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Abstract Title: Accessibility and Universal Design in Physics Education
Abstract: While our community is placing increased emphasis on supporting diverse learners, students with disabilities are rarely in the foreground of these efforts. Students with disabilities now make up more than 10% of students pursuing postsecondary degrees. In this session, presenters with a range of experiences will give short presentations about their experiences making physics education accessible to students with disabilities. After the presentations, we will open the floor for a panel discussion. The presenters represent both research-based perspectives and lived experiences. This session will provide networking opportunities for people who are interested in making their teaching more accessible and/or using accessibility as a lens to inform their research.
Abstract Type: Custom Format

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Dimitri R. Dounas-Frazer
University of Colorado Boulder
Department of Physics 390 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0390
Phone: 303-862-0337
and Co-Presenter(s)
Benjamin M. Zwickl, Rochester Institute of Technology; Jacquelyn J. Chini, University of Central Florida

Symposium Specific Information

Discussant: N/A
Moderator: The three co-organizers (Benjamin M. Zwickl, Dimitri R. Dounas-Frazer, and  Jacquelyn J. Chini, and) will moderate the session as a team
Presentation 1 Title: Creating Inclusive Physics Classrooms for Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Students
Presentation 1 Authors: Stacey Davis and David Spiecker
Presentation 1 Abstract: Stacey Davis teaches physics and astronomy to associate level deaf students at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and supports deaf baccalaureate students taking physics at Rochester Institute of Technology.  David Spiecker is an upper-division physics major at RIT and also works as instructional support faculty at NTID.  Through David's perspective as a deaf student and Stacey's perspective as a teacher, they will address some of the issues deaf and hard of hearing students face in mainstream physics classrooms (including lectures, active learning, and lab courses) and some of the common misconceptions about deaf students.  In addition to sharing  strategies to make classrooms and activities more deaf-friendly, which often benefit all students, the dialog should encourage physics education researchers to study learning and develop curricula to support an increasingly diverse range of students.
Presentation 2 Title: Universal Design: Making Postsecondary STEM Accessible to ALL Students
Presentation 2 Authors: Jillian Schreffler, Westley James, Eleazar Vasquez, III, Jacquelyn J. Chini
Presentation 2 Abstract: Students with disabilities have increasing opportunities to attend a four-year college or university. As more students with disabilities enter our physics classrooms, instructors need to have the right tools and skills to make their lessons accessible to all students. In architecture, the principle of "Universal Design" guides architects in planning for user variability by designing environments that are usable by all people without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Applications of Universal Design have been developed for education to support instructors in designing learning experiences that enable all learners to naturally engage with the course, reducing the need for accommodations. Just like all users, not just those with mobility impairments, benefit from a sidewalk "curb cut," Universal Design has the potential to better support learning by all students. This presentation will describe and provide examples of the Universal Design for Learning and Universal Instructional Design frameworks.
Presentation 3 Title: Increasing the Accessibility of PhET Simulations for Students with Disabilities: Challenges, Progress, and Potential
Presentation 3 Authors: Katherine K. Perkins, Taliesin L. Smith, and Emily B. Moore Perkins
Presentation 3 Abstract: The PhET Interactive Simulations project impacts classrooms around the world through over 130 interactive science and mathematics simulations and associated teacher resources. Despite the potential of PhET sims to foster engagement and participation in science education, they are currently inaccessible for many students with disabilities. This is due to the reliance on predominantly visual representations of concepts, and interfaces that rely on dexterity with a mouse or touch-screen device. In 2014, the PhET project began an initiative to increase the accessibility of our suite of HTML5 simulations for students with and without disabilities through the use of inclusive design. Over the past 3 years, we have overcome technical challenges, started a (growing) accessible simulation design community, developed prototypes of accessible PhET simulations (with keyboard navigation and auditory descriptions), and engaged in research of inclusive features with diverse students. In this presentation, we will highlight aspects of our work in accessibility and inclusion by: 1) sharing some of the challenges to accessibility faced by creators of dynamic, interactive content; 2) demonstrating accessible PhET simulation prototypes; 3) and sharing research findings on the use of accessible PhET simulations by students with visual impairments. We will end by briefly describing some upcoming accessibility features in development, and what these new features can enable in the classroom.
Presentation 4 Title: When Students are Left in the Dark
Presentation 4 Authors: Jamie Principato
Presentation 4 Abstract: Often in the postsecondary physics classroom, tradition shapes the way lessons are delivered and mastery is measured. All too often, these traditional delivery and examination methods leave students who have sensory disabilities in the dark. As a blind student, I have experienced first-hand the damage that is done when students and professors are unable to communicate with each other in an accessible medium, or when doing things the way they have always been done takes precedence over ensuring that every student has the opportunity to pursue and demonstrate understanding. As an undergraduate researcher, and the leader of a growing education initiative that puts the tools of a physicist directly into the hands of blind students, I also know that there is a better way. In this panel session, I will describe some of my own experiences studying physics, in the classroom and the lab, and I will share insights that I have gained through my outreach efforts.