Accessibility for All!

Accessibility for all is really the entry-level. All students should have the tools they need to access the curriculum. I believe we all can, and should, agree to that as educators. Our goal is for all students to be independent learners. We want our students to be able to recognize what they need to access the information in front of them, select any needed tools they need and then access what they need to be able to apply it to their task at hand.

So, as a district, or a member of a district curriculum team, how do we assure that the proper tools are available to our students? Here are some steps you can take and areas that you should start to think about.

  • What devices do you have and do all the students have access to them?
    • If you are not 1:1 how do students request access to the devices they need?
    • How do teachers and administrators request access to devices their students need? What is in place within the building to make sure the students that need the devices can get them?
  • What accessibility features are available directly within the devices you have? No longer are the days when individual, isolated, devices are needed for basic accessibility features. Now all devices have many of the features we need already added to the general features.
    • If you work at a district that has Chromebooks refer to my ‘Accessibility for All’ presentation at the end of this post for what is available within these devices. If you have iPads similar, if now exact, features are available on them as well (simply go to your settings, accessibility).
    • These basic features include select to speak, dictation, enlarging the font, adjusting cursor speed and size, color contrast and more.
  • What applications are still needed in addition to these basic features within your device?
    • You still might have features that would help many, and this will be applications that you add to your network to be available for all. Two examples of these that I recommend are Read and Write for Google and Kami.  Both add accessibility features and give you, I believe, the biggest ‘bang for your buck’ as a district.
    • What is the process for teachers and administrators to request other applications that are not available but would meet specific student needs? This should be your Special Education Department and embedded within your Committee on Special Education Meetings. It also might be embedded within your building Child Study Teams. No matter where this process falls there needs to be communication between all parties, including your technology department to assure the applications will address specific needs, be user-friendly for students and compatible with the infrastructure and hardware within your district.
  • How will you educate your administrators, teachers, and staff on what is available and how they work?
    • What is the process for students being trained on how to use these features? (Because again our goal is for them to know about them, see how these features can help them and independently apply them in their own learning.)
    • This is one of the most critical pieces, and unfortunately one of the most overlooked. All the greatest tools won’t matter if the student doesn’t understand how to use it to help them, and the teachers don’t know how to teach the students how to best utilize it to improve learning.

As a district take some time to go through these questions and look at your existing available technology. Then take some time to review your processes and educate your administrators, teachers, and staff as to what is available and how it can help students learn.

Here is the presentation I’ve been working with when I teach staff on the features that are available. It highlights built-in accessibility features in Chromebooks,  Read & Write for Google, Kami and some other misc. apps that are available at little to no cost.

If you have any questions or other features that you would recommend please leave a comment below!

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