AccessibilUT: Accommodations Campaign

AccessibilUT: Accommodations Campaign

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Ria Otwani started this petition to The University of Texas at Austin Administration and Faculty

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Texas at Austin has taken the initiative to make classes more accessible to students by adopting an online learning platform. Due to these efforts, we have experienced more available educational resources such as recorded lectures with subtitles, increased availability of lecture slides, and flexibility with attendance policies that have been proven to be beneficial to several students’ learning. 

The Student Government Disabilities and Inclusion Agency, along with the support of the university student community, is proposing the permanent implementation and continuation of the compiled list below:

- Adaptation of course attendance policies by establishing a minimum of 2 unexcused absences university-wide (Note: if class attendance counts as a part of students’ overall grade within a course, leniency should be provided to those with SSD accommodations)

- Mandatory requirement for professors to offer online office hours (Note: online office hours will be recorded and uploaded for students’ review)

- Continue to offer recorded lectures with subtitles and/or transcriptions

- Closed caption requirement on all videos

- Lecture slides are posted on Canvas as a resource (Note: students can officially request for slides to be posted BEFORE lectures or other necessary accommodations through the SSD office)

- Increased time limit on major course examinations 

Disability advocates have been requesting these accommodations as an integral part of classroom instruction for years and as yet to be done. With the current transition of transferring the Spring 2020 semester to an online model, it has been made distinctively clear that resources and initiatives like the few listed above CAN be put in place by university leadership, faculty, and staff within a matter of approximately two weeks time. 

Not only will these resources help students with disabilities, but they can aid our overall diverse student body which includes students who have jobs, children, the necessity to care for family members, or other extenuating circumstances. By understanding the competing demands in UT students' lives, we have the opportunity to decrease pressure and anxiety from within our community and create a chance for every student to fully indulge in all learning activities. 

The proposed accommodations of this campaign will improve a sense of inclusivity for students who need accommodations on our campus. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for teaching-learning that aims to support access, participation and progress for all learners, resulting in a more accessible learning environment.

By standardizing these accommodations and adopting a Universal Design for Learning, we take an active step forward in combating disability stigma and culture on campus, as well as improving the welfare of the overall student body.  Our goal is to have these accommodations become a permanent part of UT’s instructional standards following the pandemic and when courses shift back to an in-person learning environment; all UT students should have an equitable chance to succeed on a forward-thinking campus. These adjustments can enhance learning for all UT students and it is evident that our university has the capabilities to set these standards in place and implement vital policies to ensure student success. Thank you for your time and feel free to read the campaign letter in its entirety here.

Sincerely,

The UT Student Government Disabilities and Inclusion Agency


Campaign Authors:

Ria Otwani, Taryn Medina, and Alejandra Zuñiga

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