Leading the Way with Accessible Teaching

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.

You belong here: Accessibility supports that make DC safe, inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Diversity, inclusion, integrity and respect are foundational values that drive Durham College (DC) forward. The accessibility of each DC campus is critical, and we are committed to preventing and removing barriers for all students, faculty, employees and visitors so everyone can fully participate in our campus community.

Guided by our Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, we are working towards creating a truly barrier-free campus. From mobility equipment charging stations to accessible learning resources and supports to accessible campus bus tours during Open House events – we are focused on providing a safe and inviting environment to support all members of our DC community.

Here are just a few of the campus features, services and supports available that make DC safe, inclusive and accessible.

  • Setting you up for success

    The Access and Support Centre (ASC) delivers professional and confidential services to students with an identified exceptionality or who need support. Services include peer and computerized notetaking, peer coaching, a dedicated test centre, as well as a social group to provide equal opportunities to everyone on campus.

  • Improving our campus environment

    At DC, we continuously make physical changes to our campuses to make our student and faculty spaces as accessible as possible. This includes improving interior and exterior spaces such as installing Tactile Walking Surface Indicators on curbs and stairwells, installing fire strobe lights in Whitby campus residential labs, ensuring accessible counter heights, updating braille wayfinding and purchasing new mobility device charging stations.

  • Offering accessible campus visits

    We want to meet you! Our campus tours and events are specifically designed to help you explore everything DC has to offer by providing accessible campus tour routes and accommodations.

  • Preventing and removing barriers to access

    Established in 2003, DC’s Accessibility Coordinating Committee is focused on creating a barrier-free campus for all individuals with disabilities or exceptionalities. The committee meets several times each year and includes members from across the college as well as community partners. This working group supports accessibility planning at DC and follows the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Integrated Accessibility Standards.

To learn more about DC's accessibility efforts, goals and priorities, check out our 2021-2025 Multi-Year Accessibility Plan.