Project ACE (Accessible Classroom Experience)

Project Title: Project ACE (Accessible Classroom Experience)

Project Lead’s Name: Megan Zahneis


Phone: (513) 235-1886

Please Choose the Primary Affiliation: CEHS

Faculty/Staff Sponsor (required for student-submitted proposals): Ashley Johnson

Sponsor Email Address:

Are There Other Project Team Members?: Yes

Other Project Team Member: Hitesh Naik

Other Team Member Email Address:

Brief description of project: The aim of Project ACE is to offer members of the Miami community a classroom and interactive lab space modeled on the principles of universal design. We believe that this will benefit students, faculty and staff with and without disabilities, as well as serving as a model for other educational environments. Project ACE will set forth a new standard for the classroom, placing Miami University at the forefront of an accessibility revolution and making it a benchmark for peer institutions and prospective students alike.

Last fall, EHS received CR&R funds to renovate McGuffey 121 as a more inclusive classroom. The CR&R budget request focused primarily on adding power doors, new furniture, upgrading the lighting, and some basic technology changes (e.g., upgrade to Crestron media device). This proposal aims to further this project through purchase of additional technology.

Our vision is for the space to function as both a classroom and interactive lab space, in the vein of EHS' Engaging Technology Lab (ETL). This will make it a resource for students, staff and faculty of all ability levels. Not only will students with a variety of disabilities have access to cutting-edge technologies that have the potential to greatly impact their education and academic careers, non-disabled faculty, staff and students will be able to utilize these resources as well. We believe that allowing the entire university community to engage with the model classroom will encourage greater use of universal design beyond this room (both in terms of the physical classroom spaces and the digital elements involved in class material). While we anticipate that the classroom will be highly used, we also believe it is important to offer drop-in lab time and will work with EHS Dean's Office and the Registrar on scheduling.

The vision for Project ACE is to purchase a variety of assistive technology devices with which to outfit the classroom (such as screen readers, modified keyboards and mice, and Amazon Echo and Apple TV devices). Students registered with Student Disability Services (SDS) will be able to request the Project ACE classroom for their classes, and classes in Disability Studies and Special Education will be held in the classroom as well to increase awareness and outreach.

The room will also contain units that can be checked out by students and staff (i.e. Livescribe pens). Technology Services and student volunteers will hold open houses and training sessions for members of the Miami community to explore the technologies in the classroom and learn about principles of inclusion and universal design.

Does this project focus on graduate student education or graduate student life?: No

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem.: Although Student Disability Services, Rinella Learning Center and other on-campus resources act as gateways to a Miami education for students with disabilities, there is a lack of resources for in-classroom accessibility. This creates academic inequities for students with disabilities, and we believe that a model classroom equipped with assistive technology will bridge that gap.

The criteria state that technology fee projects should benefit students in innovative and/or significant ways. How would you describe the innovation and/or significance of your project?: Integrating accessible and adaptive technology into a classroom in McGuffey Hall will not only provide a model to future accessibility endeavors, but also empower the entire Miami community to interface with cutting edge softwares. Central to our project is a commitment to universal design, which will distinguish Miami from other institutions and demonstrate a commitment to achievement and accessibility. In addition to being a model for other universities, accessible design may provide a positive resource for students with disabilities considering Miami University. Time and again, we have found that pushing ourselves to be inclusive and conscious in our design has created a space for excellence beyond mere accommodation. Indeed, this kind of active step will potentially be a beacon for other technology-oriented programs and serve to guide the discourse around and implementation of universal design. We hope that Project ACE will not only become the new standard in accessibility for including disabilities as disparate as vision impairment, anxiety disorder, mobility impairment, attention deficit disorder, and deafness, but also as the new standard in classroom technology use for all students. Think, for example, of how the use of a tablet may not only make presentations more accessible for students and faculty with different abilities, but also how it will contribute to a fluid dynamic of learning and a spontaneous culture of engagement.

How will you assess the project?: Project ACE will be evaluated on a threefold basis. Students in classes being held in the Project ACE classroom will be asked to review the impact and value of the Project ACE experience as part of their end-of-term course evaluations. Course instructors will also be asked to reflect on how being in a universally designed classroom affects their teaching style and/or students' learning environment and to provide suggestions on how Project ACE can continue to serve the Miami community. Finally, clients and staff of Student Disability Services will be asked to audit the Project ACE classroom periodically to offer targeted audience feedback.

Have you applied for and/or received Tech Fee awards in past years?: No

What happens to the project in year two and beyond? Will there be any ongoing costs such as software or hardware maintenance, supplies, staffing, etc.? How will these be funded?: The technologies and furniture for Project ACE have been selected with longevity in mind, meaning that there should be little to no cost for maintenance of any kind, nor will there be any ongoing expenses. The technologies will not require support beyond simple storage. The room will be staffed by students interested and skilled in technology, when necessary. There are no consumable products in the project; the technologies listed here do not replace existing McGuffey Hall classroom technologies.

Budget: Software, Hardware, Other

Hardware Costs: $45,883.47

Software Costs: $500.00

What is the total budget amount requested?: $46,383.47