How Schools Can Advance Accessibility and Equity (3-minute read)

Vector of a pencil on book stacks bridging the gap in primary education for children passing by.

Pandemic learning showcased the state of accessibility and education equity across the U.S. Advancing education for all students starts with reevaluating what inclusive education means at your school.

How to reevaluate inclusive education

To advance accessibility and promote education equity, one assistive technology specialist believes teachers should reevaluate these 3 inclusive education myths:

Myth 1: Assistive technology is only for special education students

Myth 2: Universal Design for Learning is just another education fad

Myth 3: Students need Individualized Education Plans to qualify for special services or accommodations

Incorporate humor into class time

Humor goes hand-in-hand with educational strategies that promote the creation of safe and inclusive learning environments where kids feel comfortable learn. Lightening the mood can teach kids to cope with stress and associate learning with fun. Read more about using humor here.

Use flexible, accessible and equitable edtech

Assistive technology tools are necessary for education equity because almost 65 percent of special education students spend at least 80 percent of their class time in general education classes, according to Education Week. This comingling of cohorts is a great opportunity to use accessible edtech that benefits all students. Document cameras are one tool that can bring materials front and center to engage all students.

While IPEVO document cameras for education come with free and paid apps that expand accessibility (keyboard accessibility, reading aids, voice-over support, and a text-to-speech converter), the company’s cameras also have features that promote collaboration. Using IPEVO document cameras, teachers can capture camera images onto screens or tablets and then annotate lessons or easily share and magnify content for everyone in the classroom. And because these document cameras are portable, students can present content from their desks. Teachers can even support a flipped classroom by taking their document cameras home to create and record content.

Digital doesn’t always mean accessible

Creating digital documents for students to access at home or in the classroom presents a unique challenge for teachers. Simply creating a digital document does not ensure the document is accessible. Foxit PDF Editor is a must-have tool for teachers who need to create digital and accessible learning materials. Teachers don’t even need to be a pro at accessibility — Foxit PDF Editor’s automation tools streamlines this task.  

How Foxit PDF Editor advances accessibility

  • Create documents that are accessible and compliant (Section 508, ADA, WCAG)
  • Convert paper media to digital, remediate, and auto-tag PDF documents to verify contents are accessible
  • Adjust content reading order, add alternative text, and enhance color contrast for the visually impaired
  • Save time with automation tools that evaluate and tag multiple documents simultaneously

With tools like Foxit, teachers can focus on the quality of the content they create instead of stressing over the whether or not their digital hand-outs are accessible.

Address teacher shortage

The special education teacher shortage is a bigger problem than the shortage of non-special education teachers because schools experienced trouble recruiting for special education programs years before the pandemic hit. As of April 22, 2022, all states are experiencing insufficient special education staff, according to NPR. Many states have been lowering teacher standards and accepting candidates like substitutes without special education licenses as long as these candidates are working towards their certification.Hawaii is one state that is getting serious about hiring more special education teachers. To make special education positions appealing, Hawaii has increased pay by $10,000, but this pay increase can only last as long as funds are available. Read the NPR story here.

To give special education students their best chance at academic success, schools need fully trained teachers who are not afraid to try new accessibility tools that can advance education equity. We hope this article gives you a starting point for finding the right tools for your classroom or your education customers.

We want to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sources:

https://www.k12dive.com/news/3-inclusive-education-myths-busted/616717/

https://www.npr.org/2022/04/20/1093764116/a-special-ed-teacher-shortage-is-getting-worse-but-one-fix-is-catching-on

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