This is part of a series of posts on higher, further and continuing education and making sure that education is accessible for students, based on my own personal observations and experiences I’ve heard about from other disabled students.
Blanket tech bans are unintentionally disablist. Many people benefit from being able to take notes on their computers or tablets as opposed to writing longhand on paper. Some people have dysgraphia, which makes it harder for them to write neatly and clearly. Some people have a harder time keeping up with the teacher or guest speaker unless they’re typing. Some people have a hard time with organisation and may have an easier time keeping track of notes if they’re searchable and can be backed up to a cloud service. (This latter case applies to me. I’m terrible at keeping track of paper notebooks, but I’m fine when I’m writing on a tablet or computer.) Tech bans are also bad because they out people as being disabled if they receive accommodations to use technology in class.
There are people who actually benefit from multitasking. It can be difficult to concentrate in lecture-model classes, especially for those of us who are autistic or have ADHD. I have to do some degree of multitasking (in the form of doodling on my iPad, usually), or my attention will start flagging pretty quickly if I’m forced to sit still and not do anything with my hands. I was able to get through my undergraduate classes through a combination of doodling, active note-taking and web-surfing.
Sans-serif typefaces (fonts without the little ‘feet’, or serifs, on the ends of the characters) can be more readable for people with dyslexia or other disabilities. Examples of sans-serif fonts commonly available on PCs and Macs include Helvetica, Verdana, Arial, Calibri, Candara, Corbel, Gill Sans and Trebuchet MS. A lot of classes will require everything to be in serif fonts like Times New Roman and Palatino.
Clearly listed deadlines on a syllabus for all assignments can be helpful for people who struggle with executive dysfunction or time management. It makes it easier to track when homework is due, and which things to prioritise when you’re taking multiple classes.
Having both paper and digital options for things like the syllabus, essay prompts and other information related to a class is a good idea – there are people who are better at reading printed material than anything displayed on a screen, and then there are those of us who benefit much more from digital materials because we’re less likely to misplace them. (I’m one of those people who benefits from reading on screen and receiving digital material – I misplace paper really easily.)