Step 1: Inclusion From Concept to Completion
Instead of adapting classes and writing centers to accommodate individuals with special needs, consider inclusion from the moment we conceptualize a course, through the design process, and during the delivery of class materials (Seale, 2006). A simple metric guides inclusive writing pedagogy: “Will this decision actively include as many students as possible?” For example, when an instructor decides to include a video or animation in course materials, how will students with visual, auditory, or other sensory challenges access the content?
Virtual writing spaces might not only continue current barriers, but create new and unanticipated challenges for some student populations. Addressing the needs of students with disabilities might also help students with limited English proficiency, various learning styles, and other differences. Technology scholars have noted the potential for online spaces to exacerbate challenges for some students (Cuban, 2001; Maeroff, 2003; Oppenheimer, 2003), and writing scholars have expressed concerns, too (Hawisher & Selfe, 1991; Monroe, 2004; Trimbur, 2003).
Ideally, an inclusive design and pedagogy address any physical or cognitive challenge. Adaptations for some disabilities serve as a good starting point for considering course designs because the technologies and pedagogical rationales are well documented. For example, the American Foundation for the Blind actively encourages inclusion with detailed online guides (http://www.afb.org/). The AFB has been at the forefront of usability, accessibility, and inclusive website design.