Written by: Sabrina Wu, Senior Research Assistant
In partnership with Accessibility Services, we consulted with students in two phases to understand their experiences in navigating classroom accommodations and move toward enhancing universal design at the University. As a part of the second phase, we facilitated design thinking sessions, where we focused on sharing back our research findings from the first phase and brainstormed ways of addressing some of these concerns at the University.
In both phases, we had research teams who were incredibly passionate and motivated to do work that could potentially help to improve Accessibility at the University. The research teams’ drive for the project as well as participants’ passion for the matter continuously inspired me as their team lead.
Participants drive the project
We quickly learned in this project that there are a lot of people at the University who care deeply about accessibility in the classroom. Researchers often shared how shocked they were at how open and passionate participants were in sharing feedback and ideating ways to improve student learning. Listening to students who sincerely cared for the improvement of accessibility in the classroom and on the whole, really emphasized the significance of this work and how many people it could impact.
A researcher once shared that it was really powerful for them to hear about how different people had different definitions of topics such as accessible learning and learning styles. I reflect on this on several levels – on the one hand, participants have different perspectives to share with us, but on the other hand, us researchers may also have different perspectives and definitions when analyzing the feedback. This is also why it was so significant for us to focus on sharing back our findings with participants in Phase II to make sure our interpretations of their feedback resonates with them and how they envision their ideal classroom based on the findings. Our team was consistently moved by students’ willingness to share their stories, which helped remind us of the importance of centering students in our work.
Every project has its learning curves and obstacles, such as difficulties in project planning, recruitment, data analysis, and writing. As a team lead, I am often thinking about different ways to motivate researchers to learn from these obstacles and work through them together. With the research teams for this project, I was greatly inspired to see how the researchers used their passion for building accessible classrooms and their empathy-based discussions with participants to propel them forward at each stage of the research. This passion helped us think about more than the research deliverables but also in thinking about accessibility in our research process itself, including best practices on Zoom, accessible options to team meetings, offering written alternatives to providing feedback, and the importance of doing an accessibility check in our report.
I am grateful to have been able to see the power of motivation for both researchers and participants in tandem to drive a project and compelling future impacts.