how ai promotes accessibility

AI and Accessibility — How Goodwin Uses Artificial Intelligence to Support Neurodiversity

It’s time for your leisurely afternoon scroll.

Amidst the memes and media updates, your feed is flooded with posts promoting the latest trends in Artificial Intelligence (AI). With AI evolving every day, the mark always seems to be moving. Whether you’re editing images, writing emails, or working on an assignment, endless AI tools promise to add ease and innovation to our daily lives.

While this presents exciting possibilities for the future, it can become difficult to discern an answer to the most essential question: what can AI do for me today? Sure, AI can help you navigate traffic and correct your grammar — but one less-talked-about advantage of AI is increased equity and accessibility.

For neurodivergent individuals especially, these tools can provide immense support — simplifying communication, flexibly presenting new information, and providing tailored support to remove barriers to personal and professional success.

At Goodwin University, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are at the heart of everything we do. As the AI revolution continues advancing, Goodwin’s Office of AccessAbility is finding innovative ways to leverage these resources — equipping learners with tools to thrive from the classroom to their careers.

Introducing AccessAbility

Goodwin’s Office of AccessAbility helps lead our University in educational equity. Aiming to ensure equal access, inclusion, and equitable opportunities across all programs, courses, and activities, AccessAbility supports the needs of Goodwin’s diverse and dynamic learners.

At the helm of AccessAbility is Molly Zatony, LCSW. With a robust academic and professional background in social work and disability services coordination, Zatony joined the Goodwin community in May 2022. As Goodwin’s Accessibility Manager, Zatony collaborates with students, faculty, and staff to provide reasonable accommodations and modifications for disabled and neurodivergent students.

Zatony outlines that although AccessAbility provides the same support services as those seen in K-12 special education, the process looks a little different. “Like K-12 special education, qualification for AccessAbility Services follows the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),” Zatony highlights. “But in higher education, students are responsible for advocating for themselves and securing the support they need,” she explains.

Zatony notes that, at Goodwin, AccessAbility Services are often sought by neurodivergent students looking to address their academic and mental health needs. By extension, the support students receive isn’t necessarily isolated to the classroom. “We have a strong relationship with the Counseling department, and we’re always expanding our partnership with them and Goodwin’s other student services,” Zatony describes.

In addition to collaborating with other support services, Goodwin’s approach to learning distinguishes us as an ideal school for neurodiverse students. “AccessAbility goes hand in hand with Goodwin’s larger efforts in Universal Design for Learning (UDL),” Zatony offers. “UDL is about designing lessons, curricula, and learning experiences with built-in accommodations and modifications. This helps instructors proactively retrofit lessons for their students. If lessons are designed to be universally accessible, teachers don’t need to make as many adjustments.”

“I wanted to try something different. Being from the area, I heard about Goodwin. I felt like Goodwin was for everyone. It gives you opportunities you’ve always wanted to find and can help you branch out right from where you’re standing. AccessAbility has helped me find the best ways to organize myself and understand my classwork by providing information in a more accessible way — going beyond how the work is presented in class.”

Denzel Closs, AS in Human Services student


At Goodwin University, we start with you. Learn how Goodwin can support your personal and professional success today!


Accessible solutions

Much like UDL, Artificial Intelligence offers the benefit of built-in customization — increasing accessibility by flexing to the individual needs of learners. With AI applications expanding to new horizons, its promise is only increasing — presenting new possibilities to aid in the academic success of diverse student populations.

While many of these burgeoning solutions are still in their early stages, Molly Zatony has begun helping Goodwin students leverage these tools in practical ways.

Personalized support

From Zatony’s experience, one of the greatest benefits AI offers learners is the ability to deliver content through multiple modalities. “We have students use AI for reading, writing, and eTexts,” she explains. “Applications like Dragon support students with reading and writing through speech-to-text and text-to-speech tools. Similar tools are also available through our course shell, Canvas, which offers built-in screen readers to help students understand assignments and texts.”

Although these tools offer on-the-spot assistance to students, Zatony emphasizes that by actively engaging with AI, students can further enrich their academic experiences—honing and developing their study skills and organizational strategies to aid in long-term professional success. “For students with executive functioning difficulties, we encourage them to use the Pomodoro Technique, which is a time management method. You set a timer for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break in between. After four cycles, you take a longer break,” she describes. “To make this technique as effective as possible, we encourage students to keep their phones away. By using AI tools like Alexa, students can set up a series of distraction-free timers without using a phone or going on the internet.”

Beyond boosting the efficacy of time-management techniques, Zatony is exploring how AI can support Goodwin learners’ organizational needs. “One newer AI tool is GitMind, which is great for taking notes,” she offers. “You can make lists and prioritize tasks. It can even structure rambling thoughts into a flow chart to help students organize their thinking.”

Addressing the drawbacks

Considering the AI tools currently implemented by our students, Zatony observes that even the most helpful applications aren’t without their drawbacks. “AI closed captioning for video and audio can help a lot of students, but these tools aren’t always reliable. CART services are often still needed to provide live or online captioning,” she delineates.

Other concerns about AI use revolve around chatbots. While platforms like ChatGPT, Bard, and Claude can help students organize and brainstorm research papers, the implications of utilizing these tools for academic purposes remain murky. “We don’t necessarily rely on those tools because academic integrity issues could arise,” Zatony suggests.

Likewise, she notes that the future of AI and accessibility is still uncertain. “Right now, many of these technologies are free (or have free versions available),” Zatony says. “Down the road, if these platforms begin to charge or become more expensive, socioeconomic issues and social concerns may arise, which would negatively impact its accessibility for diverse student populations.”

AI at Goodwin

Incorporating accessible AI tools into the educational landscape empowers neurodivergent students to achieve their full potential. By providing built-in customizations catered to individual needs, AI fosters a more inclusive learning environment. From AI-powered note-taking applications to text-to-speech software, these advancements empower students to conquer challenges and embrace independent learning strategies.

While some limitations remain, like closed captioning inconsistencies and potential academic integrity concerns, ongoing developments promise a brighter future for accessible education. As AI technology continues evolving, Goodwin University remains committed to harnessing its potential — ensuring equitable access to high-quality education for all.

About Molly Zatony, AccessAbility Manager

Molly graduated from Boston University with her master’s in social work and from Connecticut College with her bachelor’s in psychology. She has been working at Goodwin University as the AccessAbility Manager since May 2022. Prior to working in disability and access services in higher education, Molly worked in clinical social work, helping with clients with disabilities across the lifespan.

Ready to take the next steps toward a fulfilling future? Learn more about joining the Goodwin community today! Call 800-889-3282 or text 860-467-1511.