Cornell Tech Course on Interaction Techniques: A Promising Practice in Normalizing Disability in a Technical Course

Shiri Azenkot at Cornell Tech teaches a class on interaction techniques (e.g., text entry and scroll bars). When designing the course, she considered her constraints (time, curriculum requirements, and expectations) and how her course might compare to similar courses across institutions. Rather than including accessibility in the course with an “accessibility lecture,” where she covered everything about accessibility in one short lecture, Shiri chose to integrate disability throughout the course.

A typical accessibility lecture might cover things like the definition and examples of disability, models of disability, the importance of accessibility, and interaction techniques for people with disabilities. Instead of covering the same topics on accessibility in a short amount of time, Shiri integrated assistive technology and accessibility into multiple lectures as a part of the ongoing discussion. Throughout the semester, readings discussed interaction techniques for people with disabilities and assistive technology. Students were encouraged to think about the biases they have based on perceived disability, age, race, gender, location, and a variety of other situations or statuses.

By incorporating disability-related topics throughout the course, accessibility becomes normalized, rather than marginalized. Disability topics were included in context, and not just as a specialized subject, exposing students to a broad range of accessibility and disability-related issues.

Shiri’s course is a promising practice in normalizing disability in a technical course by integrating disability-related content throughout the course. For more information about teaching accessibility, consult the AccessComputing Curricula Resources.