Inclusion + Access = Human Centric Practices
Ever wonder what you have to change to be more inclusive? Your content more accessible? Your world more human centric?
The good (actually awesome) news is that when you shift your lens to human centric practices, the quality and efficacy of pretty much everything you do improves. No major change needed. Put simply, you give up nothing to be human centric. And to be clear, being inclusive and accessible are values at the centre of being human centric.
And it’s never been easier to live, communicate, and teach according to your values. Check out the examples, concrete tips, and resources below, as well as thoughtful resources on indigenous “ways of knowing”.
An example: Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
If you’re an educator, you may have heard the term UDL or Universal Design for Learning in training sessions about learners with special needs or accommodations, or accessible instructional approaches. What you likely have not heard is that UDL is an approach that can actually enhance learning for everyone.
Whether an educator or not, you create & communicate content that is intended to be wide-reaching and therefore inclusive. Equality and equity in education & beyond is about being inclusive, ensuring access, and placing humans at the centre. Being human centric means incorporating the principles and values of:
It’s all about Quality
Inclusive, accessible content means effective communication – the foundation of teaching, learning, and interacting with the world. Well-designed “information” or “education” that is not accessible, or cannot be delivered to all learners, is exclusive, goes against human-centric principles and values, and is pretty much ineffective.
That’s right, designing content, including learning experiences, online that is both inclusive and accessible leads to higher quality, more effective learning for everyone. And it does not mean that content creators (that’s you too, educators) have to reinvent the wheel or change much of what they already do… if they’re using evidence-based instructional design, that is :).
Foundation level accessible & inclusive communication in digital contexts relies on 7 core skills (University of Minnesota, n.d.). Go ahead, click on the article & you’ll see that you’re already aware of & competent in most of them.
The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the main design framework for inclusive, accessible education – in person or by distance. It is based on decades of scientific, evidence-based neuro- and cognitive science. UDL takes inclusive practices to a deeper level than formatting a message for screen readers. UDL is about deep learning experiences for all – that’s the universal bit.
Resources to Design, Wordsmith, & Deliver Inclusive Content
Your first step should be to explore the Universal Design for Learning framework to establish the foundations of design of distance education learning experiences. Part of design, of course, is the language you use. (Hint: wordsmith your own content to keep it simple – lose the high fallutin’ tone and ditch the jargon.) On the more technical delivery side, a few simple formatting steps will take you a long way.
Take a look at these resources to use for both designing, wordsmithing and delivering inclusive, accessible online learning experiences:
- A podcast interview, Getting Started with Inclusive Design (Malamed, 2020) provides a great starting point for e-learning designers (distance educators) and links to helpful resources (link to transcript provided)
- Inclusive Language Guidelines – both the American Psychological Association (APA, 2021) and Google (Google, 2022) share concise, easy-to-use references with handy examples on inclusive language
- the US Dept. of Labor’s (n.d.) Office of Disability Employment Policy provides a helpful list of resources on UDL for employers
- The US General Services Administration (GSA) provides excellent tutorials and clear guidance on creating accessible documents, including with Word, PowerPoint, etc.
- The W3C or Web Accessibility Consortium is more geared toward web developers. If you have a website that you use in your teaching, it’ll be important to be familiar with their content and resources.
- CAST – One Stop Shopping for Universal Design for Learning (UDL). You can get lost in this website, including its tutorials, mini courses, and other resources. For a foundational starting point, have a look at their UDL guidelines. Their work is based on sound, evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning.
Ways of Knowing – Higher Education OER (Open Education Resources)
The government of British Columbia has created a comprehensive set of materials, called Indigenization Guides (BCCampus, n.d.), for higher education, including for administrators, curriculum developers, and faculty, among others.
There are four key concepts to consider for your own role in adult education, as well as your students’ perspectives:
- Ontology: ways of being
- Epistemology: ways of knowing
- Methodology: ways of doing
- Axiology: ways of valuing
The organization, Empowering the Spirit, created a Cultural Standpoint Questionnaire. It is a comprehensive and thoughtful set of questions to guide your and your students’ perspectives.
American Psychological Association. (2021). Inclusive language guidelines.
BCCampus. (n.d.). Indigenization Guides. https://bccampus.ca/projects/indigenization/indigenization-guides/
CAST Center for Applied Special Technology. (n.d.). https://www.cast.org/
CAST. (n.d.). The UDL Guidelines. https://udlguidelines.cast.org/
Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). (2018). UDL and the learning brain. https://www.cast.org/ (Universal Design for Learning framework)
Empowering the Spirit. Educational resource to support reconciliation. (2022). Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortia (ARPDC). https://empoweringthespirit.ca/
Google. (2021, June 16). Writing inclusive documentation. https://developers.google.com/style/inclusive-documentation
Malamed, C. (2020, May 14). Getting started with inclusive design. The eLearning Coach. https://theelearningcoach.com/podcasts/61/
U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Universal design resources. Office of Disability Employment Policy. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/program-areas/employment-supports/universal-design/resources
U.S. Government, General Services Administration (GSA). (2022). Create accessible digital products. Section508.gov Content Creation. https://www.section508.gov/create/
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). (n.d.). Web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) Overview. https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/