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Disability, Access, and Teaching A One-Day Symposium, April 10, 2019

Lydia X. Z. Brown

On April 10, “Disability, Access, and Teaching: A One-Day Symposium” brought together American University's campus and local communities to better understand and foster accessible, inclusive learning environments. While a number of faculty members at American University focus their research on disability, and student and faculty resource centers engage with questions of disability, it is rare for students, staff, faculty, and administrators to come together for a sustained conversation about accessible pedagogy and disability theory. We aim to facilitate precisely that conversation.

This symposium will offer plenary sessions, workshops, and presentation slots, as well as other interactive formats in which we can together discuss how we want to realize truly accessible classrooms and foster disability studies as a field at American University. Together we want to foster a campus conversation about the following questions: What would we like accessible learning environments at AU to look like? What are we already doing to foster access to learning, what additional needs do our students have, and what kinds of supports do instructors need to be able to create and maintain accessible learning environments? What would a disability pedagogy look like, and how can we encourage an ongoing conversation about these issues?

We offer this symposium with the hope of creating community for students, faculty, staff, and administration around a shared sense of identity so that people with disabilities will feel a stronger sense of belonging at AU. We also want to foster a greater awareness for the work already being done at AU, and provide space to let people build relationships and networks. The symposium is free and actively invites all AU members, DC community members and disability studies faculty and graduate students at nearby universities.

A timeline with a pencil, magnifying glass, graduation cap, gear, and speech bubble

Symposium Wrap-Up

On April 10, 2019, American University's campus and local communities came together to better understand and foster accessible, inclusive learning environments.

Symposium Organizers

Dr. Tanja Aho (American Studies, Critical Race, Gender & Culture Studies Collaborative, CAS)

Dr. Perry Zurn (Philosophy, CAS)

Schedule & Workshop Descriptions

  • 8:30-9:30: Registration & Breakfast
    Butler Board Room, floor 6 in the Butler elevator
  • 9:15-9:45: “Disability 101: A Workshop for Educators in Higher Education” (Madelaine Reis, AU)
    This workshop will help build skills around disability for educators in higher education. By utilizing the social model of disability, story telling, the spoon theory, disability culture, social interactions, and accessibility this workshop offers an introductory framework that higher education institutions should use to train their teachers for better interactions and relationships with disabled students.
  • 9:45-10: Break
  • 10:00-10:45: "We All Deserve to Be Here: Creating Access Culture in the Academy" (Lydia X. Z. Brown)
  • 10:45-11: Break
  • 11:00-11:30: “Student Perspectives” Roundtable (AU participants: Sam Liss, Fiona Murphy, Ashley Ramamoorthy, Daigneau Ray, and Madelaine Reis; AU Law participant: Natalie Tecimer)
    In this workshop, students will offer insights about the lived experience of studying at AU as disabled students and the activism, research, and art they have created. Come listen to what AU students have to say about their experiences with mobility impairments, being hard of hearing, having depression and anxiety, and being autistic/neuroqueer/dyslexic.
  • 11:30-12:30: Lunch & Inclusive Bathroom Project @AU Report (Perry Zurn & Abigail Morris, AU)
    This brief presentation provides an update on the ongoing, community-wide Inclusive Bathrooms Project at American University. This project aims to identify, evaluate, and improve bathroom accessibility for everyone, including people with disabilities, transgender and genderqueer people, and families that need changing tables and lactation rooms.
  • 12:30-1:15: “Disability on DC Campuses: Perspectives of Directors of Disability Services” (Jane Holahan, Georgetown; Susan McMenamin, GW; Mara Bellino, Georgetown Law; Lindsay Northup-Moore, AU)
    What do disability services look like on campuses in Washington, DC? A panel of four directors of disability services will speak about their respective campuses and how disability is handled at each. The panel will also supply information about trends at the local and national levels, including the more complex profiles incoming students are presenting with. We will also discuss the increasing need for UDL in all campus courses and programming to ensure access for all students.
  • 1:15-1:30: Break
  • 1:30-2:15: “UDL & Teacher Perspectives” Roundtable (Karina Jeronimides, AU; Alyssa Hillary, U of Rhode Island; Sara Luterman; Nedelina Tchangalova, UMD; Sarah Irvine Belson, Christine Bresnahan & Charlotte Morse, AU)
    This roundtable brings together a number of individual perspectives on teaching, some describing the implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and others discussing the lived experience of being a disabled teacher. Workshop participants will offer their insights on accessible library instructional practices, serving students with dyslexia, designing syllabi, online teaching environments, and accessible communication.
  • 2:15-2:30: Break
  • 2:30-3:15: “Assistive Technology Workshop: Accessing Learning through Technology” (Alisa Major, GW; Erin C. Tokajer & Anthony Contarino, AU)
    This workshop offers an introduction to assistive technology services, devices, and software programs that are most commonly used by higher education students both in and outside of the classroom. Attendees will become familiar with technology designed to support all forms of learning, including reading, writing, communication, and notetaking; many of these technologies are used as accommodations in higher education but can also benefit the general education student. The workshop will not only provide an overview and demonstration of the AT, but also a hands-on learning experience for all attendees.
  • 3:15-3:30: Break
  • 3:30-4:15: “Disability Rights Law Clinic & the Disability Law Society” (AU Law participants: Robert Dinerstein, Marissa Ditkowsky, Sahar Takshi; Thomas Mangrum, Project Action!)
    This workshop will highlight how AU Law fosters strong community connections through their collaboration with Project Action! Students from the Disability Law Society and faculty members of the Disability Rights Law Clinic will be in discussion with self-advocates from Project Action!
  • 4:15-5: Closing Roundtable “Disability at AU” with Tanja Aho, Perry Zurn, Derrick Cogburn, Filippo Trevisan, Anna Whiston, and Amanda Kleinman (AU faculty & staff)
    Throughout the day we encourage participants, both in the room and online, to provide questions, feedback, comments, and ideas. The closing roundtable will offer a space to bring these impressions together and develop an initial outcomes list that will be shared with the wider AU community.
  • 5:00-6:30: Decompress at the Bridge
    We invite anybody with spoons left to join us at the Bridge, a student-run coffee shop a few floors down to decompress and continue the conversation in an informal setting. Choose floor 2 in the Butler elevator.