of both aspiring and experienced accessibility educators, teaching accessibility topics in education, design, and engineering courses and providing outreach, support, and mentoring.
We started the event with a plenary session and then split into four breakout sessions to discuss the following topics:
- The challenges of teaching accessibility
- Our values and approaches
- Strategies for student engagement
- Teaching and learning tasks and activities
We reconvened for reports back from the groups and wrapped up with a discussion of ways forward for accessibility education.
Several important themes emerged from the sessions.
The values discussion led to clarity around the societal imperative to teach accessibility, because digital accessibility is key to disability rights and disability inclusion and enabling everyone to contribute to society.
Challenges inherent in teaching accessibility include complexity and scope, and the tension between covering complex, multi-faceted accessibility topics in an already overloaded curriculum. Deficiencies include a lack of awareness and understanding, since students and teachers are unfamiliar with disability and how people with disabilities use technology, and a lack of visibility and urgency, as the need for accessibility skills is not visible and prioritized.
Educators overcome these challenges using various strategies, tasks, and activities. They seek out ways to embed accessibility into culture and practice, both at a strategic level, making accessibility a core value, and at a practical level, weaving accessibility into courses and activities. They find ways to engage diverse perspectives through activities like user research with people with disabilities and projects aimed at addressing accessibility needs. And they show the career impact of accessibility knowledge and skills through role modeling and mentoring with accessibility professionals.
Participants contributed to lively discussions and shared resources, including the growing Universal Design into University Curriculum (UDUC) repository of accessibility teaching resources at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership (MOOCAP) Open Educational Resources, developed by an EU partnership of eight European universities.
We look forward to continuing our discussions with accessibility teachers worldwide and sharing resources to enhance accessibility education. Please subscribe to our newsletter for announcements of future events and project updates. You can also subscribe to updates from Teach Access by completing their Contact Us form.
Teaching Accessibility at the University of Southampton and Teach Access are hosting a Global Accessibility Awareness (GAAD) event for teachers of accessibility. We hope you will join us in celebrating the role of teaching in building accessibility awareness, knowledge, skills, and action.
Thursday, May 20, 2021 from 15:30 – 16:30 BST (10:30 – 11:30 am EST)
Our Accessibility Teachers’ Coffee Hour is a chance for educators from around the world to gather virtually and discuss the unique and rewarding work of teaching accessibility.
The hour-long event will start with a welcome and introduction, followed by breakout groups focused on special interest topics:
- Challenges of teaching accessibility
- Values and approaches
- Strategies for student engagement
- Teaching and learning tasks and activities
Following the breakout groups we will reconvene for a short report back from groups, and end with a discussion of ways to advance the field of accessibility education.
Event hosts will include members of the Teaching Accessibility research team and accessibility teachers from Teach Access university partners. See the Teach Access website for more details and to register.
On the 15th April 2021, Sarah Lewthwaite will be presenting to the Sociology of Education stream at the annual British Sociological Association (BSA) Conference. Her paper ‘Dichotomies of disability and ageing in the teaching and discourses of digital accessibility’ draws on ongoing Teaching Accessibility research with expert teachers and considers how and where disability and ageing discourses are intersected in formal and informal accessibility education. The full abstract follows:
Dichotomies of disability and ageing in the teaching and discourses of digital accessibility.
Sarah Lewthwaite and Angharad Butler Rees,
Centre for Research in Inclusion, University of Southampton.
COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented change in our society and the mediating role of technology in everyday life. The pandemic has left many, especially older and disabled people, isolated and reliant on digital platforms and services which are not always accessible. Digital accessibility is a technical discipline within Human Computer Interaction that seeks to make technologies accessible to all. Yet within teaching, disability and ageing are frequently articulated separately. Technical communities recognise a need to consider the ways in which accessibility and inclusive design practices must cater for both groups, yet they are rarely inter-related. This paper considers this discursive divide within accessibility. We broach where there is capacity for these boundaries to be more productively and critically engaged. To elucidate the issues, we draw upon qualitative research with international pedagogic leaders, to ask where older people fit within contemporary discourses of accessibility teaching. This is theorised, in light of the biopolitics of Web accessibility standards, and their pedagogic influence in a context of ‘digital first’ public services, growing regulatory frameworks, compliance culture and litigation in industry. What are the pedagogic roles of such standards, and how do teachers negotiate and answer the subtle hierarchies of impairment and ageing that standards can convey? How can the socio-technical and cultural experiences of disability and ageing be imbricated and realised within this frame, to build a more inclusive digital future? We invite delegates to engage in this dialogue and discussion.
We’re delighted to announce that Dr Andy Coverdale and Sarah Horton have joined the Teaching Accessibility project.
Following a highly competitive recruitment process, Sarah and Andy were appointed in January. Each brings a wealth of expertise and experience to bear on the project, to kickstart the New Year.
Dr Andy Coverdale is a Research Fellow in Southampton Education School with recent experience on the ‘Self-build Social Care‘ research project, using inclusive and participatory methods to work collaboratively with people with learning disabilities and their allies. He is currently working with the National Centre for Research Methods on their project ‘Changing Research Practice: Undertaking social research in the context of Covid-19’.
Andy draws on over ten years’ experience of working with,
supporting and teaching people with learning disabilities, including 4 years as
Learning Manager with the charity Inspire Nottingham. He has previously conducted research in the
educational use of digital media and technology through his work with iRes at
Falmouth University and the Visual Learning Lab at the University of
Nottingham. He completed his MA in Educational Research Methods and PhD in
Education at the University of Nottingham. His thesis examined the role of
social and participatory media in doctoral education.
Sarah Horton began as a designer and developer in 1991 at Yale University, making instructional CD- ROMs on cardiothoracic imaging. She was an instructional technologist at Dartmouth College, helping faculty across disciplines use technology to teach. Later she worked at the institutional level, as web director at Dartmouth and then strategy lead on Harvard University’s web transformation project.
As an accessibility engineer with The Paciello Group, Sarah performed design reviews and audits of websites, applications, apps, and devices, and conducted user research and usability studies. She was lead for TPG’s strategy services, providing strategic consulting to teams and organizations seeking to incorporate accessibility into culture and practice. She has worked with a broad range of companies and organizations, gaining insights into how accessibility is currently managed and manifested in our digital world.
Welcome, Andy and Sarah!
In November, Sarah Lewthwaite presented to the bi-annual UK Cross-Government Accessibility Meetup, talking about ways to build accessibility capacity in teams. In January, Richard Morton (Head of Accessibility, Government Digital Service) and Josie Partridge published a blog about the event – discussing some of the key themes and activities discussed during the day. The next Meetup will be in March 2021.
Join the UK Government’s Accessibility Community group to keep up to date and discover more about the diverse accessibility work taking place across UK government and government agencies.
The Teaching Accessibility project is currently recruiting 2 post-doctoral Research Fellows (1 year & 2 year), for educational research into the teaching of digital accessibility in technical disciplines, in Higher Education and the workplace. Successful applicants will join a thriving research community at the Centre for Research in Inclusion, here at the Southampton Education School, University of Southampton, UK.
For more about these roles please take a look at the vacancy listing at https://jobs.soton.ac.uk/1304620CJ and associated documents. The deadline for applications is 27th November 2020. Please feel free to share this call to relevant networks. I’m happy to answer questions. For an informal conversation please get in touch with me via: S.E.Lewthwaite@Southampton.ac.uk.