Centering Accessibility in Technical Communication Pedagogy


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Technical and Professional Communication scholarship indicates that creating accessible texts should be an essential component of the discipline in order to meet the diverse needs of users, yet we have thus far failed to securely place accessibility as a primary feature in our pedagogy. In order to position accessibility as central to TPC, we must investigate the best methods of integration into our pedagogy in order to prepare students to be user advocates and to create more accessible documents. This study was conducted to investigate how and to what extent current curriculum positions accessibility as a core tenet of TPC and what practices can be implemented to better integrate accessibility as a central feature within the curriculum. A content analysis was performed on the syllabi of four required courses in the George Mason University (GMU) Professional and Technical Writing (PTW) master's program to identify existing areas of accessibility in the curriculum and to consider options for enhancement. A "digital toolkit" was then constructed to act as a repository of accessibility resources in order to determine if the usage of this resource would benefit the GMU PTW faculty in centering accessibility in the program. Surveys and interviews were conducted with current faculty and students of the PTW master's program, and findings indicate that they believe, despite existing barriers, that accessibility should be placed more centrally within curriculum, with a particular focus on practical resources. The need for centering accessibility in pedagogy to better prepare TPC practitioners for the industry is discussed, as well as implications for future research.