Essay Assignments

Designing essay assignments with UDL in mind requires writing instructors to take into consideration several important features:

  1. How can you devise writing assignments that accommodate the needs of as many students as possible? What media will you accept aside from traditional essays? Video? Audio? Blogging platforms? Providing your students with multiple options from which to choose goes a long way to creating accessibility.
  2. How can issues related to disability studies and diversity awareness be incorporated directly into an assignment? How can you help your students interrogate ableist assumptions prominent in society? By making disability a central feature of your classroom, you can facilitate consciousness-raising and help traditional or non-disabled individuals become powerful discourse producers.
  3. Encourage students to engage with a variety of writing genres as they complete assignments. Help them understand the conventions of different media and how each medium contributes to overall discourse production within the greater community.

Potential assignments:

  • Have students consider the ways in which ableism operates within their own communities, including the university in which they are currently enrolled. Students may use their own experiences (whether they publicly identify as disabled or non-disabled), and they should be encouraged to take a closer look at the world around them. Have them engage with current scholarship on disability studies and perhaps develop their own ideas on what it means to have an accessible (or not) community.
  • Have students interrogate terms like “disability,” “ableism,” “handicapped,” “ability,” and “normal,” and analyze the effect of language upon public mentalities. This can even be a smaller, group writing activity.
  • Encourage students to complete at least one assignment using a non-traditional medium, such as blog, wiki, or audio. Have them complete a reflection on why the conventional essay may not be the most accessible–or even the most relevant–writing platform. However, first ensure that your university supports such assignments.

One thought on “Essay Assignments

  1. I love this section of your website! I like how it ties UDL really specifically to composition. Another one that might be interesting is a reflection on various “assistive technologies” we all use when we write. I think highlight the labor and technologies of the writing process can be really eye opening for folks in conversations of disability. (The short memoir Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one avenue for this. I might also recommend the book Disability and the Teaching of Writing, which I think I can get a free copy of and share with you–many more assignments there.)


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