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Module 5: Student Engagement

Accessible Education: Mediating Physical Barriers

While many of the physical barriers described earlier may be outside of your control, there are still steps you can take before your class starts and throughout its duration to adapt to barriers and enhance classroom accessibility. Focusing on adjustments that are feasible for you to implement, even when these are small in comparison to architectural constraints, can still significantly contribute to the accessibility of your classroom environment, and are worth putting into action.

 

Below, we describe how the Accessible Education methods of Explicitness and Flexibility can support you in mediating physical barriers. Suggestions are grouped as follows:

  • Explicitness During Course Planning
  • Explicitness and Flexibility During Course Delivery

 

Explicitness During Course Planning

Know Emergency Procedures
  • Know the location of fire exits and emergency procedures for your building, including procedures for those unable to exit a building without the use of an elevator.
  • Download McMaster’s new Safety App and program emergency contacts into your cell phone.
Anticipate and Report Barriers
  • Visit your classroom before the first day of class so that you can anticipate possible concerns and adapt your teaching accordingly.
  • Report any classroom environmental concerns to the Registrar’s Office, the Classroom Hotline, or Security Services as appropriate with the help of this chart.
Locate Washrooms
Washroom signage for an all gender washroom in Chester New Hall

*Washroom signage for an all gender washroom in Chester New Hall.

 

Explicitness and Flexibility During Course Delivery

Explicitly Discuss Barriers and Remedies
  • Invite students to identify and discuss what they need to learn well in the classroom and ask for feedback on the physical space early on. You might do this through class discussion and by encouraging students to email or speak to you after class about access concerns. Involve the class in taking actions to enhance the environment.
Foster a Flexible Class Atmosphere
  • Foster a respectful class atmosphere that encourages students to take care of their bodies and minds and to leave or move around the classroom as needed. Students may respond to this encouragement by colouring or doodling to enhance their focus, stretching, eating, or using the washroom.
  • Take regular breaks so students can pay attention to their bodies, rest, and catch up on or clarify material they may have missed.
  • Support students’ respectful use of technology in class.
  • Provide opportunities for students to ask questions.
  • Offer students the right to pass or opt out of a class activity that will get in the way of their learning.

Case Study with Manifying Glass

CASE STUDY:
Does technology help or hinder Accessible Education? Both!

Helps Hinders
  • Enhances flexibility & variety, such as by making multiple formats and media available so that students can access an e-copy of a textbook or use speech-to-text software to type assignments.
  • Supports explicitness, such as by making it possible for students to clarify the meaning of words used in lecture through the use of an online dictionary or translator.
  • The use of technology can create a barrier, such as laptop use causing a visual or auditory distraction in the classroom.
Listen to Dr. Catherine Anderson describe how she enhances accessibility through blended learning and the features of our online learning management system, Avenue2Learn. Reduce possible barriers by reviewing our Accessibility Hub’s resources on auditing and enhancing the accessible use of technology.

 

Continue Your Learning Icon

Continue Your Learning

  • Explore possibilities for physical accessibility in “practical” learning environments like labs, archives, studios, and other hands-on spaces (Council of Ontario Universities, 2017).

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Accessible Education: Mediating Physical Barriers Copyright © 2017 by McMaster University. All Rights Reserved.

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