Leading the Way with Accessible Teaching

Category: Student Experience

Our Durham College (DC) community is knowledgeable, insightful and deeply passionate about creating spaces where students can learn, grow and thrive. We are proud to share the following guest post written by a member of the DC community that highlights their experience and expertise.

  • Guest post by Matisse Hamel-Nelis, part-time faculty member in the Faculty of Media, Art & Design

As a public relations (PR) and strategic communications educator at Durham College (DC), I've embarked on a profound journey toward creating a classroom where every student is seen, heard and supported.

My dedication to digital accessibility is more than compliance. Access to information is a human right, so it plays a massive role in every decision I make as an educator and professional communicator. It's about dismantling barriers and creating a learning environment that welcomes everyone equally. By embedding these principles into my teaching, I hope to instill a lifelong commitment to inclusivity in my students.

So, how do I ensure I'm being inclusive by being accessible in the classroom?

Live Captions: Bringing Clarity to Every Lesson

One of the first priorities I implemented was enabling live captions for all my lessons. This simple yet impactful decision ensures that students who are D/deaf, hard of hearing, or someone who can't make out what I'm saying because the class is too loud can follow along without missing a beat. But the benefits extend beyond that; captions help learners whose second language is English, as well as those who grasp information better through reading. Watching words appear on screen as I speak makes the classroom more inclusive and dynamic.

Crafting Accessible Learning Materials

Every PowerPoint deck and document created and distributed is meticulously designed to be accessible. This means choosing clear fonts, providing alternative text for images, and ensuring all materials are navigable and comprehensible for students using screen readers or other assistive technology. By prioritizing accessibility in these resources, I'm not just teaching a curriculum—I'm modeling how to present information inclusively.

Supporting Diverse Learning Paces

Recognizing that students absorb information at different rates, I've supplemented my lessons with additional videos. These resources allow students to revisit complex topics at their own pace, reinforcing learning in a stress-free environment. This approach respects individual learning needs and underscores my commitment to not leaving any student behind.

Teaching the Craft of Accessibility

Beyond using accessible materials, I teach my students how to create them. We explore how to design accessible documents, compelling presentations, and inclusive multimedia content like videos and podcasts. This education is crucial—it empowers students to think critically about accessibility and equips them with the skills to make their future workplaces more inclusive.

Building Capacity in Other Professionals

And it's more than just about my own teaching. I collaborate with other faculty members and staff across the Faculty of Media, Art & Design to share insights, tips, and training on digital accessibility. We focus on practical applications like making social media accessible, enabling captions, and how to incorporate sign language interpreters on platforms like Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet.

Together, we’re using the knowledge and tools to immediately integrate accessibility into our work and educational practices, ensuring that everyone can participate fully and effectively.

Future Focused Teaching

This journey towards fully accessible teaching has been both challenging and rewarding, and I’ve infused my learning into the development of DC’s new PR graduate certificate program, beginning this fall, to help strengthen the learning experience for everyone, not just those with disabilities. Each step forward is a step towards a more inclusive society.

As educators, we have the unique opportunity to shape the minds and values of future generations. By embracing digital accessibility, we teach more than just curriculum; we teach compassion, respect, and the importance of equality.

Thanks to DC, I and other educators throughout the college lead the way in creating a world where no student is left behind, because true education is about lighting a path for all.