How an iPad can overcome ‘print disabled’ curriculum

By Tom Daccord
November 29th, 2013

Apple’s iPad can improve the accessibility of content for students; here’s how

ipad-tabletOne of the signature findings of the cognitive revolution of mind, brain and education research over the last few decades has been the overwhelming recognition of the tremendous diversity of human brains. In our population of students, there is a stunning variety of talents and capacities, and some of our peculiarities are both great strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, an incredibly high proportion of the world’s leading astrophysicists are dyslexic. As it turns out, in the complex architecture of the brain-eye connection, some of us have very strong central vision, while others have very strong peripheral vision. Those with strong peripheral vision often have trouble with dyslexia, slowed down by the distraction of words scattered all over a page. However, this strong peripheral vision is a critical asset in finding patterns in wavelength images, which happens to be the core competency of astrophysicists.

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Despite the great diversity in our capacities, our curriculum materials often are narrowly constructed, with a focus on static text. Some advocates have gone so far as to call the curriculum “print disabled”—incapable of supporting learning from people who struggle with decoding print. Note the important shift there: It is not the child who is disabled; it is the published materials that are incapable of doing their job of supporting learning.

(Next page: A tablet’s impact)

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4 Responses to “How an iPad can overcome ‘print disabled’ curriculum”

December 2, 2013

Who is in Apple’s pocket? These same technologies are available on other tablets, netbooks, laptops, etc. Why so centric on one brand? Although it commands a respectable ~30% market share worldwide, it is not the only game in town.
Educators are still waiting for a device that is designed for the learning environment and content creation rather than entertainment and media consumption.

    December 10, 2013

    Unfortunately, the Android devices do not have the accessibility features mentioned in this article. I happen to be a droid user over iOS, but have to give Apple credit for developing the iOS accessibility features. Much more robust than the droid features I have seen thus far.

December 2, 2013

Nice twist with the making the curriculum “disabled,” but in actuality, individuals with disabilities is still the way the laws are written. In fact the term “print disability” you will be hearing more about in the months/years ahead and it is being incorporated into more federal laws and rules. The definition of a print disability is still unfortunately based upon very old federal Copyright laws and definitely need a refresh. All that said, there are indeed curriculum materials that are not accessible to individual with print disabilities. These would include a whole bunch of both commercial and teacher-made curriculum materials that simply do not work with the assistive technologies that Apple and the other vendors have built into the hardware and operating systems. More needs to be done to “encourage” publishers to fix these and ensure all students have access to Accessible Instructional Materials. FMI see