Past, Present, and Future of the Accessible Dartmouth Initiative

The Accessible Dartmouth Initiative (ADI) is a three-year pilot program designed to better meet the needs of neurodiverse learners and help all students succeed in the classroom. The major charge of the initiative is a course redesign grant that offers instructors funding for participating in programming relating to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and applying the concepts to their teaching.

During the '21-'22 academic year, ADI awarded the inaugural round of course redesign grants to three instructors and offered a variety of training opportunities for Dartmouth educators. In April, the team hosted an ADI Community Launch Event, which showcased: 

  • Caroline Robertson, Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, whose research focuses on Autism and sensory perception.  
  • Dartmouth students as Critical Dialogues panelists who shared their experiences with accessibility and accommodations. 
  • A special guest appearance from the initiative's distinguished donor, Andrea Reisman Johnson '91. 

ADI hosted Dartmouth's first Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) in recognition of  GAAD, a worldwide event organized each May. The ADI team hopes to build on the momentum of this inaugural Dartmouth event into a cross-campus collaborative day for 2023. 

In June, ADI welcomed ten Dartmouth educators to the inaugural Universal Design for Learning Institute. Participants represented all ranks and divisions of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and co-curricular educators. Over a period of three days, facilitators and participants met in the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) and online to identify barriers, gain knowledge of the UDL strategies of Multiple Means of Engagement, and design interventions for their courses. 

Participants praised the institute in their feedback, stating, "I really enjoyed how the facilitators modeled each session through UDL! Outlining each day so learners know what is expected of them, having a variety of group/solo work that people could choose, and plenty of significant breaks. I hope to model my courses/programs in similar ways in the future." 

Given the success of the UDL institute, ADI will continue to offer UDL institutes three times per year between terms. Each of the three annual institutes will focus on one of the major branches of UDL, providing multiple means of Engagement (Spring), Representation (Fall), and Action & Expression (Winter).

Based on feedback from the first year, we have restructured the Accessible Dartmouth Initiative grant. The updated grant structure emphasizes UDL as an iterative process, starting with attending a UDL institute, then teaching the course, gathering feedback, and submitting a reflection and an artifact that showcases the how the UDL interventions were incorporated into the course (i.e. assignment, syllabus, etc.). Participants are eligible to take part in up to three rounds of this cycle, beginning with one of the UDL institutes to continue incorporating UDL into their courses. 

Along with restructuring the ADI grant, the team has organized fall programming, including a podcast discussion group meetings focused on Inclusive Teaching and UDL and Rethinking Assessments with UDL, as well as a Lunch & Learn on Increasing Learner Autonomy. We are preparing for the next UDL Institute, to be held online, December 12-14. This second institute in the series of three, will focus on the UDL principle of offering Multiple Means of Action & Expression, allowing students choice and flexibility in demonstrating their learning. The December 2022 UDL Institute application is currently open until December 2, 2022.

Looking ahead to 2023, we look forward to offering two additional UDL institutes, inviting faculty into course UDL grants, growing our network across campus, and offering expanded workshops and programming, including the second annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day in May.  

The Accessible Dartmouth Initiative Team