Climbing Accessibility Mountain One Step At A Time

Concurrent Session 5
Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

"Are we ever done with accessibility?" Presenter Kate Sonka asked this question during the Distance Teaching & Learning conference in Madison, WI in August 2018. For more of us, the answer is no.  We all have accessibility-related challenges, ranging from the “easy-to-fix” to the complex and demanding. Join us for a frank conversation about some of these challenges, with an opportunity to participate in a group strategy and sharing session on how to tackle them. We may never really be done with accessibility, but we don’t have to climb the mountain alone.


Tina Rettler-Pagel is a Faculty member and Chief Online Learning Officer at Madison College, in Madison, Wisconsin. Tina holds a B.S in Education with an emphasis on Emotional Disabilities from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.S. in Administrative Leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is currently working on a Student Affairs Administration Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Tina has completed an Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Teaching Certificate, as well as participated in OLC’s Institute for Engaged Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) in 2017. Her research interests include retention and persistence in the online classroom, women in higher education leadership and governance, digital equity, and community college approaches to teaching and learning. When consulting with faculty, and in her own practice, Tina shares three important lessons: start small, engage at all costs, and never underestimate the power of kindness and inclusion in the classroom. Tina's hashtags? #Mom #Partner #CommunityCollegeProud #OnWisconsin #OnceABadgerAlwaysABadger #A11yAdvocate #OnlineTeaching #DoctoralStudent #Includer #Kindness #Connector #OnlineLearning #TechNerd #Resilience #StrongGirlsStrongWomen #Hockey #Fishing #AnythingSummer #JamMaker #Perseverance #SayYesToNewAdventures #ComeAsYouAre #CrossFit #FarmRaised #StartWhereYouAre #OldSchoolCookingAndBaking #ImpostorPhenomemon #Access #DoctoralCandidate
Kate Sonka is the Assistant Director of Academic Technology at the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. She is interested in second language acquisition, the role of language in identity development, and the intersection of accessibility and experiential learning. Her instructional experience includes a first-year writing course for non-native English speakers; a study abroad on language acquisition and global English in China; a study away to Los Angeles for students to explore and meet leaders in the film and creative industries; and a study away to Silicon Valley for students to engage and build relationships with tech companies around accessibility. Kate is the Executive Director of Teach Access, has consulted with the U.S. Department of Labor on accessible hiring practices, and is the founder and director of the Accessible Learning Conference at Michigan State University.
Dorothy Loftin holds a Master's of Science in Educational Information Technology and is an Instructional Design Specialist at Oregon State University, ranked Top 10 in the national by U.S. News & World Report. She has presented at national and international conferences and she trains course developers in an award winning faculty development program recognized by the Online Learning Consortium for Excellence in Faculty Development for online teaching. Dorothy is the lead expert on accessibility at Oregon State University Ecampus.

Extended Abstract

This Conversations, Not Presentation session makes time for sharing and learning. Attendees are invited to bring their accessibility-related challenges to the session, and in turn, participate in a group strategy/discussion activity to share ideas, resources, and approaches to the challenges that are shared.  

Conversation Topic/Issue:  Accessibility challenges in higher education that impact the student experience.

We’ve identified the following questions as conversation starters and to dig deeper into specific topics, depending on how the discussion flows and on the needs of the attendees:

  • Starter Question to gage the base knowledge in the group: What common accessibility requirements can be met before a student accesses an online course?

  • Are there practices that you have found do/don’t work that promise accessible experiences, materials, and services?

  • What expectations are in place for faculty responsibility of accessible content and learning experiences?  How did you (or do you) navigate resistance?

  • What issues should administrators and faculty members consider and be prepared for as they navigate the accessibility landscape?

  • What resources or policies have you seen as most effective to support awareness of accessibility needs in your institution?

  • As an education professional, what other barriers have you experienced in providing an accessible, inclusive education?