Access Is An Equity Issue
When students have difficulty accessing information and materials during virtual learning, it is not only a learning problem, it is an equity issue. Students who struggle to access their digital-learning materials are immediately at a disadvantage, and they may often struggle to reach their full learning potential. At the very least, they will be forced to work much harder to achieve the same level of success as students who can easily access the resources.
This inequity of access comes in many forms. At the most basic level, students might not have access to usable technology or internet connections. Some—even if they have reliable technology—may not read well, or they may struggle with a learning disability, such as dyslexia. Other students may have a vision impairment or hearing loss. Any of these challenges can prevent students from accessing the learning materials during a lesson, and these barriers can continue to manifest themselves throughout the learning process. If information is presented exclusively as text, students who struggle to read will be at a disadvantage. If videos are shown without closed captions, students with hearing loss will be unable to fully engage in the content.
As educators, we need to do as much as we can to support all of our students and to empower them with the skills and tools they need to overcome these barriers.
What Can Teachers Do To Improve Accessibility?
Admittedly, it can be very challenging to meet every student’s unique learning needs. Still, we need to try, and technology can help level the opportunity field. A good place to start is in designing lessons that apply Universal Design for Learning principles. Another important step is to provide students with assistive technology tools and strategies. Both of these approaches can empower students and increase their chances of success. A well-designed lesson with a variety of learning options sets students up for success, and teaching them how to better access content through the use of assistive technology can empower students to own their learning, not only during the lesson at hand but even after they leave our classrooms.You can explore what teachers can do for students, as well as what students can do for themselves, in the Design for Accessibility With the Universal Design for Learning Process and Empower Students With Accessibility Tools articles. These two topics complement each other well, and together, they can help you better differentiate instruction and improve information access for all of your learners.
As you prepare your classroom for the fall, consider how these concepts can be integrated into your remote-teaching practices. If you are able to meet with your students face-to-face, these concepts still apply. They are best practices that can be applied to any learning environment.
Extend Your Learning
- About Universal Design for Learning (CAST)
- The UDL Guidelines (CAST)
- Assistive Technology Basics (Understood)
- Distance Learning: 6 UDL Best Practices for Online Learning (Understood)