Additional Resources

Cultivating a Culture of Accessibility, Accommodation, and Respect

Please note that this is a working/living set of ethical terms that will grow and change throughout the course. This is not an official policy but rather a guide to help ground both students and the professor in the practice of accessibility and a respectful classroom. This guide may be relevant to disability, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, language, economic status, citizenship status, and even personal hardships. You can help build this guide by proposing edits to the document.

While we collectively strive to build a barrier-free world, we must also recognize the challenges of implementing full universal accessibility, autonomy and self-determination in the classroom (and at the university) due to the systemic, institutional, and structural configurations of power. Even as we call for systemic change to achieve more accessible, inclusive, sustainable, and respectful classrooms requires our collective collaboration. In the spirit of collaboration, we commit to the following:

  • We prioritize respect for self-determination over achieving universal consensus in the classroom. We strive to hold space for our varying levels of knowledge, skill, and experience in the classroom and engage with one another with compassion and patience, except in circumstances where harm is ongoing and/or intentional.
  • There is no single universal model of accommodation because barriers, violence, and precarity may emerge and subside unpredictably, they can be temporary, relapsing and remitting, or long-term, and they may be experienced individually or collectively. Therefore, should any change occur in someone’s engagement in this course (including attendance in class, work in groups, or completion of course work, returning assignments, etc.), we will discuss accommodations as soon as possible with the appropriate person/people to help adapt to these changes.
  • Decisions to disclose and not to disclose reasons for accommodation requests should be respected. No one should be compelled to disclose personal details relating to accessibility; and conversely, disclosures around accommodations should be met with respect and consideration for the privacy of others.
  • In prioritizing self-determination and respect, we collectively endeavour to use the language people choose for defining themselves both within the classroom and outside of the classroom. If we are uncertain about what language to use and when we will ask in a respectful manner for clarification.
  • We recognize that language is not universal but cultural and contextual. As such, we strive to use appropriate language in the classroom while also recognizing that such terms may be contested, contradictory, or different across various contexts.
  • We strive to individually and collectively consider our own participation in class to encourage a safe and respectful learning environment. We strive to practice respect by reflecting on our attitudes, assumptions, responses, language use, and word choice during class. When we make a mistake or cause harm through our use of language (whether intended or unintended), we commit to understanding how and why harm emerged, and transforming our behaviour to the best of our ability when appropriate.
  • We also recognize that the classroom is a space for working through difficult and contested ideas. This means that we must seek to understand how barriers, language, and harm emerge across multiple levels, including the individual, the social, the systemic, and the institutional. Identifying how or why harm occurs is as important as alleviating harm.
  • We recognize that difficult/challenging/uncomfortable feelings are not the same as harm, although harm can be experienced as a difficult feeling.
  • This requires approaching a conflict with generosity by:
    • assuming good intentions unless intention to harm is clear,
    • reflecting on the source of harm, which may be individual or systemic,
    • evaluating safety without equating this with discomfort,
    • identifying the appropriate actions for transformation,
    • using a collaborative rather than punitive approach,
    • prioritizing collective learning, growing, and adjusting as we develop new understandings of conflict and harm.
  • While accommodations for recognized disabilities are set by the university’s accessibility policies and services and through agreements established individually between a student and professor, peers also play a role in cultivating a mutually supportive, accountable, and sustainable classroom. We, therefore, strive not to make assumptions about our peers and to “check-in” with our peers and/or the professor if we are experiencing challenges in a classroom dynamic (e.g. a group member who has not completed their work, an interpersonal conflict, a circumstance of oppressive or inappropriate behaviour, etc.)
  • Accessibility is an ongoing process. We are all responsible for checking in throughout the term, not just at the beginning of the semester. It is never too late to seek accommodation or help or develop new ways of supporting one another in the classroom.

For more information on how official channels at the university identify and provide resources for accessibility and disability, seek out information with the campus access services office and talk with peers about how they have navigated these services. If services are not available to you for any reason (e.g. cost or barriers to diagnosis, unrecognized barriers, specific accommodations that are not provided, barriers are not disability-related, needs may be temporary or newly developed, etc.), this is an invitation to discuss supports that we can collectively and individually co-create in this class.

Natalie Kouri-Towe

Online Tools and Resources for Students


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Better Practices in the Classroom by Natalie Kouri-Towe and Myloe Martel-Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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