Why and How to Ensure Digital Accessibility in Education
Digital accessibility is critical in all aspects today and is especially of paramount importance in the education industry. It paves the way for education accessibility, allowing every student to access the same online content and have the same virtual experiences.
Digital accessibility in education refers to ensuring that all users, including people with disabilities, can consume and operate with web content, mobile apps, software, and other media forms. For example, students with vision-related issues may be able to read a web blog with screen reading software.
Digital accessibility in schools and colleges can dramatically increase accessibility in education. But how can institutions go about making educational content accessible? Let’s understand.
How can Institutions Ensure Digital Accessibility?
Here are the top things educational institutions can do to deliver accessible education:
Conduct Compliance Checks
The first step is to check the items in scope and understand their compliance levels with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). You can use WCAG to produce information or statements on your website for all systems.
This stage requires a significant amount of time. You may need to gather accessibility information from suppliers to get clarity. This compliance-driven approach also enables engaging with internal and external stakeholders, which then enables error-free monitoring.
Create Monitoring Structures
To oversee digital accessibility in education centers, you can set up groups of subject matter experts from various areas to monitor digital accessibility matters. They can undertake tasks, like risk management, ensuring regulatory ADA compliance for documents, and promotion of good practice.
The working group must report to a central committee and also steer relevant groups.
Embed Into Strategy and Institutional Processes
Institutions tend to accommodate people with disabilities. And though this is well-intentioned, it is a reactive approach. To ensure education accessibility through digital accessibility, institutes must take a proactive approach where complying with digital accessibility standards is weaved into the systems when setting them up.
If the system is not accessible, the supplier is supposed to provide a roadmap to make it accessible. Additionally, you may require training members to facilitate accessibility in schools, colleges, and universities.
What are the Benefits of Digital Accessibility in Education?
Here are the top benefits that come from digital accessibility in education:
Equal Access to Learning Resources
Digital accessibility ensures that everyone has equal access to content. For example, a person with a visual impairment may use a screen reader to read the content. Similarly, visual content may be designed keeping color blindness in mind and written content may be designed with an awareness of dyslexia and other similar issues.
The universal design benefits everyone and makes education more inclusive.
If students with disabilities are not able to perceive, read, and experience learning content like others, they may not be able to invest themselves completely. This can decrease their engagement as well as motivation dramatically.
With the help of digital accessibility, students can take an active interest in the study material, which can make them more confident and better learners. The goal is to ensure that no student feels excluded.
Collaborative lessons can teach students essential life skills like interpersonal skills, teamwork, communication skills, critical thinking, etc. And this is only possible if each student is given an equal opportunity to learn.
Digital accessibility in education makes collaborative learning more inclusive since all students, irrespective of their disabilities or impairments get a fair chance at it.
Efficient Use of EdTech
EdTech or education technology consists of laptop computers, projectors, interactive whiteboards, smartphones, and other similar devices that make collaboration and communication easier. EdTech can also accommodate different learning styles to break any barriers.
By ensuring digital accessibility, all students can access the same technology so that students with disabilities or impairments are not excluded. This ensures that everyone gets a quality education.
Competitiveness in a Digital World
Being able to consume, create, and share information or content digitally is critical to stay competitive in today’s highly digital world. Moreover, digital literacy is a prerequisite in almost all industries today. Digital accessibility enables students with disabilities to learn this in-demand skill so they can get equal opportunities as their peers after education.
By understanding the importance of digital literacy, educational institutes can level the playing field and increase their brand value in this highly competitive sector. As a result, it benefits both parties – the students as well as the institute.
So, understand where you stand in terms of digital accessibility and work through the roadblocks if you haven’t already ensured accessibility in education.
Emilie Brown works with the Digital Marketing team at PREP, an AI-based remediation software that enables businesses to create WCAG and ADA-compliant PDFs in minutes. Her approach and methodology are simple, concise, and to the point and connect with readers seeking solution-driven content on topics related to accessibility and remediation. Apart from her time at work, she loves to spend time with her dog, volunteer, and play her guitar.