Blog Post

Intro: Accessible Pedagogies & Scholarship


Hi, everyone! I’m Allison—a 3rd-year PhD student in the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program at Syracuse University. I’m in that awkward (yet exciting!) stage post-comprehensive exams and pre-dissertation prospectus where I’m trying to figure out exactly what I want my diss to be.  

Last year, I wrote an introduction about my interests at the intersections of rhet/comp and disability studies, which manifested in how we create and enact more accessible pedagogies. This is something that motivated me to get other folks together for a forum about disability and access in the academy, which was super rewarding and allowed me to chat with other grad students and scholars with similar values.

These interests are extending to how we create (and value) accessible digital scholarship. For example, I work on a podcast project, and my main motivation for helping was to figure out how to make it a more accessible genre. Maybe ironically, I don’t listen to podcasts because I have a really difficult time focusing on audio, which is why I never know the words to my favorite songs and cannot, for more than a few minutes, focus at conferences without a handout or a specific task—like note taking or tweeting. I came to this project, though, with specific interests in participating in a project that would help create and distribute disciplinary information through a digital medium. My role has also been very tied up in making the information as accessible as possible, from the adaptive WordPress theme we chose for our website to the full-text transcripts of every podcast.

I’m also working on a project that positions accessibility as a literacy. Given the limited time available in the composition classroom, teaching both functional and rhetorical literacy skills can feel daunting to many instructors, even before the accessibility of multimodal projects is considered. Similarly, producing digital scholarship demands technological and design skills that can make it more time-consuming, and accessibility concerns are left unaddressed. Yet accessibility issues cannot be ignored if we want to engage with and teach responsible and ethical composing practices. Accessibility is frequently conflated with accommodation—an individual measure that helps users overcome the obstacles that prevent them from properly accessing a text. That is, they are afterthoughts to the composition process. The question, then, is how do centralize accessibility? How do we model accessible practices both in our scholarship and in our classrooms?

Specifically, I’m thinking of how accessible literacy practices such as transcribing and captioning can be used rhetorically and creatively: to concretize understandings of audience, to engage more deeply with the content we produce, to think critically about what it means to be ethical producers of digital texts, and to experiment with stylistic choices when representing voices and sounds.

If anyone’s interested in chatting about these things, definitely let me know! I look forward to reading more about the work y’all do and collaborating this year.


1 comment

Thanks for the great post, Allison -- I admire the focus of your work and, as a designer, your assertions really rang true for me. In my experience, accessibility can be one of the most difficult technical aspects of design, which unfortunately often means it becomes a low priority for designers, esp. independent designers with limited resources, even if those designers believe in the importance of accessibility. This is especially true for games, which are often so dependant upon a complex intermingling of visual, auditory, textual, and gestural components that they marginalize huge numbers of interested players. I'm glad to see that you'll be bringing this kind of focus to your HASTAC work. Thanks again!

Oh, and speaking of games: I just started a fantasy basketball league for HASTAC scholars. Let me know if you want to join in! :-)