6 ways to make digital content universally accessible

Students of all abilities should have equal access to digital resources

digital-accessibleAs school districts move toward a digital transition and attempt to create content repositories, ensuring that the digital content is accessible for students of all abilities is especially important.

A new policy brief from the State Education Technology Directors Association, “The Accessibility of Learning Content for All Students, Including Students with Disabilities,” notes that “digital learning materials…can improve the classroom experience for all students, and they may hold particular promise for students with disabilities.”

The brief explores, at length, open educational resources and their various licenses, the Universal Design for Learning framework, and legal rights and policies for students with disabilities.

It also outlines six recommendations when it comes to accessible digital content.

(Next page: Accessible digital content for all)

1. Create a clear vision

A pathway to integrate and increase use of accessible digital content in classrooms should be clearly articulated by school leaders. Stakeholders must be part of that vision, and policies must be explicit in their goals as they emphasize the importance of accessibility.

2. Support flexibility and customization options provided by accessible open educational resources

Clear and useful guidance on licensing accessible digital tools as open educational resources is essential. When digital resources are implemented or created, policies should be in place to ensure that those resources are accompanied by accessibility options. The report notes that open educational resources are especially well-suited for this type of approach because they can be used and customized widely.

3. Give educators technical assistance and professional development

Educators, including classroom teachers and administrators, could access and modify open educational resources quite easily. But professional learning opportunities must be available to help educators learn how best to modify those resources to make them accessible and to fit students’ needs, including students with disabilities.

4. Make sure digital content repositories are accessible

Digital content repositories often house a variety of accessible content that is able to be modified, improved, and expanded. States and districts, however, should help make sure that digital content in these repositories is high-quality and that it passes rigorous tests.

5. Invest in research and evaluation

These are necessary steps that must receive adequate attention if digital content is to be made truly accessible for all students.

6. Address issues of funding

Funding is a tricky issue, because creating and sustaining digital content and digital content repositories can be a costly undertaking.

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Laura Ascione

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