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The Curb Cut Effect Explained


What is a curb cut?

Sometimes easy to overlook, a curb cut is a small ramp that can be found at most intersections, between the sidewalk and the street. You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but this tiny, almost imperceptible feature of most urban centers has redefined accessibility as we know it. Let’s take a closer look…


A brief history

Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1940’s: The city installed curb cuts at four downtown corners as a pilot project to help with the employment of disabled veterans.

Berkeley, California, 1970: In the midst of the revolutionary spirit of the 60’s and 70’s, a group called the Rolling Quads, led by disability activist Ed Roberts, demanded curb cuts on main roads. They even went so far as to take to the streets at night and use sledgehammers to smash curbs and build their own ramps, forcing the city into action.

Denver, Colorado, 1980: Disability activists staged a protest demanding curb cuts, blocking traffic until city officials gave in. Demonstrators in wheelchairs whacked at concrete curbs with sledgehammers to get their point across.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990: Although not the first piece of legislation to address widespread accessibility, the passing of the ADA was a landmark event due to its unprecedented reach. It mandated access and accommodation in all public spaces, including business, lodging, transportation, and employment, making curb cuts the commonplace feature we know today.


Unexpected ripple effect

Surprisingly, the benefits of curb cuts extended to everyone, not just people in wheelchairs or those with limited mobility:

  • Parents pushing strollers
  • Workers lugging heavy loads
  • Travelers wheeling luggage
  • Runners and skateboarders


Transforming Accessibility in Higher Education

Like the curb cuts that ended up making mobility easier for so many people beyond the intended recipients, accommodations in schools that were originally designed for students with disabilities end up benefiting the entire university community.

Academic transcription and captioning is a prime example of this phenomenon. Of course, these services enable accessibility for students who are deaf or HOH. But the curb cut effect comes into play when the positive effects spread to the entire student body – including students who speak English as a second language, and students who prefer to learn by reading.

In fact, the number of students without hearing difficulties who use captioned video is on the rise. More and more students are reporting that this assistive technology is an essential tool in their learning process, with tangible effects on academic success. According to a study conducted at San Francisco State University, students who used captioned video achieved a full GPA point increase compared to students who did not.


Greater Impact

Beyond the world of higher education, there are many examples of the curb cut effect that have profoundly impacted our lives for the better, including:

  • Seat belt legislation: Laws were initially adopted to protect young children. Years later, almost every state has firm seat belt laws in place, saving an estimated 317,000 lives since 1975
  • Smoking laws: Disgruntled flight attendants led the charge to ban smoking on airplanes, sparking possibly the most notable public-health campaign of all time. Since the 1960’s, smoking has largely been banished in public spaces and tobacco consumption has been cut in half


As technological advances continue to revolutionize the world of higher education, the positive effects extend to everyone. Like the curb cuts that enabled greater mobility for wheelchair users and other groups of people, tools like transcription and captioning solutions benefit all students and further drive innovation.

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The Role of Transcription and Captioning in Blended Learning

Higher education today is not what it used to be. Once upon a time, taking copious notes as the professor droned on and memorizing textbook passages were synonymous with the college learning experience. However, over the past two decades, online education and multimedia content have supplanted outdated methods, becoming mainstays of the educational landscape.

Thanks to the surge of digital resources and online learning, there has been a definite sea change in higher education, resulting in new and enhanced learning models. The Verbit Team attended the Panopto User Conference to demonstrate how both solutions work hand in hand to enable these superior learning environments and increase student engagement through interactive and personalized elements.  

What is Blended Learning?

As part of this new paradigm, blended learning, the practice of using both online and in-person learning experiences, has become a commonplace feature of many institutions. This model involves the following:

  • Combining instructional modalities (i.e. visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile)
  • Combining instructional methods
  • Combining face-to-face and online instruction

For successful blended learning, the in-person and online elements must function in tandem to create deeper educational experiences, while giving the student some control over their individualized paths and the pace at which they want to learn. An emphasis on self-driven and interactive learning places technology at the center of this learning model.

Evolving Blended Learning Technology

In recent years, the educational technology landscape has expanded to include learning management systems, video hosting platforms, in-class response systems, platforms, tablets, smartphones, analytics tools and more. However, the most common features of blended learning are audio and video materials.

Transcription and Captioning for Accessibility

While blended learning has led to proven results in student success, it is not without its challenges, with accessibility often being cited as a key hurdle that institutions must overcome. To address these challenges, all audio elements must be accompanied by transcripts and all video must include synchronized captions. These are key considerations for course design that benefit all students, including those with auditory disabilities, students who prefer to learn by reading and those who are not native speakers of the language of instruction.

Verbit’s AI-enabled academic transcription and captioning solution is tailored to the education industry, leveraging customized speech-to-text technology that is trained with course-specific content for higher accuracy and quicker speed. Seamless integration with the Panopto video hosting and streaming platform means that all content, regardless of form, becomes instantly accessible for all students. The advanced platform levels the academic playing field so that all students have an equal shot at success.   


Blended education continues its rise as a fast-growing and highly effective program to enhance student engagement and boost grades. Technology tools that work together, including video streaming platforms and AI-enabled transcription and captioning solutions, possess the  potential to unlock new levels of academic success for all students.

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