Making Accessibility Accessible: Engaging Instructors Empathetically

  • Cynthia Sarver, MET, PhD University of St. Thomas
Keywords: Accessibility, Training, Empathy, Learner-Centered


The problem with most digital accessibility training lies in the approach: it tends to be presented as a list of instructions for properly formatting headers, images, and other document features rather than as a strategy for including disabled students in the classroom. This subtle difference between the traditional process-centered training framework and the more human-centered one that is the focus of this presentation can make all the difference in trainees’ ability to retain and transfer their learning. What’s more, framing digital accessibility with what I call “scaffolded empathy” – a series of increasingly focused opportunities for considering the perspective of the disabled – has the potential to permanently diversify instructors’ image of the students for whom they design their courses.

Author Biography

Cynthia Sarver, MET, PhD, University of St. Thomas

Cynthia Sarver, MET, PhD, is an Instructional Designer and Accessibility Specialist in the University of St. Thomas's Center for Faculty Development. Before UST, she worked as an instructional designer at Syracuse University and a teacher educator at SUNY Cortland, where she spent nearly a decade instructing pre- and in-service teachers in the use of educational technology, project-based learning, and related learning theory. She is deeply committed to supporting all students by promoting inclusive and quality constructivist pedagogy that often involves technology.