As many of us may know, assumptions can be tricky. Occasionally they can be right: I assume for a friend’s or family member’s birthday that they may enjoy a particular gift. Those assumptions are often based on my experience and knowledge of the individual. I assume that a movie I am going to see this weekend will be good and I am basing that on my perception of the trailer or reviews I have received from others. But sometimes what we think may be true, just isn’t. Like when I assumed the lid on my fresh cup of coffee was secure and ended up with a hot-coffee covered blouse. Or the movie that I assumed was going to be great, flopped. Not all assumptions are wrong; but not all assumptions are right, either. So what about the assumptions we make every day; the ones we may not even realize that we are making?
These days almost everywhere that you turn there are people on their laptops, iPads, tablets, smartphones…etc. At some point it started to appear as though everyone had a smart device or some form of easy, in-your-hand, internet access. The days of hunting for a community computer, long gone. The reality is that not everyone has easy access to a computer and/or internet. In 2013, approximately 75% of all households reported Internet use to the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, around 64% reported having a handheld computer. Those numbers seem large enough, so why is this important? When creating courses, making announcements, sending emails, or even writing up a course schedule, it is important to remember that not all students may be in the 74% of people with constant or easy computer and internet access. According to a PewResearchCenter article in April of 2015, only “two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and 19% of Americans rely to some degree on a smartphone for accessing online services…,” making the assumption that students will have instant access to your communicated information potentially inaccurate.
Another assumption that we may be making without even realizing it, is that the information we are trying to communicate is easily accessible. When I say accessible, I am not taking about receiving the communication, but about the capability of the information to be accessed in a way that the student can understand and use. Accessibility is quickly becoming a significant topic in education as it should be. Accessibility is about equal opportunities to access the same information. To read more about why accessibility matters, check out the IDT page, “Why Accessibility.” Oftentimes, we may make the mistake of assuming that everyone can access the materials or information we are trying to convey without testing the theory in any way. Just because we can read the text, see the image, or hear the audio does not mean everyone can in the same way. Consider how it may feel to watch a video without sound and without closed captions. How can you understand what is happening, what is being said, or what is important to the actual plot? The simple answer is that you probably can’t. Or imagine that you can hear the audio, but can’t see the screen. Can you detail or describe what is happening? Too often we assume that because something is accessible to us that it is accessible to everyone. This is 100% inaccurate. Being accessible to one person or even 75% of people does not make it accessible to all. Check out the IDT page, “See What Others Hear” where you can download a free screen-reader software and experience what it may be like for those that require the use of the assistive technology. Federal statutes have made accessibility a requirement and making a wrong assumption can mean violating those statutes without knowing it.
Whether assuming that your information is instantly retrievable, easily and 100% accessible, or simply assuming the lid on your coffee is well fastened, remember that not all assumptions are correct and it is better to check than assume. Not sure where to start with topics like accessibility? Take a look at our Accessibility pages: Why Accessibility; FaST Accessibility; and WSU Accessibility. Have a different question? Use the Ask IDT page to send us your questions and we will send you a link to the blog entry your question inspired.
File, T., & Ryan, C. (2014, November). Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013. In United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/history/pdf/2013computeruse.pdf
Smith, A. (2015, April 1). U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015. In PewResearchCenter: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved May 2, 2016, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/