Equitable Online Environments: Thinking Beyond Basic Access and Compliance

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Dr. Amanda Kraus is the Assistant Vice President for Campus Life at the University of Arizona.

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The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is reaching out to our global community of thought leaders, faculty, innovators and practitioners to bring you insights from the field of online, blended and digital learning. This week, Dr. Amanda Kraus, OLC Institute faculty for the new 7-day workshop on Disability Equity in Online Environments, joins us to discuss the importance of thinking beyond basic access and compliance related to equitable online environments.

OLC: There are many opportunities to teach online. Why did you choose OLC and which Institute course(s) do you teach for OLC?

I was connected to the OLC through AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability) and believe very much in OLC’s mission. I am facilitating a course called Disability Equity to engage participants on how to think beyond basic access and compliance in order to create truly welcoming online experiences.

OLC: What are the 3 most important things that prospective participants should know about the Disability Equity in Online Environments workshop?

Prospective participants should know that:

  1. We will reflect on both personal and professional beliefs about disability
  2. We will explore ableism, and the stereotypes and biases that shape the disability experience
  3. And they should know that this kind of work can be challenging, but that it’s so important to advancing our learning and authentic appreciation of disability. (Also, they should be prepared never to look at TV and movies the same way again as they pertain to disability 😉)

OLC: Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, how has Disability Services responded to and navigated these uncharted waters?

Disability Services has been a leader in higher ed’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We typically promote a universal design approach to teaching and learning, always looking at how to be flexible and reasonable without compromising essential elements of academic or professional experiences. Since COVID, most students are engaging in online learning and most professionals are working remotely, where previously these arrangements were reserved only for disability-related accommodations. I believe Disability Services was quick to pivot our efforts and effectively continue our work in a remote environment and I sincerely hope that higher education can take with it some of the universal design strategies we are now employing into a post-pandemic era.

OLC: What is a project/paper/research that you are currently working on related to your area of expertise?

I am currently writing a chapter for the upcoming Handbook for Student Affairs Administrators fifth edition on disability and disability resources. Orienting student affairs professionals to disability work presents an opportunity for me to blend my two academic and professional interests: higher education and disability.

OLC: OLC’s Institute offerings help professionals stay current in their work, and oftentimes assist in the advancement of their profession. What do you believe are the top 3 ways in which professionals in our field can stay current and move ahead?

  1. I think social media is an excellent place to learn about the disability community. There are many disabled activists who share their perspectives and also respond to political issues.
  2. Checking Higher Ed sources like the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed are always good ways to get a pulse on what is going on that may impact our work.
  3. Even though travel might be limited right now, there are tons of online professional development options. I’d recommend trying something new from the comfort of your home office!

OLC: What was the last book, journal, or article you read that relates to the field?

I have been reading a lot lately, but the last book I read relating to disability and education was Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann. Judy is a pioneer of the disability rights movement and a mentor to me. Her activism was instrumental in getting the ADA signed into law and as we celebrate its 30th anniversary, it’s a good time to reflect on the progress we’ve made and what’s yet to come!

OLC: How can people connect with you?

You can connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn, IG @amandakra18, or Twitter @amandakrausphd.

About Amanda Kraus
Dr. Amanda Kraus is the Assistant Vice President for Campus Life at the University of Arizona. In this role, she serves as the Executive Director of the Disability Resource Center. As one of the largest Disability Resource Centers (DRC) in the nation, the UA’s DRC is an international model of progressive service delivery. She is also an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at UA where she coordinates the M.A. program and instructs courses on student services and disability in higher education. She is honored to have been elected President of the board of directors for the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). This work has afforded her many opportunities to travel and work with colleagues around the U.S. and around the world. She’s had the privilege of working with institutions such as Singapore Management University, Duke University, Purdue University, and Wake Forest University and in 2016 she participated in a delegation convened by the U.S. State Department to engage in dialogue on disability access in education and employment in Beijing, China. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Higher Education. Outside of work, she loves to play wheelchair tennis and is learning to handcycle. She also loves Broadway, traveling, and every sunny day in Arizona!

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