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considerations for inclusion in elt

International symbol for accessibility
A potential for an updated accessibility symbol from

I don’t really have sources to list today, but potentially discursive topics. Thanks to Beth Cox’s Foundations for Inclusion course, which I’m still thoroughly enjoying (and learning a lot), I’ve started to think about visibility in ELT materials.

We’re probably quite used to seeing the symbol, or a version of the symbol, to the right, but the symbol I’ve used for my header image is slightly different. The header image is from and shows how even symbols can exclude by attempting to be inclusive. For a better, and dare I say, more eloquent, look at the reasoning behind their proposed change, please see their website.

But what has this got to do with ELT?

I’ll tell you.

Only recently when I’ve been designing examination materials have I begun to include various hints at inclusion (and this does bother me, somewhat), and this can be easily done, in my opinion. I don’t think there’s a need for marginalised people to be the sole focus of a task – this goes against the idea of inclusion and promotes ‘otherness’ which merely defeats the object. The key thing here is that to be inclusive, materials and exam items need to ‘usualise’ perceived differences – this is how the majority of society works (I believe, anyway). If, for example, there is an image of the inside of a café which needs designing, why not include a sign for a hearing loop? In many facilities, hearing loops are available, so why don’t we reflect those in our work?

It’s a small, yet simple and effective way of being more inclusive within images, especially. In a teaching environment, it may even elicit a discussion about what the symbol means – an authentic discussion about real, everyday things that students are likely to encounter.

Even having an accessible toilet sign is a step forward – and there are signs which incorporate braille, too. Just these little things will start to make our materials more of a mirror image of society as we see it.

I came across AccessAble, which seems to be an accessible guide for different facilities across the UK, and they have a set of accessibility symbols depending on the level of access. Now, I don’t know how widely used these are, if at all, but I think they give some indication of how we can highlight more ‘hidden’ disabilities. There are many on their site.

With this, I’m not saying that these are the symbols we need to use in ELT materials, but that there are methods of inclusion that maybe a lot of us haven’t thought about. I haven’t even mentioned here about supporting learners with disabilities in the classroom, but this is equally as important as representing a wider range of people within materials and exams.

As a little bonus, check out the Social Model of Disability on InclusionLondon.

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