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Letter to the Editor: CAE continues to support campus inclusivity, envisions a welcoming community

By Norma Kehdi

April 7, 2021 2:08 p.m.

On Jan. 10, 2021, the Daily Bruin published an article describing student reactions to the hiring process for the Center for Accessible Education’s director position. When I was approached to provide information for this article, I was presented with questions related to my vision and primary areas of focus as the new director of CAE. Though my responses were largely not reflected in the published article, I would like to take this opportunity to share directly with the Daily Bruin readers what is in store for the CAE in the near future.

My primary areas of focus as the new CAE director span topics that are both internal and external to the CAE office, acknowledging and highlighting that accessibility is not only the responsibility of the CAE and is that of the university as a whole. It takes the entire campus community to create a culture at UCLA that is welcoming to all students and ensures that students with disabilities feel that they belong and are valued here. I am honored and excited to now be in a position to continue the work of supporting the community and collaborating with students, faculty and staff to build an inclusive campus for our community with visible and invisible disabilities.

I offer the following highlights to help get the conversations started:

A Focus on CAE staffing: The CAE staff structure has not expanded to meet the growing number of registered students and increased complexity of student cases over the past several years. We are facilitating additional reorganization of the CAE office in order to develop a staffing infrastructure that better reflects the needs and addresses service gaps. We also will be working to actively fill the remaining vacant positions.

Formalize structures for feedback and review CAE processes: Increasing incorporation of student voices and experiences in CAE’s work is essential. In addition to meeting with student government representatives, we are creating an advisory board, increasing student programming and organizing listening sessions.

Investment in technology: The move to fully online education has exacerbated preexisting accessibility gaps, most notably a lack of captions on videos and lack of accessibility of digital documents. As UCLA plans to move all course websites to the Canvas Learning Management System, it is an opportune time to build accessibility into UCLA’s online courses and professors’ instructional content processes. I will be part of the Learning Management System Steering Committee to help transition the Common Collaboration and Learning Environment’s Moodle learning management system to the Canvas platform to incorporate best practices in accessibility and lay the foundation for innovation in this area in the future. Additionally, CAE, alongside the Disabilities and Computing Program, strongly advocated for Kaltura incorporation into CCLE, as well as activating Zoom captions, which has now been activated.

Expand training, outreach and collaboration: There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between accommodation and accessibility and who is responsible for each. The default belief for many is that any disabled student’s needs are the responsibility of the CAE to handle, leaning solely into the accommodations model. The reality is much more nuanced. I envision developing strong partnerships across campus to develop and offer training on these matters.

I welcome the opportunity to engage in further discussion. Please contact me at [email protected]

Kehdi is the director of the Center for Accessible Education.

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