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Accessibility Studies

FSC-CTE Teachers Encouraged to Include Accessibility in Courses

Hundreds of middle school and high school teachers met at Great Wolf Lodge in Centralia this month, hosted by Washington ​ACTE-Family ​& ​Consumer ​Sciences ​Educators ​(WA-FACSE) ​and ​the ​Washington ​Association ​of ​Family ​& ​Consumer ​Sciences ​(WAFCS). Dr. Naomi Jeffery Petersen, director of Central Washington University's Accessibiltiy Studies Program, presented a session on  The Universal Need for Acceptance and Inclusion in which the knowledge base of accessibility was related to FCS-CTE curriculum standards and 21st Century Skills.  Family & Consumer Sciences (stylized image of 4 family members) "Creating Healthy & Sustainable Families"

There is a tremendous need for people to be knowledgeable about accessibility because one in five people is likely to have a disability, and all people are likely to experience at least some significant changes in their abilities. They just have to stick around and get old! Family & Consumer Science courses are the ideal opportunity to do so because they teach about lifespan development, relationships, and careers.   21st Century Skills include Life & Career Skills such as Social & Cross-Cultural Skills. The greatest challenge for people with disabilities is stigma: the assumption that people with disabilities are incapable or unwelcome in public places, so they are treated badly or ignored. More frustrating is the simple ignorance of the difficulties faced by those unable to maneuver heavy doors or climb steps or other common circumstnaces that could be modified. Raising awareness of these experiences will help students respond to the needs of others and advocate for change.21st Century Skills logo

All classroom teachers are familiar with the principles of special education inclusion. Dr. Petersen pointed out that K-12 special education is funded through the Individuals with Disabilties Education Act (IDEA), but no such advocacy is funded afterwards. Instead, civil rights protected by such laws as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. This means that complaints and lawsuits will be decided based on those rights, and there are many policies requiring compliance in construction. Around 13% of all students will need special accommodations for learning, but about 20% of all people need help in other areas of everyday living. Most diabilities are invisible, especially atypical neurological development like autism, or autoimmune diseases, such as lupus. Many conditions are temporary, such as post-surgery tenderness limiting movement. Some are situational, such as being a caregiver of an infant which involves maneuvering public places with a stroller and baggage. Even more conditions are predictable, such as aging which automatically brings change in agility and perception. Thus accessibilty issues are common and all students should learn to expect there will be people everywhere who have a right to be there but may need some consideration. 

The Family & Consumer Sciences Department at CWU is a large and dynamic entity housed in Michaelson Hall under chair Dr. Duane Dowd. In addition to preparing FCS-CTE and Business & Marketing teachers, there are programs in Family & Child LIfe; Apparel, Textiles & Marketing; Hospitality, Tourism, and Event Management--all off which focus on serving the needs of all people. For this reason, many undergraduates majoring in these areas choose to minor in Accessibility Studies. UN symbol for accessibility: stylized stick figure in circle based on da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. The certificate requires only 16 credits and can become a minor by combining courses in any of those majors. 


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