Our Approach to More Equitable Learning Media
Our department has been developing educational media for more than 40 years. Historically, we have made efforts to ensure our products are created with diverse cultural perspectives, are culturally sensitive and able to reach diverse populations. However, we recognize that these efforts sometimes fell short and may continue to fall short. We are always learning and growing. In our yearly design process meeting, we revisit our guiding principles and approach to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility. We will continue to meet annually as a team to reflect, share insights, and stay current with new perspectives on DEI and information relevant to our production goals.
Our team believes that quality educational media reflects our commitment to:
accessibility of our products to a wide range of users;
diversity, equity and inclusion in processes used to develop materials; and
representation within our media.
We will do our best. We accept that we may get it wrong, have previously worked from a less-informed place, and will constantly evolve our thinking and approach.
In our products, we seek to produce media that offers diverse representation, promotes acceptance, includes all learners, and counteracts stereotypes. Individual differences and attributes may include:
gender (acknowledging the spectrum);
body shape (weight, height, development, anthropometrics);
voice, accent, dialect, way of speaking, vocabulary;
skin, eye color and hair color and style;
clothing and vestments, including culturally specific or faith-based;
national origin, location (city, suburban, rural);
social relationships such as living arrangements or family structure;
abilities and preferences; (such as physical, cognitive, motor or social); and
beliefs (such as religious or atheist).
Our Approach to Greater Accessibility
Making our products accessible is a primary design consideration for our studio. We strive to make our products as accessible as possible, knowing that we will have to make some compromises and may fall short in some areas. Our efforts recognize that:
Accessibility isn’t just for a set group of users: all users fall somewhere on a continuum of need (permanent, temporary, situational). Accessibility is about user needs, and accessible features must be actively designed during the design process.
Disabilities don’t exist in discrete boxes: they are often co-diagnosed, with any given user having needs across several different types of issues. Each area of need exists within a spectrum, from low to high, or of specific types within each category.
Accessibility lives in the product and not in the user: a bad design that does not match users’ needs disables people, and a good design that matches users’ needs enables people.
User variability may include:
Visual needs: People have certain degrees of vision loss, such as low vision, legal blindness, complete blindness, and/or color blindness. This means our products should be reviewed for contrast, color and on-screen text or visual cues—providing alternatives for users.
Hearing needs: People have a certain degree of loss in the ability to hear, either from one or both ears, such as deafness, hearing loss, or hard hearing. This is met by offering captioning of both spoken text and other audible cues.
Cognitive needs: People have mental or psychological disorders, which causes deficits in the ability to learn, process or remember information, communicate, make social interaction, or make decisions. This type of disability can be a learning disability, intellectual disability, or a specific cognitive ability (e.g., memory, language processing). Includes developmental disabilities (e.g., dyslexia, dyscalculia), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer or senility because of aging, people with autism, Down syndrome, and other mental retardation. Some people with cognitive issues need information in literal language comprehension. Their thinking is more concrete, rather than abstract. We address this in a wide variety of ways, including design which offers explicit cues and expectations to guide users with cognitive needs.
Motor needs: People have limitations or losses of mobility function and/or muscle control, such as arthritis, paralysis, repetitive stress injury, neurological disorders, age-related issues, lack of mobility, lack of steadiness, or cerebral palsy. We address this by developing resources with interfaces that can easily be mapped to alternative controllers.
In our work, we commit to:
Addressing these principles through several aspects of design and production, such as by:
Asking guiding questions in design summits related to these issues;
Using them to guide research and scholarship, such as by conducting evaluations or generating research to inform development;
Including them in dissemination, by mentioning our approaches in articles or presentations;
Ensuring they inform discussions with and documentation for clients, including scopes of work, grant proposals and design documents; and
Assessing how audiences receive our efforts, through user testing and quality assurance, and applying these principles in recruitment and analysis.
Annual training in issues related to these guidelines; processes for facilitating discussion and understanding.
Annual review of this document and proposed processes and actions.
Written By: Pamela Martinez Ed.D., Assistant Professor & Extension Learning Technology Specialist