disability and kairotic spaces






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margaret price » space » delivery and access

Delivery and access

A screen shot of the Academic Minute webpageAs an example of retrofitting, consider the “Academic Minute” feature published by Inside Higher Ed. Each “Academic Minute” is recorded and published as an audio file. This is a useful and often thought-provoking feature; however, it is available only to those users who can access audio files. Only if someone decides to add a transcript of the audio file—for example, in the comments—will users who cannot access audio information be a part of the conversation that might stream from the “Academic Minute.”

That is what happened with the “Academic Minute” published on May 4, 2011. Titled “Is Texting Writing?” This link goes to an external page, this smart entry quickly caught the attention of compositionists. However, four of the first five comments addressed not the topic of the post, but the need for a transcript so that all users could access the information that followed. Author Jeff Grabill graciously and immediately published a transcript in the comments.

A screen shot of the comments on Texting Is WritingNow, by offering this example I don’t mean to pick on this particular author or publication; as it happens, both the editors of Inside Higher Ed and Professor Grabill have done extensive and important work on access for years past. Instead, I want to use it to suggest a few questions that might help us move beyond the retrofitting model of access. First, what if we assumed that each “Academic Minute” should be presented in a variety of modes to enhance accessibility? In what ways would a more flexible and participatory design change the delivery of this text? And, at least as important, what if the people calling for this change were not only those marked “deaf,” but all participants in the rhetorical situation? In short, what might happen if we stopped thinking about disability as the problem of those people over there?