Where to Begin?
Inclusive design not only considers the full range of human diversity, but strives to optimize the unique differences that exist between us in a way that creates conditions that can lead to developing a diverse, but cohesive, global learning community. Rooted in the idea of removing barriers to education, inclusive design supports the full range of humanity and goes hand-in-hand with open education.
So far, this module has prompted you to create an OER vision and to begin searching for existing open resources that you can adopt and adapt for your course. You may also have identified some “gaps” that require the creation of new open content. This section will discuss the importance of adopting, adapting and creating open content with diversity and inclusion in mind — and will share practical strategies you can use to make your open content more inclusive for all learners. For more information about what diversity and inclusion mean, you can read BCcampus’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion statement.
The inclusivity benefits of working with OER:
- you can adopt content from multiple sources to create a mash-up that represents multiple voices, perspectives and world views;
- not all existing open resources have been created with accessibility or inclusivity in mind. Thankfully, the open licences associated with OER allow you to adapt this content too;
- you can create new content with inclusive and accessible design principles right from the beginning(!);
- … and because OER are perpetually evolving, you can continue to make them more and more inclusive over time — as students change and our world evolves!
What is Inclusive Design?
Please watch the following one-minute introduction to inclusive design. The transcript can be found below the video.
The Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) provides this definition of inclusive design:
“Design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.”
In its guiding framework, the IDRC outlines the following three dimensions of inclusive design:
- Recognize, respect and design with human uniqueness and variability.
- Use inclusive, open and transparent processes and co-design with people who have a diversity of perspectives — including people who can’t use, or have difficulty using, the current designs.
- Realize that you are designing in a complex adaptive system. Be aware of the context and broader impact of any design — and strive to effect a beneficial impact beyond the intended beneficiary of the design.
Dimensions of Diversity
The first dimension of inclusive design includes recognizing and respecting the human uniqueness and variability of the user. Think back to your OER vision. Who are your learners? For whom are you creating your OER? Let’s begin to identify the different dimensions of learner diversity now.
Dimensions of Diversity Word Cloud
As we begin to think about dimensions of diversity, it’s important that we remember that nobody is defined by a single dimension of diversity — rather our individual identity is represented by multiple, overlapping and interdependent dimensions. Intersectionality was originally defined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989):
“Intersectionality promotes an understanding of human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social locations (i.e. race, gender, sexual orientation, geography, age, disability, migration status, religion).”
Look back at the incredible word cloud that we created above and think about how the identity of each of your learners represents a unique intersection of identities and experiences.
The Inclusive Design Process — The Virtuous Tornado
Rather than moving toward a single-design solution, inclusive design is an iterative process that expands a design to encompass more possibility, more means of access and more inclusive dimensions. The virtuous tornado, shown in the image below, describes an upward spiral into which needs, characteristics and perspectives are injected at each design iteration. As the design moves up the spiral it expands to encompass these needs — becoming more and more inclusive in the process.
You can start small. Each time you circle around and move up the spiral you will be stretching the design to encompass more and more voices, perspectives and needs. This design process is exponentially enriched when you co-design and develop with people who have diverse perspectives and experiences — including people who can’t use, or have difficulty using, the current designs.
The overall goal is to create a design that does not compromise the experience of one person to make room for the requirements of another. If you are able to change your design to meet the needs of at least one additional person, you are moving in the right direction. And since OER can be continually updated and modified, this iterative process can be ongoing — as you work to make your content as inclusive as possible.
Diverse and Inclusive Representation in OER — Practical Approaches
The beautiful thing about OER is that we can continually work to make our content more inclusive. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind to ensure that the content of your OER is both diverse and inclusive.
Examples and Exercises
Ensure that diverse contexts are included, all examples are comprehensible by everyone and stereotypes are avoided.
- Use examples that include a variety of people, organizations, geographies and situations.
- Use real-world scenarios that address diverse situations and contexts.
- Avoid stereotypes or sensitive subjects in problems and applications — unless the subject matter demands it.
- Do not make assumptions about prior knowledge — especially around culturally specific examples. For example, not all students may be familiar with Western nursery rhymes or kids’ television from the 1990s.
Illustrations and Photos
Ensure images throughout the resource reflect diversity and consider the intersectionality and context of the depiction (for example, is anything perpetuating a stereotype or does the context/setting indicate anything negative?).
- Consider the quantity of images and illustrations — and the individuals and populations represented therein.
- Consider the role, depiction, connotation and purpose of the people represented — and the context in which you are using the image.
Key Figures in a Field
When discussing historical, pioneering or current researchers or studies in the field, recognize contributions from people of all backgrounds.
- Seek diversity in key figures.
- Avoid isolating marginalized figures to specific sections (for example, multiculturalism).
- Where historical figures are not diverse, include current figures from the underrepresented groups.
Ensure that people’s names used in examples, exercises and scenarios represent various countries of origin, ethnicities and genders. Ensure that names with particular ethnic or origin associations are portrayed respectfully and accurately — avoid negative comparisons or stereotypes associated with particular national origins or ethnicities.
- Include diverse names representing various national origins, ethnicities, genders, etc.
- Avoid stereotypes associated with certain names or names that present in a certain way.
Gender is a spectrum and gender diversity is something that should be reflected in OER. This means using gender-neutral language, using examples that reflect gender diversity and using people’s correct pronouns.
- Use a variety of pronouns — including gender-neutral pronouns — for the people included in examples, exercises and scenarios.
- When referring to a real person, ensure that you are using their correct pronouns. If unsure, this information can often be found by checking their website or Twitter bio — or just by asking.
- When referring to a non-identified individual, use the singular “they” rather than “he/she.” (For example: A student should ask their teacher about the preferred citation style.)
Terminology and Language
Ensure that all references to people, groups, populations, categories, conditions and disabilities use the appropriate terminology and do not contain any derogatory, colloquial, inappropriate or otherwise incorrect language. For historical uses that should remain in place, consider adding context, such as “a widely used term at the time.” Ensure that quotations or paraphrases using outdated terms are attributed, contextualized and rare.
- Replace any outdated, incorrect, or offensive terminology. If needed for historical references or direct quotations, insert context, attribution and/or quotations.
- Recognize that appropriate terminology is changing all the time — and do your best to use current terms.
- Avoid idioms or colloquialisms that may lead to confusion or misunderstanding.
Resource: Inclusive & Antiracist Writing Resources [PDF]. This document was created by SFU Library Student Learning Commons. It includes specific inclusive writing strategies and definitions for terms relating to race, gender, sexuality and disability.
Resource: Trans Journalist Association Style Guide [new tab]. This style guide was written to support reporters, editors and other media makers in improving trans coverage. Although focusing on news reporting, much of it is relevant to OER.
Share an Inclusive Design Strategy
In your experience as an educator or as a learner, share a strategy that has made content more inclusive. To contribute, simply double click anywhere on the Padlet below or click the plus (+) button in the bottom right corner of the Padlet. For a more accessible version of this activity, please visit the web version of this “Inclusive Design Strategies” Padlet [new tab].
Now that you’ve reviewed some guidelines — and had the opportunity to learn about inclusive design strategies used by others (in our collaborative Padlet) — it’s time to apply these inclusive design principles to your own OER course plan.
Include Inclusive Design Elements in Your OER Course Plan
Return to your vision and think again about the following:
For whom are you creating? What type of OER are you planning?
Consider what you’ve learned about inclusive design.
- Complete Part 4 of your OER course planner. Examine the existing OER you have found and consider ways you can adapt that material to make it more inclusive. For the material that you need to create from scratch, make notes about the inclusive design elements that will be incorporated right from the beginning of the creation process.
- Lastly, reflect on who else might be able to join your OER development process to make the design and development a more collaborative and inclusive process.
Crenshaw, Kimberle (1989) “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989 , Article 8.
Available at: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/uclf/vol1989/iss1/8
This page adapts and builds upon the work of:
The Three Dimensions of Inclusive Design: Part One by Jutta Treviranus is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0