Meeting the learning needs of all learners in a single classroom is one of the most difficult challenges educators face. The problem is even more acute when teaching learners from underserved/disability populations.
This is the part where we describe some technical details regarding the ways in which we include technology in adult education.
Accessible as well as accessibility technology can serve an important role in inclusion of learners with disabilities. Not all technology is accessible, however.
What is Accessibility Technology?
Is the technology whose sole purpose is to be used in order to facilitate some other actions either by the physically/mentally challenged or by the culturally/socially challenged in order to facilitate their learning experience. Accessibility technology can include, for example: magnifier glass apps, “read-out-loud” apps – for the physically challenged or translator apps – for the culturally challenged.
What Is Accessible Tech?
Accessible electronic and information technology is technology that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. It incorporates the principles of universal design and it includes computer hardware and software, operating systems, web-based information and applications, telephones and other telecommunications products, video equipment and multimedia products, information kiosks, and office products such as photocopiers and fax machines. Accessible technology can be used by a wide variety of people, including people with disabilities. Its primary purpose is to make sure that people with disabilities can fully participate – hence being accessible – but can be used by anyone, and benefit anyone.
How does Accessibility Helps learners With Disabilities
Accessible tech obviously creates more access for disabled learners to learn. If the materials are accessible, they can fully participate and learn from the material. They able to participate and be included because they are not being left out and left behind.
Because it is designed to have options that can be toggled at will, it can be adjusted to meet anyone’s needs or preferences. A student does not have to be disabled to benefit from accessible tech – if they prefer a certain format, then logic follows that they will learn best from that format and possibly enjoy it more. In addition, some learners could be undiagnosed and will also benefit from a wide variety of options.
Thus, it creates social inclusion (by making commonplace disabled learners’ needs, so that the learners and their needs are less othered) and educational inclusion (by making sure everyone is included under the umbrella of options).
Ways to make remote education accessible
1.Multiple means of representation Give learners the option of reading text, watching videos, listening to audio or examining images. Microsoft Immersive Reader makes text more accessible. For higher-tech options, virtual tours as offered by museums or national parks, augmented reality or digital 3D are exciting possibilities. For older learners, send out learners out to find their own ways to consume information.
2.Multiple means of engagement Looking at a screen all day may be hard for some learners, while others may need a more hands-on or project-based activity. Try developing a HyperDoc or create digital documents such as Google Doc with links to all the resources a student may need to explore on their own time and become fully engaged. Activities can be as simple as allowing learners to use a parent’s cell phone to take pictures of shapes around the house and email them to the teacher.
3.Multiple means of action and expression Design open-ended activities where learners choose how to demonstrate their knowledge. learners can write, create a podcast or video or use no technology at all. One example is learners can build a 3D model in Tinkercad or just pull items out of the recycling and make a model using those.
4.Design for accessibility Check that the videos you assign have closed captions or create your own and add captions in YouTube. If the audio files you assign don’t have transcripts, ask for a student volunteer to make one for extra credit. Most apps, such as Google Docs, have instructions for making your materials more accessible.
5.Use open educational resource (OER) Also known as openly licensed materials, OER are resources that are available in the public domain or introduced with a public license. Look for the Creative Commons License to see if something is an OER. They are free and can be remixed to your specific needs. The Mason OER Metafinder, OER Commons or OASIS database will help you find one to fit your needs. Although many technology companies are making their products available for free to educators during extended school closures, not all these products have been vetted by educators for privacy and data usage requirements or for accessibility the way OERs have been.
6.Stay connected with learners Just because you’re using digital means to communicate with your learners doesn’t mean there is no longer a human aspect to teaching. Learners are stressed now, too, and any time you can find to connect with them through a video morning or a personalized text or email, that connection will mean a lot.
7.Stay connected with other educators Other educators are great sources of specific information or advice about online learning. The ideas, resources and tools that are can be shared has the potential to enhance the learning process in new ways.
Barriers that can be encountered
One potential barrier is the cost of the accessible technology. A possible solution would be: If the educator is in a position to advocate for accessible technology, point out that universal design can ultimately cost less because they are spending less money on individual accommodations.
Another potential barrier is conflicting access needs (when someone’s need for something to participate conflicts with someone else’s). A possible solution would be to create different versions of the teaching lesson, or try and reach a compromise.
Retrofitting existing digital materials is nearly impossible – The combination of rich media – text, audio, images and video/animations and the multi-faceted sophistication of CMS/LMS will make this endevour an impossible one for a learning centre. One solution would be to carefully review digital material the educator plans to assign for accessibility, and assign materials that are accessible.
Accessible tech plays an important role in inclusion of disabled learners, both educationally and socially, through disability acceptance and making sure learners aren’t left out and left behind. It enhances all learners’ learning experiences, not just disabled learners’. Some barriers to having accessible tech exist, but solutions can sometimes be found. It is vital to make sure the materials are accessible from the start so that everyone can reap the benefits.
Within this topic, we have discussed the actual ways in which an educator or a learning centre can include technology items or apps within the proposed curricula.
We have discussed the difference between accessibility technology and accessible tech, we provided some examples of accessible as well as inaccessible tech.
Also, we have presented the way in which an educator can make the materials accessible for his learners, the way in which remote education (the greatest challenge of year 2020) can be made available to learners and also, we have presented some barriers that can stand in the way when using accessible technology.