Educators can often feel overwhelmed trying to ensure that their course content and activities are AODA compliant. Institutions place a great deal of focus on the need for accessible learning environments, but may not offer the support required to equip educators to create those spaces. In addition, because AODA is provincial legislation, educators can feel that there will be punitive consequences if they are unable to execute applicable elements of AODA perfectly.
The role of UDL for AODA is not to replace the need for disability related accommodations or circumvent this important Act. Instead, UDL implementation can be used as a tool to help educators get closer to a more inclusive and accessible course.
Let’s have a look at some examples of how UDL can support common AODA and accommodation requests.
Note taking is a common disability related accommodation in post-secondary education. It is also a labour and time intensive accommodation that can include learner disclosure, educator involvement to find a note taker, implementation of new technologies, and/or arranging physical services that are not consistently available.
Alternatively, implementing UDL can proactively build note taking support into a course to support all learners, including those with disabilities. For example educators can:
- Post their notes to the course site in advance of class
- Offer lesson guides prior to each class and then provide completed notes after class
- Record their lectures and post them to the course site with the transcript
- Implement crowdsourcing of lecture notes where learners take their notes as they usually would and then upload their personal notes to the course site
Additional Time for Quizzes, Tests and/or Exams
At many post-secondary institutions in Ontario, the most common testing accommodation for learners with disabilities is additional time for quizzes, tests and/or exams. The accommodation is common, but the process for gaining the accommodation can be lengthy and can result in the learner writing in a different space or time than the rest of the class, making it challenging to ask questions of educators and gain prompt responses.
Proactively including additional time for learners to complete quizzes, tests, and/or exams allows the time students with accommodations require, while supporting all students to read the questions and their answers more carefully, reduce anxiety related to time, and create a more supportive evaluation process. While this UDL element may not be ideal in all testing situations, educators can determine which assessments would be best suited to having additional time proactively included.
To learn more about this UDL element and how to implement it, please visit Mohawk College’s Additional Time for Quizzes/Tests/Exams webpage.
All learners should be able to access their course content. However, when the accessibility of materials and resources is not already considered, the process for students with disabilities to gain alternate formats can take weeks. During this time, learners can fall behind the class and miss important opportunities to review and study content.
Proactively providing content options for all learners in a course can ensure that many students who have specific need for alternate formats have quick and easy access, while providing supportive learning options for everyone. An aim of UDL is to support learners to gain content in the way that is best for them and proactively ensuring alternate formats are present in a course is key.
There are a few practical options to provide alternate formats of course materials and resources:
- Provide content in the HTML editor and a link to Word versions, and/or PDF
- Select textbooks that have physical and accessible e-versions
- Include PowerPoint presentations with PDF versions
- Offer captioned videos posted with a transcript
The suggestions above are not exhaustive and may not replace all AODA or specific accommodations in all instances, but offer some suggestions of how UDL can remove the artificial learning barriers post-secondary environments can create for students with disabilities.
The following video, UDL at Landmark College [1:07] by UDL on Campus (2015), offers a view of institution wide UDL implementation in support of learners with disabilities and provides a vision of how UDL can remove post-secondary learning barriers.
In post-secondary education, challenges with AODA can result from an assumption that anyone can engage in the course material and tools with the same abilities. Thinking back to the case studies from Activity 1, consider the following questions related to accessibility for persons with disabilities:
- What functional abilities (physical, cognitive, psychological, behavioural) are required in order to fully engage in the course?
- Are the educational materials and tools you use compatible with adaptive technology?
- If it will require time to convert your materials or instruction into an accessible format, how will this impact the student’s learning while they wait?
- What supports are available at your institution to support you in creating accessible educational content?
- Brainstorm all of the different ways UDL can address the most challenging or most common AODA concerns for teaching and learning in post-secondary environments.
If you are not sure how UDL might support AODA, the content and learning activities from Module 1, 2 and 3 will be useful.
You are invited to brainstorm in the way that works best for you, which may include writing, drawing, creating an audio or video file, mind map or any other method that will allow you to reflect and refer back to your thoughts.
Alternatively, a text-based note-taking space is provided below. Any notes you take here remain entirely confidential and visible only to you. Use this space as you wish to keep track of your thoughts, learning, and activity responses. Download a text copy of your notes before moving on to the next page of the module to ensure you don’t lose any of your work!
UDL on Campus. (2015, Oct 7). UDL at Landmark College [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/IMzQR09qXAE