Introducing AccessED!

Hi there!

I’m Curren Iyer, a sophomore at Harvard College, and I am part of team AccessED! Our team name stems from the goal of our project, which is to find a way to make education more accessible to individuals with disabilities.  I can probably speak for my fellow teammates, as well as the other DPSI project groups, in saying that we are all very excited to participate in DPSI.

Our team members:

Michelle Sohn (Harvard Law School)

Yifan Wu (Harvard College)

Curren Iyer (Harvard College)

Jacqueline Martinez (Harvard College)

What we’ve worked on

So far, since the project is still in its early stages, much of the work that we are doing involves research into relevant past examples.

We’ve split the research into 3 categories:

  • Yifan: Relevant technology (i.e. screen readers for smartphones)
  • Curren & Jacqueline: Policies of some of the major online education programs, including those offered by private companies (i.e. coursera) as well as universities (i.e. HarvardX).
  • Michelle: Legal ramifications of accessibility.  This including relevant laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act) and legal cases (including a recent case in which a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ruled that the ADA even applied to website-only businesses, such as Netflix).

What went well

So far I think one of the strengths of our team has been organization, in that the work has been divided among us relatively evenly such that it is manageable for all of us to tackle.

What was challenging

One of the biggest challenges that we have faced is that there are no overarching consistent standards for this issue, but instead a large degree of variance on a case-by-case basis.  For example, I have found that, because the ADA does not mandate a specific minimum standard for what accommodations should be made for disabled individuals, that responsibility is left to universities to handle.  As a result, these universities have handled the issue in varying degrees.  As for the legal ramifications, while there was one case that mandated Netflix to caption all its videos under the ADA, a court in California dismissed charges against Redbox Automated Retail for almost the same exact charges.

What’s up next

Looking in the short-term, we hope to visit Harvard’s own Accessible Education Office.  This visit will potentially give us more insight to see how educational accessibility is used in practice.  Looking in the long-term, one of our goals is to see what we want to create as our end result, whether that be a program that could facilitate solving the problem or a report advising what steps should be taken in the future.

 

Stay tuned for the next installment!

 

-Curren

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