It is funny, as I began thinking about my response to this module I thought about Maria Town, who was also mentioned by Susan. Maria took a freshman seminar with me on the topic of “Suffering, Healing and Redemption,” which I am offering with some revisions again next year. She spoke movingly in class about her family’s experience of Hurricane Katrina just a few months before. She also opened my eyes to just how difficult it can be for some people to physically navigate Emory campus and she devoted herself already as a Sophomore to pushing the administration hard to make some changes. Now she works in the White House and I wonder if she would chuckle to know that we are talking about her here. Should we tell her?
I am glad we had this unit, though I can’t help thinking in retrospect that this is training and information every faculty member should have and I am sorry I did not have it sooner. I very much like Marshall’s (?) formulation that thinking about accessibility is a means of enhancing education for all students and not just for those who specifically need some accommodation.
This unit has also unnerved me because honestly, I am not sure how to provide for all the eventualities we have been discussing. I don’t typically lecture from prepared papers. I have notes intelligible only to myself and I interact with the class to convey what I want to convey. Should I start writing out my lectures more formally so that they can be given to students who have difficulty with hearing or so that they can be used to caption the videos we are now being encouraged to use even for our f2f classes? How do I figure out the trade-offs between what some here called “access for all” and my own very real needs to play to my strengths as a teacher and to keep a lid on prep time given how deeply strapped for time many of us already are? We slip between calls for “access for all” and more measured language of “reasonable accommodation,” but I feel a bit adrift in figuring out what reasonable is, particularly in preparing these online materials. It feels as if there is a goal that we are not yet fully equipped to meet in terms of technology or even just my own ability to use the technology smoothly. Someone mentioned self-captioning everything she records online. That is a huge investment of time and energy I am just not sure I can make right now, though I agree with the aspiration.
Finally, as I myself get older, I wonder how this emphasis on accessibility as an institutional goal will help faculty members to continue productive lives as scholars and teachers even as it does get more difficult to get around campus or to see and hear with former acuity.
This course, at any rate, has opened up far more for me than simply how to use technology or strategies for online teaching. Though I am not sure how in each case it will or should play out, I feel as if I have been bumped up a notch in reflective awareness of things I have been doing for decades. Brava Leah!