Accommodations For Adults: Reflecting On Google Maps And UDL

As many of my blog readers know, I was very reluctant to get a cell phone, and only due to a wifi outage last summer did I choose to make the leap and purchase my first iPhone. Since then, the phone has changed my workflow, and I even decided to purchase an Apple watch a few months ago. I realize how privileged I am to be able to make these purchases. I also realize how much thinking and learning comes out of my daily tinkering with these exceedingly more common tech devices.

In some recent blog posts, I’ve shared about my summer position as a coordinator for Camp Power and Camp CLIMB. This year, there were three different locations for this summer camp. While I was usually at one location a day, occasionally I had to drive between sites. Two of the schools were very close to each other, and I already knew the quickest way to get from one to the other. The final school though was on the Hamilton mountain, while the other two were in downtown Hamilton. A number of years ago, I got acquainted with one of the mountain accesses, and as I am apt to do when I drive, I tended to choose this one access every time that I needed to go up the mountain (or back down it). The problem is that this access was quite far from the summertime downtown schools, and it was also closed in one direction. What could I do? I decided to look up the directions on Google. For those that do not already know, I do not like driving on the highway, but I could restrict the highway option in Google. I then pressed, “Start,” and put my iPhone in the cup holder. The most amazing thing happened: Google talked me through the directions. Maybe all of you already know that this is possible, but for me, this was an eye-opening experience.

This amazing phone feature reduced so much of my driving stress. I didn’t need to know where to turn or how to get from Point A to Point B — I just need a charged phone to get me there. The only thing that bothered me is that I love to listen to music as I drive — usually country music blaring from my car radio — and now I need to listen to, “In 300 m turn left.” πŸ™‚ Everything changed yesterday though, when I learned another trick …

Now I can listen to music on my phone or on the radio, and Google Maps will quietly interrupt it with where and when to turn. Mind blowing.

I may be the last SMART phone user to be aware of these special features, but these wonderful accommodations are not lost on me. In fact, they are making me think more about the classroom. As we learn more about UDL (Universal Design For Learning), we are often challenged to reconsider our classroom spaces and our accommodations for students: what might be necessary for some and good for all? This Google Maps feature is like UDL for adults.

  • It provides a visual of the directions for those that can read the turns (which, by the way, is not me).
  • It speaks the directions to you: preparing you in advance for each turn, so that you have time to get into the right lane.
  • It recalculates the drive if/when you make a wrong turn. For me, it’s the exiting of the roundabouts that always leads to problems, but I know that this Maps feature has me covered. πŸ™‚

There’s no need for a driving IEP to have these accommodations in place, nor does anybody question the need for adults to access anything from Google Maps to Waze. Let’s make the link between these driving experiences and classroom practices (with the implied assumption here that there is no IEP in place).

  • Would it be equally okay to have an iPad read a story to a child instead of having the child read the story independently?
  • Would it be equally okay to have a student use text-to-speech to write anything from a sentence to a paragraph, instead of doing this with a pencil and paper?
  • Would it be equally okay to provide the diagram for the math problem instead of the need to draw it?

These are just some examples. Maybe not every child needs these accommodations, just like not every adult needs the talking voice to get from Point A to Point B, but does our openness to one set of accommodations help reframe our views on others? Sometimes learning happens in the strangest of places and circumstances. I wonder what iPhone features I’ll learn about next. πŸ™‚


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *