A good article describing how “efficient” management of higher education conflicts with the social function of education. The focus of the article is shows ho Higher Education continues to resist effectively incorporating students with disabilities and the lip-service tactics used by too many institutions.

By law, universities are obligated to provide students with disabilities equal access to all facets of the educational experience. In today’s modern classrooms, that includes accessible educational technology. Providing instructional materials in a digital format instead of traditional print can allow students to access content in ways that best meet their needs, like having text read aloud or automatically translated into electronic braille. Such accessibility is absolutely possible if technologies are designed and coded for these applications from the start. Yet, most institutions do not ensure this access in products they build themselves or purchase from publishers and technology companies. This oversight has created an increasingly large chasm of access for students with disabilities in today’s digital higher education landscape.

Source: Boston Globe: On education technology, college lobbyists are keeping disabled students behind

As the NFB points out that institutions are not buying accessible content.

Technology exists to remedy this discrimination, but postsecondary institutions are not investing in accessibility. Innovations in text-to-speech, refreshable Braille, and other technologies have created promise for equal access for disabled students; yet an unacceptable number of postsecondary institutions do not make it a priority to purchase accessible technology. Schools are buying inaccessible instructional materials and then separate, accessible items on an ad-hoc basis for students with disabilities. Some resort merely to retrofitting the inaccessible technology, which sometimes makes accessibility worse. Until postsecondary institutions harness their purchasing power, the market for accessible instructional materials will remain limited, and disabled students will continue to be left behind.

Source: Braille Monitor : The Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH)

However, many institutions view accommodation as a “tack on” support rather adopting universal design principles for curricular delivery systems. More often that not accommodations are offered to late or in only one format. Calling material accessible because a “JAWS ver. X.x” user can access is not accessibility. Students access content from multiple devices, and increasingly this means smart devices.  Adoption of smart devices is greater that 80% and many of these have great a screen reader and accessibility tools yet colleges continue to test against outdated technologies and insist students downgrade. This is not an acceptable policy nor does it recognize that disability is not necessarily a binary state. It isn’t just about being visually impaired, all of us can benefit at times from being able to listen to content instead of only reading, maybe listening and reading that hard to understand concept would help. Dyslexia and other disabilities, even temporary ones, can require the use of read text, modern screen readers have a much lower learning curve and can be useful where short-term disability might strike.

 

 

 

 

 

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