We—the UW-Madison Writing Center staff—are composed of Disabled and nondisabled career staff, graduate student leaders, and graduate writing instructors. We are committed to inclusivity, accessibility, disability justice, and cultivating a culture of access among our staff, students, and the greater University and Madison communities. This culture of access is tied to our antiracist and inclusivity efforts, as they cannot be separated. In this statement, we aim to provide specific information and action steps to demonstrate these commitments.
Our Commitment to Accessibility
We are committed to increasing disability representation and the accessibility of our services by taking on projects to further these goals. Some of these include:
- maintaining a committee with Disabled representation tasked with revising Writing Center policies and practices that may pose barriers to full participation,
- training our instructors in accessible tutoring practices,
- continuing to grow our long-held partnership with the McBurney Disability Resource Center, and
- developing more accessible working conditions for our instructors.
However, we acknowledge that the Writing Center has not always been an environment where attention to access has been foregrounded. From instructor training to the physical layout of our space, Disabled individuals have not always been intentionally included in our design and practice. While the Writing Center and all its affiliate programs and spaces are ADA compliant, we recognize that compliance is a starting point, and we have more work to do. To that end, we would like to acknowledge some aspects of our Writing Center that may pose barriers for some users, and which we are committed to attempting to remedy through ongoing conversation and collaboration with the University. These include:
- Some individuals may choose to wear facemasks, which inhibits lip reading in face-to-face interactions
- Fairly tight space for maneuvering wheelchairs
- No dedicated parking for Writing Center appointments at our physical locations
- ASL interpreting services need to be requested and coordinated in advance with campus partners
In alignment with our values, described in our Inclusivity Statement, the UW-Madison Writing Center is committed to centering accessibility and Disabled individuals by developing accessible practices and policies for our writers, our staff, and our Madison community. We do not tolerate ableism in our policies and pedagogies, and we continue our work in addressing and reducing ableist microaggressions.
Current Accessibility Features
We understand and use the terms “accessible” and “accessibility” to refer to policies and practices that intentionally seek to eliminate physical, sensory, affective, structural, and institutional barriers to full participation. Accessibility practices you can currently expect when using Writing Center services include:
- Instructors trained to offer many options for reading, writing, brainstorming, and revising texts to best meet your needs as a learner
- Options for both online (synchronous and asynchronous) and in-person sessions
- ADA compliant physical locations (at our Main Center in Helen C. White Hall as well as our satellite locations across campus)
- Option to work with the same instructor for recurring sessions
- Opportunities to work in reduced distraction environments
- Accessible digital copies of instructional materials
- Recently updated website with easier navigability and improved screen reader compatibility
- Welcoming environment and physical space for service animals during in-person appointments
Students are not required to be registered with the McBurney Disability Resource Center or to disclose their disability to utilize these accessibility features. Students are welcome to disclose any information about their disability, learning abilities, or session preferences in their appointment form or during the session.
While we strive to provide an accessible environment to all writers, we acknowledge that there are some barriers to participation that we have not anticipated or that we’ll need additional time or approval to address. As such, we do provide reasonable accommodations as part of our commitment towards nondiscrimination against disabled individuals. These accommodations, while requiring disabled individuals to request them, are provided to ensure that Disabled individuals are not excluded from full participation in our programs. Because we operate in an institution that must provide reasonable accommodations as affirmed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and because the law is framed within the medical model of disability, our ability to implement accommodations on a broad scale is limited by resources, and our desired accessibility features are in turn impacted by funding. Due to these constraints, some requests may need to be recommended to the Writing Center as a reasonable accommodation. Students seeking a reasonable accommodation should work with the McBurney Disability Resource Center. Accommodation requests may include, but are not limited to:
- Print copies of instructional materials (including large-text copies)
- Sign language interpreting
- Captioning for meetings
- Additional appointment sessions and/or increased duration
To request an accommodation, please email Ellen Cecil-Lemkin (email@example.com) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Formation of Statement
Before we began drafting this statement, we requested comments from a focus group of Disabled Writing Center instructors and student-writers on what they wanted to see in our accessibility statement. Many of the choices that we made in this statement are a direct result of their generous feedback. We are grateful for their input and we hope to continue soliciting feedback from stakeholders to improve upon our statement.
Our Definition of Disability
We strive to use a social model of disability to recognize the environmental, cultural, and social barriers that prevent Disabled people from full and equitable participation and inclusion. We understand disability to include a range of apparent and non-apparent physical and mental conditions. These can include (but are not limited to) anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD, deafness, blindness, and mobility difficulties. Disability is not a monolithic experience; forms and symptoms are as varied as the people who experience them. We recognize that disability does not need to be diagnosed to be valid.
Disability Identity and Identification
We recognize that there are a lot of ways that people choose to identify or not identify themselves as Disabled. We value each individual’s choice in how they identify and recognize the complexities involved in determining an identity label for themselves. As requested by participants in our Accessibility Statement focus group, we will use identity first language, specifically Disabled person. Our participants felt that this language (specifically the upper-case “D”) best represented their acceptance and pride in their Disabled identities.
Institutional History and Ableism
Historically, the field of writing centers has been rooted in ableism by positioning Disabled writers (including instructors, students, and administrators) as “other” and problems that need to be solved. The Writing Center at UW-Madison has been influenced by this history too. We feel it’s important to acknowledge this history as we continue to cultivate a culture of access within our programs and across campus communities.
Feedback or Questions?
If you would like to talk with a Writing Center staff member about our accessibility practices, accommodations, or our Accessibility Statement, please contact Ellen Cecil-Lemkin at email@example.com.
If you have more general inquiries about the Writing Center, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accessibility @ UW-Madison
The UW-Madison Writing Center is proud to contribute to a growing, university-wide culture of access alongside other programs, units, and departments. If you would like to learn more about accessibility initiatives, training, and resources at UW-Madison, please visit the website Accessibility @ UW-Madison.