EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT: DR. AMY GRINCEWICZ
READ THE ENTIRE OCTOBER 2022 EDITION OF INSIDE EQUAL ACCESS
This article originally appeared in the October 2022 edition of Inside Equal Access.
By: Haifa Alsaab
Professor Amy Grincewicz joined Kent State faculty 9 years ago and she now has been the Director of Instructional Design – Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship (ACCBE) - for two years.
Dr. Grincewicz supervises the Instructional Support Team that gives faculty the support they need to create an innovative business curriculum and ensure high teaching quality. She also supports faculty professional development by creating trainings on learning design, best practices in pedagogy, and online course design.
Digital accessibility is at the heart of Dr. Grincewicz’ responsibilities. “An essential component of creating a quality online learning experience is ensuring that all students have equal opportunities to succeed” she explained. Her team efforts include reducing learning barriers by ensuring accessible learning materials for students’ needs. She adds accessibility features to improve readability, such as including alternate text descriptions into images, adding styles/headings to documents, and making PDFs selectable and searchable.
“Our commitment to digital accessibility supports the University’s top priority of Students First and ACCBE’s mission of offering innovative education by seeking Quality Matters course and program certifications” Dr. Grincewicz added.
Dr. Grincewicz’s interest in the area of disability came from her desire to help her students to access her class content. During one of her genetics lectures, she pointed to an image on a slide and said to the students: “as you can see on the slide”. She noticed a student with visual impairments, and she realized that student couldn’t see what she was referring to. From that moment, Dr. Grincewicz changed her teaching and started researching strategies to apply the principles of Universal Design for Learning to science education.
Information processing disabilities are personal to Amy, since she herself used to struggle as a student. “During grade school, I struggled with reading comprehension and saw a speech therapist” she said. She was determined to be successful in school, but she found traditional teaching approaches useless for her.
“OUR COMMITMENT TO DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY SUPPORTS THE UNIVERSITY’S TOP PRIORITY OF STUDENTS FIRST AND ACCBE’S MISSION OF OFFERING INNOVATIVE EDUCATION BY SEEKING QUALITY MATTERS COURSE AND PROGRAM CERTIFICATIONS”
She then eventually found the learning strategies that worked for her, but her struggle with reading continues. “Since I learned differently, I taught differently. When I was a graduate teaching assistant, I would have several students with learning disabilities attend my sections as my approach to teaching worked for them” she said.
During her master’s degree, she discussed her academic performance with her advisor, and he encouraged her to reach out to the Office of Disability Services to seek testing for a learning disability. They tested her and she was diagnosed with Mixed Receptive Expressive Language Disorder. The counselors reviewed the accommodations she could receive. However, she thought that they don’t apply anymore in her case as she figured them out years ago. “I had high grades so there didn’t seem to be a need for testing for a “hidden” disability, but I did struggle. Students shouldn’t have to struggle like I did/do” Dr. Grincewicz asserted.
In her days off, Dr. Grincewicz enjoys an Isagenix Shake and brew a cup of Midnight Sun (Red Cedar Coffee) from freshly ground beans. She then likes to hike on the trail followed by a relaxing lunch with a pint conversation. Ending the day with loved ones a trip to a brewery or the speakeasy.
Dr. Grincewicz thinks that the biggest challenge she faces in her efforts to improve accessibility is time. “ACCBE online courses utilize narrated presentations, and it takes time to make the slides and transcripts (note pages from PowerPoint) accessible as each slide need to have an alt tag… many slides contain images, graphs, code, etc. that are not explained in the transcript and thus need extensive alt tags” she explained.
When asked to give advice to someone just beginning to learn about accessibility, Dr. Grincewicz remembered a statement said by a former colleague of hers: “accessibility is a marathon not a sprint.” She recommends taking courses on creating accessible materials, like the ones offered in the Equal Access Academy here at Kent State. Above all else, keep learning and asking questions.