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Let’s jam: the accessibility session

Poster for Accessibility Jam, with orange and white text, displayed on a slight angle, on a purple background. Decorative accessibility icons appear at the bottom of the poster. Full text reads: 'Accessibility Jam. ELearning live in person and featuring performances by Text Alternatives, Closed Captions for Videos, Universal Design, Headings and Document Styles, Canvas Accessibility Tools. Thursday May 18, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Gray Wolf 268. Free entry, all ages. Come jam with us! Bring your syllabus or course materials for hands-on help with accessibility.'
Accessibility: just like cool jazz.

Here at EvCC, we’re hosting an Accessibility Jam on May 18 in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. What’s an Accessibility Jam, you ask? Much like the musical jam session from which it borrows its name, the Accessibility Jam is an informal and improvisational gathering that aims to raise awareness of how easy it can be to create accessible course materials, even if you don’t have a lot of time or experience with accessibility-related matters. It’s a drop-in affair, not a formal training session or workshop. That means anyone can stop by to ask a question, sit down with a colleague for some hands-on help with a document or video, or simply find out about some accessibility-related resources and tools. Whether you can spare five minutes or fifty, there’s bound to be some strain of accessibility you can riff on, in your own way and at your own pace, before being pulled back to the regular schedule of your day.

The Accessibility Jam has its origins in a common statement I’ve heard on numerous occasions. You may have heard it, too. It usually goes something like this:

“Accessibility sounds important, but I don’t know anything about making course materials accessible. Plus, it seems like a lot of work — I just don’t have the time to think about it.”

It’s easy to be critical of this view, but anyone familiar with the realities and time constraints of teaching should be able to sympathize. It’s true that making course materials fully accessible does take a lot of time, and it requires specific knowledge of common accessibility problems and solutions. Together those two factors — lack of time and lack of knowledge — can make the idea of an accessible class seem like a fantasy: something we’d all like to see, for sure, but not something that seems very achievable.

But what if we could replace this way of thinking with a different perspective, one that holds every single incremental step toward greater accessibility, no matter how small, is a change for the better that brings us closer to the goal of universal accessibility? This way of seeing course accessibility would mean that small slivers of time could be put to productive useĀ  — which is exactly what we hope to promote at the Accessibility Jam.

Plus, it will be fun. It’s a chance to spend a few minutes with colleagues, working collectively on a shared endeavor, with something tangible to show at the end of it. So if you find yourself with even five minutes to spare on May 18, be sure to stop by the Accessibility Jam!

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