Improving online accessibility for students a major issue for schools

As schools make recorded lessons available to students online, they may not be making them accessible

accessibility-ccIn February, advocates for the deaf filed federal lawsuits against Harvard and M.I.T., stating that both universities violated antidiscrimination laws by failing to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts, and other educational materials. In Harvard and M.I.T. Are Sued Over Lack of Closed Captions, the New York Times highlighted portions of the complaint and zeroed in on the fact that, “Much of Harvard’s online content is either not captioned or is inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned, making it inaccessible for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Applying ADA to Online Education

This new case highlights a particularly controversial subject in an era where more colleges and K-12 schools are making lectures available online and developing related content that may not always be accessible to students with disabilities. Sheryl Burgstahler, founder and director of University of Washington’s DO-IT Center and UW Access Technology Center (ATC) in Seattle, says part of the issue lies in confusion over exactly how the American Disabilities Act applies to the world of online education.…Read More

Virtual reality gives these students a boost in real life

A $1.5 million virtual reality project has improved the test scores of deaf and hearing-impaired students by an average of 35 percent overall, according to the leaders of the Virtual Reality Education for Assisted Learning (VREAL) project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

When hearing-disabled students start school, they’re already at a disadvantage compared to their hearing peers because they’re usually behind in acquiring language skills.

“They can often be one or two grade levels behind,” said Patti Schofield, a resource teacher at Lake Sybelia Elementary School in Maitland, Fla. “We have to give them a sign vocabulary in addition to writing.” Schofield approached Veridian, a company that does national security work for the U.S. Department of Defense, to see if their virtual reality technology could help hearing disabled students learn.…Read More