Feds to schools: Make sure ed-tech programs are accessible

• What educational opportunities and benefits will your school provide through the use of the technology?

• How will the technology help you provide these opportunities and benefits?

• Does the technology exist in a format that is accessible to individuals with disabilities?

• If the technology is not accessible, can it be modified, or is there a different technological device available, so that students with disabilities can enjoy the same educational opportunities and benefits in a timely, equally effective, and equally integrated manner?

For example, the document says, suppose your school intends to establish a web-based eMail system so that students can communicate with each other and with their instructors, receive important messages from the school, and communicate with others outside of school. You must make sure that these same benefits and opportunities exist for students with disabilities “in an equally effective and equally integrated manner.”

Before deciding what system to buy, you should find out whether the system is accessible to students who are blind or have low vision—that is, whether the system is compatible with screen readers and whether it gives users the option of using large fonts. If a system isn’t accessible as designed, you must figure out whether another, accessible product is available—or whether the inaccessible product can be modified so it’s accessible to students who are blind or have low vision.

Schools don’t necessarily have to provide the same type of emerging technology to students with disabilities as they give to other students, as long as the disabled students can enjoy the same educational benefits as the other students, the document said.

For instance, say you purchase eReader devices for your school library, but you then realize the devices can’t accommodate students with disabilities. You can find and supply a different type of device for students with disabilities, as long as they derive the same benefits from using this alternative device.

“Technology can be a critical investment in enhancing educational opportunities for all students,” said Russlynn Ali, ED’s assistant secretary for civil rights. “The department is firmly committed to ensuring that schools provide students with disabilities equal access to the benefits of technological advances.”

More news about technology and accessibility:

Online law school applications to be accessible for the blind

Claim: Google Apps for Education inaccessible to blind students

Conference: Technology is helping to ‘redefine … disability’

Five key trends in assistive technology

Free text reader to help print-disabled students

eSchool News Staff

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