Participation at What Cost? Teaching Accessibility Using Participatory Design: An Experience Report


As institutions respond to market demand in their training of the next generation of technology designers, there is an increasing awareness of the need to add accessibility to computer science and informatics curricula. Advocates have suggested three strategies for including accessibility and discussions of disability in courses: changing a lecture, adding a lecture or adding a new course. In this paper we report on our experiences with the latter; incorporating accessibility within two new graduate and undergraduate inclusive design courses taught concurrently. We found that while the use of participatory design was decidedly effective in supporting student learning and ameliorating ableist attitudes, creating and managing teams comprised of students and visually impaired co-designers proved challenging. Despite these challenges, overall, students demonstrated steady growth in their grasp of inclusive design concepts as they tackled accessibility challenges through a series of mobility-related group projects. Efficiencies were also realized through the concurrent teaching of both courses though the pace of course deliverables proved challenging at times for undergraduates. We argue that a review of our experience may help others interested in teaching accessibility related courses, specifically in course design and execution.