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October 2023 - Year 25 - Issue 5

ISSN 1755-9715

An Introduction to Accessibility

Tom Lennard is an English teacher working at the University of Lille in Northern France. He has a background in English language teaching, having taken the CELTA in 2010. He enjoys teaching adults in a higher education setting, and presently works with students in psychology and performing arts. He has a particular interest in making university courses more accessible to students in public education. His other professional experience includes work in green politics and 5 years work as a registered nurse in the hospital setting. Email:

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours

Age group: School leavers (17-18 years old) to university students

Tools: Photos, laptop with projection, coloured pens/pencils, paper (A3)

Teaching context

This has been adapted from a university class to encourage a group of students qualifying in third year to consider some of the issues around accessibility, and how it affects other students and may affect their future work relationships. Some elements of the lesson have been tested in class, whilst others have been adapted for a more general class environment.

Gist Exercise: 5 minutes

Using a picture of various disability signs (wheelchair, braille, closed captions etc.) elicit what these signs indicate. Depending on the student level they may give you words like “hearing impairment” or “mobility,” or they may give you more literal descriptions “he/she cannot see.” For an extra task, a correction of some key language could be introduced. It would be important to define some words such as “accessibility” and “disability.”

Discussion questions: 3-5 minutes

  • Are there some communication tasks you find difficult?
  • What technology do we use to overcome communication or physical difficulties?
  • What does the word “disability” mean? What do you think of when you hear this word?
  • Is there a difference between a disability and a difficulty?

Video: 10 - 15 minutes

There are various videos that could be used, however my plan for this lesson was on some of the materials from Made by Dyslexia, a global charity. But other materials may also be suitable. One of their speaker videos can be broken down and analysed by the students. Some possible tasks could be:

  • language comprehension,
  • using the video as a story (stopping the video at points to ask the students to speculate on what comes next),
  • a broader discussion around some quotations from the video.

Jumbled activity: 10-20 minutes

Put the students into pairs or threes, if this has not been done already.

To introduce the students to the difficulties posed by a problem like dyslexia, present a text that is jumbled in some way, around 150-200 words.

I used Chat GPT to give generate a text that is in the wrong order but you could also:

  • Blur the text
  • Change certain letters to an “x” or muddle the vowels
  • Replace certain letters with symbols

The objective is not to totally confuse the students, but to get them both puzzled, as well as interested in how language is still able to be processed, despite minor changes. Your intention is to help the students to empathise with the problems faced by dyslexics.

You can follow this with some related discussion questions, or ask the students to mark each others’ attempts.

Further discussion questions: 5-10 minutes

  • What problems does your school/university have with accessibility?
  • Do you have family members or friends who suffer with accessibility problems? How?
  • Do you think your country includes people with disabilities or excludes them? How does it do that? Why?

Brainstorm activity: 10 minutes

Using a board or online software, elicit some possible problems that people may have with accessibility in a learning environment. Then elicit some possible ways to adapt or change environments for fellow students. If you need some examples of adaptations to start the students off, you could suggest something like “wheelchair ramps alongside steps,” or “naming an accessibility champion in every group/class.”

Accessibility poster making: 35-45 minutes

Using the paper and pens/pencils you have, use the brainstorm generated to get your students to make some posters. Here is the brief for each group of students:

You need to make a poster to encourage better accessibility options for students at your school/university. Please include:

  • Some of the symbols used before (taken from the “gist” exercise) or you can create your own symbol. Make it colourful!
  • A slogan encouraging better accessibility “It’s only university if we are all included!”
  • Some recommendations from the brainstorm

(Note: with a more advanced, technologically savvy group, you could ask them to include some national or more local statistics around disability).

Poster presentation: 10 minutes

You can then ask each group to present their poster for 1 minute (with every student in the group speaking). You could include a vote for the best poster.

Extra: Writing task

If for some reason you need to include a writing task you could give the students an email prompt like this:

“You are doing an internship at a software company and your manager has asked you to reply politely to an interviewee. The interviewee is visiting the company tomorrow. The employee has disclosed that she has visual impairments and would like to know:

  • The basic layout of the office
  • If someone can meet her at the door, and escort her from the building afterwards

Please remember to write politely, and include detailed descriptions of your workplace, to help the interviewee manage as best as possible. Include a formal introduction and sign-off to the email.

Useful links:

Please check the Pilgrims f2f courses at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Pilgrims online courses at Pilgrims website.

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