Technology & Accessibility

Groups Issue Guidance on Making Digital Learning Accessible to All

Two organizations have put together a 20-page guide to help steer state and district education leaders toward thinking about how to embed accessibility into their decision-making. The "Digital Accessibility Toolkit" was published by the Consortium on School Networking (CoSN) and the Center on Technology and Disability (CTD).

While accessibility encompasses three specific groups of learners — those with disabilities, English language learners and students from under-resourced communities — the upshot of choosing accessible products is that all students actually benefit, the report stated. Universal design for learning (UDL), also known as "born accessible" or "inclusive design," "seeks to level the playing field for all students" in three ways:

  • By allowing students to "approach information in more than one way." For example, technologies such as digital books, websites, hardware, software and screen readers can include text-to-speech, dynamically changing variability for different reading levels, changeable color contrast and text size that can be altered.
  • By letting students "demonstrate and express what they know." That might include assessment choices such as writing, making videos, using speech-to-text programs and developing online concept mapping.
  • By motivating and stimulating students through multiple approaches, such as offering them different activities or content for a given learning objective and then providing opportunities for them to collaborate or to follow a scaffolded progression.

The report includes tips and guidance, brief case studies and dozens links to web-based resources to help readers understand why accessibility is important, what the legal requirements are, how it aids learning and how to procure it.

The guide also emphasizes that school leaders need to take into consideration accessibility for parental engagement as well. "Parental involvement is possible only if parents can access and understand information from teachers and principals about their child," the toolkit noted. "Unfortunately, many state and district leaders become aware of the importance of accessibility only when faced with legal action."

The "Digital Accessibility Toolkit" is openly available as a PDF document on the CTD website here.

The CTD has also produced a 58-minute webinar on accessibility, assessments and the law for state and district people, available on the organization's YouTube channel here. Slides from that presentation are posted on the CTD website here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.