AccessEDU Episode 5 – Anna Voelker

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Episode 5 – Anna Voelker

“[Astronomy] is just completely full of mystery that scientists get to constantly investigate. In terms of accessibility, what really kickstarted it was a class here at Ohio State, called Shakespeare and Autism.”

In this fifth episode of AccessEDU, Megan interviews Anna Voelker, a senior at OSU who was recently awarded the President’s Prize to complete a project at the intersection of astronomy and accessibility.

Referenced in this episode:

Read a transcript of episode 5

AccessEDU Episode 4 – Jessie Male

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Episode 4 – Jessie Male

“I used to never allow computers in my classroom. Now that I’ve become integrated into disability studies. I’m ashamed of that former teacher who didn’t allow computers in her classroom. I’m embarrassed for her because that’s so important to allow that kind of technology into the space.”

In the fourth episode of AccessEDU, your host interviews an OSU English professor who is new to teaching online and has a unique (and exemplary) philosophy on access and inclusion in her classroom spaces.

Referenced in this episode:

Read a transcript of episode 4 

Accessible Teaching: Start Now

Another semester has rolled right up to your door and started knocking. You’ve thrown on a robe (whipped up a course plan) and opened the door. But every semester is a bit different and our goal here at ODEE is to make sure you’re fully dressed before the knock sounds. But before you consider yourself fully dressed, it’s time to talk about accessibility, the hat to top it all off.

Accessibility is the assurance that all students, no matter their ability, will have access to your educational materials and learning experiences. There are many things to consider when making a course accessible, and many issues are eliminated by using an accessible learning management system (Carmen). But for the remaining considerations, when should you get started?


David Gooblar writes that now is the time to think about accessibility. And I agree. We have always desired to empower people to be proactive about accessibility rather than reactive. Any preparation you can do to accommodate your diverse student body will save you time in the end and make students feel more welcome across the board. Gooblar argues that thinking about accessibility isn’t much different than thinking about how you will deliver a lecture powerpoint, notes, or give a review session before an exam. These are all accommodations you make as educators – to help students learn. Therefore, modifying assignments to make them more flexible for diverse learners, is no different than going out of your way to produce a study guide.

“We’re wrong to think of accommodations as exceptions that detract from our normal way of doing things. Accommodating students is our normal way of doing things.”

Build accessibility and UDL into your teaching, allow the possibility of a diverse student body to inform the way you plan activities. Slowly but surely, embracing the language of accessibility and inclusivity will not only make you a better educator, but will also set you up to learn the technical ins and outs to practice what you preach.

Add language to your syllabus that reflects your approach to accessibility and accommodation. Inside Higher Ed recently highlighted an OSU English professor, Jessie Male, who added the following language to her syllabus:

“I assume that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, or you might prefer to articulate ideas via email or discussion board. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them.”

Male made an effort to bring personalization and empathy to the boiler plate language we copy and paste into our syllabi. Read through our introduction to universal design for learning to plan how you will incorporate accessibility into your teaching. Begin to familiarize yourself with the language of accessibility, both in the physical world and the online environment. Gooblar’s article links to an excellent resource developed by Anne-Marie Womack called Accessible Syllabus. It gives a general overview of everything an instructor should consider about their teaching practice as it relates to accessibility. Read up, attend our accessibility workshops, and tackle every semester fully dressed.

AccessEDU Episode 3 – Tara Koger


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Episode 3 – Tara Koger

“It’s important to remember that visual experiences in looking at contrast is not a binary of normal vision and impaired vision. It’s really a continuum…”

In the third episode of AccessEDU, your host interviews an OSU educational technologist, Tara Koger about her tips for designing visually appealing AND accessible content and webpages.

Referenced in this episode:

Read a transcript of Episode 3

AccessEDU Episode 2 – Matias Grioni

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Episode 2 – Matias Grioni

In the second episode of AccessEDU, your host interviews OSU student Matias Grioni about a project he created at the annual Hackathon. Find out how the creation could impact those with hearing differences.

Referenced in this episode:

Matias on stage with Cartune demo

Matias and team, on-stage at the 2016 Hackathon, explaining their demo of Cartune.

Read a transcript of Episode 2

AccessEDU Episode 1 – Jessica Phillips

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AccessEDU Episode 1 – Jessica Phillips

In this introductory episode to the exciting new AccessEDU podcast, host Megan Fogel interviews Jessica Phillips, Instructional Designer at OSU. The two discuss the state of accessibility in higher ed and reveal the story of how this podcast came to be.

Referenced in this episode:

Read a transcript of Episode 1.

Accommodation: Notation

Universities across the country are adopting a new technology to accommodate many types of students in the classroom. On a recent visit to the AccessibleNU at Northwestern University, I got a chance to see a live demonstration of this new note-taking technology that is also in use by the Office of Disability Services here at Ohio State. The Livescribe Echo Smartpen can be loaned out to students who would have previously been paired with a note-taking volunteer or classmate. The smartpen records the audio in an environment as soon as the user clicks the “record” icon on the smart notebook that corresponds with the pen. After a student has taken a few notes and the recording has ended, clicking back on a section of the notes starts the audio playback from that point.

View a demo of the Livescribe Echo Smartpen:

Specifically, note-taking becomes an accessibility issue in classes with long lectures that don’t distribute notes or slides to students, and especially for students with attention or mobility differences. As the number of these students grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to set up that peer note-taking relationship as the only form of accommodation.

As with any disability, the increased demand for improvement and universal availability creates a window for what we call “assistive technologies” to step in. These are both software and hardware that are constantly improving and range from the variety of screen reader software, braille typewriters, and adaptive mice.

The Livescribe Echo Smartpen is a hybrid of software and hardware, is relatively affordable and like many accessible technologies, could benefit all users, not just those with a disability.

Read more about assistive technology in use at Ohio State and if you have the need, request to loan out a Livescribe Smartpen.