When we make teaching inclusive for all, it benefits everyone

Students participating in a science lab activity that is inclusive to all learning abilities

Published: June 5th, 2024

By Liz Landers

As a teacher, you do everything you can to make every student feel valued and included in your classroom. When I was a teacher, it was heartbreaking to see students excluded because someone had not designed an experience with them in mind.

I had a remarkable student with a degenerative eye condition who was intelligent and resilient. He had an individualized education program (IEP), but he preferred not to draw attention to his visual impairment. He wanted to blend in with his peers rather than be singled out as “different.”

One day, during a science lab activity, instead of distributing printed handouts, which would highlight his difference, I opted for a digital format accessible to all students. I said that we would be “saving paper” by using our computers, and he gave me a small grin. I then separated the kids into their lab groups and started to observe. So much of what you learn about your students is through observing their behaviors.

I watched as he leaned in and started sharing with his group his thoughts on how they should work together. He was beaming. Then I saw him pick up a chemical bottle, and suddenly sit it down and disengage. I was shocked and disheartened. I tried to figure out what had gone wrong. I knew I couldn’t ask him because it would embarrass him and bring him unwanted attention. Then I realized he couldn’t read the labels on the chemical bottles and, therefore, would struggle to participate at the same capacity as his peers.

Determined to create an inclusive environment, I came up with a solution for the next lab. By gluing large shapes to the bottles and providing a corresponding key, all students, regardless of visual ability, could participate fully. When the next lab rolled around, I noticed his excitement was dampened. He knew that the chemical bottle would be a problem and he would be excluded once again.

It was an amazing moment when I saw him look at the bottles and notice the shapes. He looked at the key and said, “This one is the calcium chloride” with a big smile on his face. I watched him lean back in. It is these moments as a teacher, when you can take something that was designed to be exclusive and redesign it to be inclusive, that are pure magic. It demonstrates the transformative power of inclusive design.

What surprised me was the feedback I got from another student in a different class, who raised her hand to say, “Thank you for making it easier to see the labels.” As teachers, we continually learn from our students, and this experience proved that when you make your products inclusive for all, it benefits everyone. Everyone feels valued, empowered, and has a sense of belonging.

Now, as a designer, I have the opportunity to design inclusive products, advocate for these students from behind the scenes, and create experiences that encourage students to lean in.

To learn more about how Promethean can support inclusive classrooms, schedule a live online demo today.