Accessibility is a “critical key” when it comes to leveraging technology for all students — including those with disabilities, according to a new toolkit offering accessibility resources and tips for state and district education leaders.
Accessibility refers to ensuring materials, devices, digital tools and platforms are designed to provide equal educational opportunity for all students, as well as to accommodate the learning needs of students with different abilities, according to the toolkit from CoSN, the American Institutes of Research and the Center on Technology and Disability (CTD).
Digital accessibility improves student learning, improves user experience, expands website visibility, and saves time and money. The toolkit shares why this effort is important today, identify the legal requirements for digital accessibility, describe the benefits of digital accessibility, and explain the procurement of such technology.
“Beyond the legal requirement to provide accessible content, learning materials that are inaccessible are limited in their ability to support diverse learning needs and students with disabilities, often requiring costly accommodations,” the authors note.
It also outlines steps state and district education leaders can take to ensure they are proactive about accessibility:
1. Research accessibility legislation and ensure that all staff understand their legal responsibility to provide accessible learning materials and resources.
2. Let developers and publishers know that you expect digital textbooks, resources, and learning materials to be built according to industry accessibility standards and ensure that this language is included in all vendor contracts.
3. Make reviewing for accessibility an integral part of your purchasing and procurement of new technologies.
4. Build staff capacity around accessibility features and considerations when selecting or developing content.
5. Set institution-wide expectations that accessibility is mandatory and is everyone’s responsibility.
“School systems need to ensure all information provided to the public, parents, and guardians is accessible. Research shows two key factors in a student’s educational success are the availability of accessible content and materials and parental engagement,” according to the toolkit. “Parental involvement is possible only if parents can access and understand information from teachers and principals about their child. Unfortunately, many state and district leaders become aware of the importance only when faced with legal action.”
In a related infographic, CTD outlines responsibilities for all educators when it comes to ensuring accessibility.