Fostering an Inclusive Environment: Increasing Course Accessibility (Building Better Curriculum) - February 15, 2023

Includes a Live Web Event on 02/15/2023 at 1:00 PM (EST)

One in four persons in the US self-identify as having a disability.1 However, disability prevalence was reported as 4.6% of medical students in 2019,2 and 3.1% of physicians in 2021.3  Although many health leadership organizations have expressed a commitment to include learners with disabilities (LWD), many programs have not implemented best practices for curricular design and inclusive and accessible instruction to meet the heterogeneous needs of LWD.4,5  

Accessibility best practices that need to be fully implemented include: captioning and providing transcripts of videos and lectures; providing alt text for images and diagrams; using proper color contrast in presentation materials; leaving blank space at the bottom of slides for captions; proactively posting materials in advance and recording didactic sessions for learners to access subsequently; and more.5 Common accessibility barriers in clinical settings include: incompatibility of dictation or speech-to-text software with EMR systems, reluctance to request excused absences for necessary medical appointments, needs for alterations in schedule or location, and more. As value is placed on accessibility, a welcoming message is sent to LWD that: their needs are important, they are expected to be part of the cohort, and they belong. This strong commitment to accessibility enhances an inclusive learning environment.      

1. Okoro, C. A., Hollis, N. D., Cyrus, A. C., & Griffin-Blake, S. (2018). Prevalence of disabilities and health care access by disability status and type among adults—United States, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 67(32), 882.|
2. Meeks, L. M., Case, B., Herzer, K., Plegue, M., & Swenor, B. K. (2019). Change in prevalence of disabilities and accommodation practices among US medical schools, 2016 vs 2019. JAMA, 322(20), 2022-2024.
3. Nouri Z, Dill MJ, Conrad SS, Moreland CJ, Meeks LM. Estimated prevalence of US physicians with disabilities. JAMA network open. 2021 Mar 1;4(3):e211254-.
4. Petersen KH, Sheets, Z, Singh, S., Jawadi, Z, Michael, D, Meeks, LM. Inclusive medicine and medical education: increasing the number of clinicians with disabilities. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health. Feb 2022. doi:
5. Petersen KH. Increasing Accessibility Through Inclusive Instruction and Design. In Disability as Diversity 2020 (pp. 143-173). Springer, Cham. 

Please visit the AAMC Building Better Curriculum Webinars webpage for a complete list of events and special programming.

Kristina H. Petersen, PhD

Assistant Dean of Academic Support Programs and Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

New York Medical College

Dr. Petersen's scholarly work primarily focuses on inclusive instruction, course accessibility, and supporting students with disabilities. In 2022, she received an award for Excellence in Scholarly Work from the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science Education before beginning her two-year term as president, and she also received the AAMC/AOA Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teaching Award.

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