Accessing accessibility

Students from Accessible Media Production are helping industry partners, such as the ROM’s Department of Museum Volunteers

When the large volunteer organization at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) had 18 months to meet Ontario’s legislative deadline for accessible documents, it turned to Mohawk College’s Accessible Media Production for help. 

Students in the graduate certificate program trained the Department of Museum Volunteers (DMV) to follow accessibly designed templates and best practices when creating print and digital content. 

During the two-semester program, students are paired with an industry partner for capstone work and to complete 70 industry experience hours. 

“As an industry partner, the ROM DMV has been able to provide our students with an amazing work-integrated learning opportunity. It has been a win-win relationship,” said Jennifer Jahnke, Faculty and Coordinator with the AMP program.

This program has definitely opened my eyes about how to look at the world in new ways.

Janette Campbell

Through providing hands-on training, Mohawk students set the groundwork for full accessibility of DMV documents, “which we would have never been able to achieve on our own,” said Lisa Cruikshanks, who handles communications for the DMV. “Their teaching ability and patience with our volunteers is crucial to our success.” 

Janette Campbell, a 2020 graduate of the program, worked with the ROM’s volunteers as part of her industry experience. When she returned to Mohawk College to teach chemistry after more than eight years in Europe, Campbell noticed many more students with accommodations in her classes. She decided to take the Accessible Media Production course to better serve them and unexpectedly fell in love with accessibility.

“This program has definitely opened my eyes about how to look at the world in new ways.” 

She’s now pursuing a full-time job in the field and says the industry experience in the program was crucial. “It gives you an idea of the parts of accessibility that speak to you or that best use your skills or experience.” 

Current AMP student Emily Jardin says the DMV group – which numbers about 500 – is keen to learn about accessibility. She’s conducting capstone research that will examine how volunteer organizations can plan for, train and support volunteers to meet accessibility compliance. 

“We are trying to make it not such a daunting task. Rather than thinking of it as yet something else to tackle, we are trying to reframe the discussion.” 

There have been 27 graduates since the first Accessible Media Production cohort graduated in 2018. In the 2021 cohort, 18 are on track to graduate.

Image: Left to right: Jannette Campbell, Alumni; Jennifer Curry Jahnke, Faculty/Coordinator; Emily Jardin, student, from Accessible Media Production program

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