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Accessible Learning Resources

Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended guidelines for accessible learning resources.

Accessible Learning Resources

Students with disabilities should be able to access all learning resources that are available to their non-disabled classmates, including:

  • Textbooks
  • Handouts
  • Videos
  • Diagrams
  • Maps

Similarly, all students should have access to the audio and visual contents of lessons. Moreover, this equal access should happen in a timely manner. Otherwise, students who receive resources later will have less time to learn, complete assignments, and study for tests.

For instance, the Ministry of Education should ensure that any learning resources it procures from third parties are accessible. In other words, it should be the supplier’s responsibility to make resources accessible. If a resource is not accessible, the Ministry should not use the resource in its schools.

For example, any videos that a teacher shows in class should include closed captioning and audio description. These communication supports have the potential to help many students, including students who are:

  • Deaf or hard of hearing
  • English language learners
  • Blind or visually impaired

Therefore, teachers should only show videos if they include captions and audio description.

Likewise, all students should be able to access their textbooks in a timely manner. Therefore, the Ministry of Education should require textbook publishers to produce books in accessible formats, or formats that are conversion-ready. For example, accessible digital versions of textbooks, such as Microsoft Word files, should be available at the same time as hard-copy print textbooks. School boards can easily convert these files into other accessible formats, such as Braille text with tactile diagrams and maps. School boards should only use textbooks if their publishers can provide accessible or conversion-ready formats.

In short, school boards should have procedures to procure learning resources that are fully accessible to all their students. Furthermore, school boards should share resources, so that students throughout the province have timely access to learning materials.

Accessible Online Learning

Similarly, learning resources available online should also be fully accessible. School boards should only use online learning platforms that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. Moreover, online curriculum should be delivered in ways that meet the needs of students with a variety of disabilities. For instance, students should be able to access online lessons, assessments, and discussion forums using assistive technology, such as:

  • Speech recognition
  • Screen reading or screen magnification software
  • Input devices other than a mouse

Flexible strategies for online instruction will enable more students to learn, and to build their school community at a distance.

Student Self-Assessment

In addition, the Committee recommends that students should learn to assess how accessible their learning is. When students understand how to explain what accessible learning methods work best for them, they can provide vital feedback for teachers and other school staff. If students alert staff when they find lessons or resources inaccessible, staff can find alternative teaching techniques.