Most of us can recognize the increased ease of automatic doorways if one's arms are full of groceries or textbooks, which are a convenience relative to those with some physical disabilities. However, the less recognizable aspect of this sort of inclusion is that of perspective and viewpoint. If some students do not have a visual disability, it seems unlikely they are able to understand such a perspective unless someone with a visual disability interacts with them. There is realistic concern of students with disabilities feeling like the proverbial elephant in the room. Teachers must be aware of the environment where writing takes place and the political aspects of those spaces. Cynthia L. Selfe and Richard J. Selfe Jr. (2008) have noted, "Computer interfaces [. . .] are also sites within which the ideological and material legacies of racism, sexism, and colonialism are continuously written and re-written" (p. 67). We can, I think, include within that ideological and material legacy that of disability and those labeled as being disabled. "Universal Design for Learning," according to the Center for Applied Special Technology, "is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn."
As teachers and scholars of writing, we must find the ways composing and the composing process disables (all) students. For example, in writing this piece, I encountered writer's block and had to adapt, work through, give up, revise, reconsider, and ask for more time. Granted writer's block is a common, perhaps too common, aspect of writing that many writers struggle with. I point to it as an example because of that commonality; most of us can relate to that feeling of being disabled. Patricia A. Dunn and Kathleen Dunn De Mers (2002) observe, "Disability Studies helps us see abilities along a continuum - written, oral, visual, verbal, technological, and social - abilities which people could share for their mutual enlightenment" ("Reversing"). If we can transition that feeling to how students with disabilities might feel and their respective challenges, we begin to understand the importance of applying the principles of Universal Design and finding ways to educate in what often is a disabling environment for any student.
Chris M. Anson (1999) quotes from the Pew Higher Education Roundtable, "The problem is that faculty--and hence the institutions they serve--have approached technology more as individual consumers than as collective producers. For the most part the new capacities conferred by electronic means have not enhanced the aware-ness that teaching might be conceived as something other than one teacher before a classroom of students. While academicians appreciate the leverage that technology has provided in the library and laboratory, they have not considered fully how the same technology might apply to the process of teaching and learning--and they have given almost no thought to how the same technologies in someone else's hands might affect their markets for student-customers" (qtd. in Anson CE 61.3). Although I generally concur with this piece from the Pew Higher Education Roundtable, I think we can use that individual consumer experience (while still working toward collective production) to integrate students and writing. Since they are already consumers of, more than likely, dozens of apps on their mobile devices, why not challenge them to find new uses for them relative to the process of writing?
Titchkosky suggests a "politics of wonder" relative to disability studies; that is, "a wondering oriented to exploring the possibility of disability and disability studies" (p. 15). Similar to William A. Covino's (1988) The Art of Wondering, where he asserts that classical rhetoric is partially driven by the "art of wondering" and that rhetoric can be seen as an act of "play" (p. 21). If we accept the challenge of wondering what, how, even where apps and programs can engage students--all students--we realize the limits of access, inclusion, and perceived ability slowly fade and allow students to engage in discourse that challenges the right thinking and encourages them to exercise their creativity.
Teachers can use apps to approach writing from different angles and use wonderment to encourage students to reach beyond the comforts of normalcy. There are two aspects to consider. First, we should focus on approaching the writing process from multiple angles because students have become conditioned to understand writing in a formulaic fashion--regardless of how much we would like to deny it. Some instructors still discuss the five-paragraph essay in their classroom and some others of the concerns that arise from that particular form. So by approaching writing from an unfamiliar route, such as from students' mobile technology, we can break down their constructions of what writing is and how it works. Second, by changing the route of understanding, we should approach the actual activity of writing from a familiar path that students are comfortable with such as technology. We should not forget that our incoming traditional students have grown up with the Internet and the increasing portability of information readily available. The approach of composing a familiar medium such as their cell phones provides the counter to the unfamiliarity of composing in what initially may seem as an unacademic way. These benefits should not be underestimated.