Multimodal Mondays: The Importance of Designing for Disability Considerations

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Bohannon_Pic-150x150.jpgToday’s guest blogger is Jeanne Bohannon (see end of post for bio).

Since Traci Gardner’s insightful post in the Community about Bringing Up Accessibility, I have been thinking about ways to integrate discussions of writing for user-friendliness into my Functional Grammar course.  Most students in this course are technical communication majors, so they need to not only be aware of accessibility issues in multimodal composition but also be able to produce digital content that meets the 1973 Rehabilitation Act’s Section 508 requirements. For many of us, myself included, Section 508 is new territory in our teaching praxis.  What this means is that I am learning along with my students how and why digital writers apply the conventions of accessible texts across multiple platforms.  After participating in interactive lectures about accessible textual production, our class community decided that we would compose public blog posts that describe and apply Section 508 content for student and faculty audiences leveraging the opportunity to learn and teach in the same moments.  I have posted our process and products, which I hope you and your students will find useful.

Multimodal Writing Context
Students design blog posts that describe and embody foundational Section 508 requirements for digital texts.  I recommend either Edublogs or WordPress as easy introduction spaces for blogging; students majoring in technical communication at my university design content in their own web domains, which gives them greater creative and analytics control.  Either way, students compose public, digital texts with multimodal elements that serve to make informational writing both clear and interesting to read.  

Measurable Learning Objectives

  • Create digital documents that embody and explain Section 508 Criteria
  • Synthesize content-meaning through public writing
  • Summarize key elements of Section 508 relevant to technical writers

Background Reading for Students and Instructors

  • The St. Martin's Handbook: Ch. 16, Design for Print and Digital Writing, including Considering Disabilities box: "Color for Contrast"
  • Writer's Help 2.0 for Lunsford Handbooks: “Considering Disabilities”
  • The Everyday Writer: Section 3a: Plan online assignments, including At a Glance box: “Guidelines for Creating an Online Text”
  • Writing in Action: Section 6a: Plan online assignments, including Checklist box: “Guidelines for Creating an Online Text”
  • EasyWriter: Section 4a: Planning online assignments, including Checklist box: “Guidelines for Creating an Online Text”

Writing and Designing
In our course communities, students and I crowdsource our writing assignments to make sure we meet the specific academic and professional needs of the group.  Here is what we came up with for the Section 508 blogging assignment:

  1. Process through and write a 500+ word blog post that includes at least one of each multimodal element (image, audio, video) based on your research into 508 requirements and our class discussions about alt-text, live captioning, and color considerations. Use at least three tags per post. 
  2. Read the posts of at least three coursemates.  Comment on their blogs in approximately 100 words, using the rhetorical analysis tools you have gained so far this semester. Submit the following in our Discussion Forum for the week, folding your critique into the week's topic.  If you get to a blog that already has at least two comments, go the next blog.
  3. Finally, reflect on your and others’ work for both our digital and in-class talks. Be ready to provide dialogic feedback to your peers.

Our writing goal for this assignment is to provide well-researched, compelling blog posts that inform an audience of students, faculty, and professional content creators about key components of Section 508.  Our design goal is to construct digital pages that comply with Section 508 accessibility.

Student Exemplars:

Celia Fisher: "How Accessibility Benefits Your Site"
Student Blog1.PNG

Eddie Khiara: Considering Disability (First Choice Tutors)
Student Blog.PNG

Jason Figueroa: 508 Access
Student Blog3.PNG

Reflections on the Assignment – Students:

The assignment got me thinking about how Section 508 compliance could become more commonplace; with so many 'rules', it seems unlikely that the average content creator would bother adhering to them all. In my blog post, I wrote about how making a site accessible has the potential to lead to more views through search engines' metadata crawls, because people want to know how this is a best practice impacts their web traffic. – Celia

While learning about section 508 I was amazed at the amount of thought that went into the requirements and regulations. I see how having this requirement will open up your work to a wider audience. I personally use closed captions not because I have trouble hearing however, I use it more so I can have a lower volume so I won’t wake my two kids. Going through the different regulations I can see how enforcing them will actually affect other groups then the intended audience. - Jason

My Reflection
My goal as a writing teacher is to work with students to determine their academic and professional needs and then work alongside them as they construct texts that are relevant to them. The 508 blogging opportunity “counts” for me, in terms of multimodal composition, because it allows students to create interesting and informative digital content for a specific audience that appeals to a diversity of readers while also teaching student writers necessary requirements as they grow into professional writers.

Jeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) department at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies and critical pedagogies; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: and

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment or be a guest blogger? Send ideas to for possible inclusion in a future post.

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.