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Spring Cleaning | AV for Access

Well, it’s April. The Boston Marathon has come and gone, with it’s spectacular show of unity between so many cities, colleges, and drunk people, all coming together to take a day off work since major roads are shut down. And of course my annual spring cleaning has hit, having a huge group over for a seder crystalizes that with a due date. But none of that is what I want to talk about.

Spring cleaning is a phrase we overuse, in my opinion, to signify something which we all need to do from time to time. It has two meanings that I'm going to discuss, both literal and figurative. Hopefully we can all find something in it that will help.

In the last week or so, as part of my annual cleaning for a large family event, I realized how many cables exist just in my home, many of which are older connections to equipment I no longer use. Reflecting on that, I began to go through my photo library on my phone, looking at the pictures of past offices and storage areas and one thing came to my mind: for all the supposed “sustainable goals” our schools set for themselves they never seem to reach down to our level, nor do they ever overcome the tendency we all have to hoard parts. As a result, we often have multiple generations of equipment which has potentially years of use remaining on it, but it's gathering dust. With spring being a time of renewal, perhaps it's a time for us to start towards clearing out the junk.

But the question becomes, how. If we're really to ‘clean’ we can't just generate more waste. Instead, what I mean is we need to “re-home” as much as we can. For those of us at major schools, with highly structured processes for handing off equipment we need to start planning our “spring cleaning” the moment we buy equipment. We also need to start looking for partners now, not five years from now when we do an upgrade.

There's a mental spring cleaning we also need to do, and this is more in line with my normal schtick. We need to do a spring cleaning in our minds in order to rethink things. And this doesn't just have to be in spring, we need to do it any time we encounter a new concept. I'm not saying always abandon old ways, but just like cleaning out storage we should evaluate whether we really need them.

This particularly applies when we consider accessibility. Historically, accessibility has been defined in the narrow confines of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and schools are reluctant to go outside what are considered traditional accommodations like extended time on tests or allowing a student to have a service animal. The reality is far more nuanced and something we need to “clean” from our thinking. If we stick to these narrow definitions, we continue to gatekeep our universities. Instead, and this will require more than just effort by the AV department, but we can be leaders in changing this thinking. By looking at how we currently approach accessing classes, we can clean out outdated ideas related to accessibility.

I’m sorry for not going more in depth this month. Looking at everything going on our campuses, it’s extremely difficult. I have tried to avoid talking about politics in this space, however I want to make one thing extremely clear: peaceful protest is fine, placing people in fear of their lives is not. It is especially inexcusable when it is being done in service of false narratives that demonize the victims of a massacre or even excuse it. We need, as a community, to take a stand against misinformation and hate. We need to clean it out.