A concern relative to the "need-driven approach" (Barber-Fendley and Hamel, 2004, p. 526) is that students with disabilities are singled out and provided for--they are seen as needy, which embraces the cultural standard of, not only the us/them dichotomy, the in-need-of-assistance, pitied, UNable, group of people that the ableds need to swoop down and help. This type of thinking is maintaining the disabling nature of our society in what we hope would be an accessible academic environment. To illustrate, if we are looking back to bring a student forward, we are not moving forward. We are, then, reversing direction, making some kind of adjustment, turning, or, like some people not paying attention while texting, walking into immovable structures.
Why are we not planning ahead through access foundational work? If we do, students are then able to stay their course and enter into the Burkeian parlor of collaborative learning. This foundational work is the work that provides for students using the apps and technology that help them excel while still maintaining the ethical and academic standards of educational institutions. One doesn't put on the roof before setting the foundation.
Further, as campuses, students, faculty, and the community become more integrated, there should be no exclusion of other disciplines. They should be invited to be part of this course change from desktop to mobile. Many institutions already have interdisciplinary writing programs or writing across the curriculum frameworks that could be a primary way to incorporate this integration. Most important to this integration is those with disabilities.
Nevertheless, like Barber-Fendley and Hamel, I take issue with the notion that providing students with learning tools such as apps equate to an "unfair advantage" (p. 518). The concept of an unfair advantage may arise, which we must negate. So, to do so, we should provide the applications, programs, etc. to all students. Consider an instructor's office hours: some students take advantage of that time, some do not. Consequently, those that do typically see an increase in their grade, not always, but often. Yet, all students have the option to take advantage of office hours as a resource, and if those hours are not convenient, I have never heard of a professor not making a valid attempt to meet with any student. All students have the access to office hours to seek guidance, insight, and support from their instructor but not all students use it.
Discussion of "special treatment" (Barber-Fendley and Hamel, p. 529) is understandably still a part of Disability Studies. We can understand this based on the entitlement and disabling aspects of our culture. However, such special treatment may be virtually eliminated by access. Certainly, we realize some (dis)abilities will still be recognized as such, but this is solely dependent upon the type of class we create.
Some may question the reasoning whether or not creating access, developing m-learning, and utilizing technology in relation to disability studies is reasonable, cost-effective, or even realistic. In partial response, I endorse Titchkosky (2011). She refers to an accessible classroom that received funding for forty students: "Whether forty people who use wheelchairs do or do not come to use the accessible classroom is not the point. The point is that by asking who will potentially be present, we are re-establishing and reaffirming norms regarding the ordinary shape of participation" (Titchkosky, 2011, p. 40, my emphasis).
Yet, technology might present trepidation in some instructors. If apps and other forms of technology can do so many things for students, what role do we have as teachers? Will online adjuncts (or unqualified personnel!) take over a tenure-track position? Might students be even less willing to engage in (useful) discussion? Will I lose respect in the eyes of students because I don't know everything about this technology? These and many other questions are valid and should be discussed openly, because they are important to understand and to get through. Technology is going to be what we make of it. If we let it control the class, it will. If we let it take over online courses with unqualified "teachers" of writing, it will. But, if we see these apps and mobile devices as accessories to our teaching, tools to enhance our teaching and our students' learning, we see they are much more an asset than a detriment. In other words, we will continue to be teachers, but we will add "facilitators and guides" to our abilities (Otta, 2011, p.113). Our role will also be to assist students (who mostly are digital natives) in finding, exploring, and utilizing the features of these applications. In some ways, we encourage students to unleash their creative side to see what an app can really do, which might lead to new apps being developed based on what a student envisions.
Part of the value added aspect of m-learning is mobile devices are typically simpler to design software for--just look at the number of apps in any app store. Moreover, the interface is generally not as complex, which might be more accessible for students with disabilities. Another aspect is the immediacy relative to mobile devices: last moment discussions, spontaneous learning, increased likelihood of feedback, and targeted lessons specific to a student. The unique characteristic of m-learning is that it removes us from existing paradigms of learning, specifically e-learning. But the seemingly added value of m-learning is presently confined by those previous paradigms that are not mobile, and this chains us to previous paradigms for comparison.