ChallengeThe COVID-19 pandemic triggered an unprecedented learning crisis with over 770 million students out of school affected by the quarantine and stay at home orders. Students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the sudden shift to remote learning and are less likely to be included in learning opportunities due to inaccessible learning materials and inadequate teacher preparation. Moreover, in many low- and middle-income countries, a lack of resources, low proliferation of devices and assistive technologies and incomplete and inconsistent internet connectivity can present major barriers to access. With so many lacking the resources they need, an entire generation of students with disabilities may not be able to complete their education, and ultimately be held back from living full lives.
To combat this crisis, countries around the world are accelerating digital education and implementing new ways to distribute content to students, parents and teachers. To this end, resources supporting digital learning and remote education have been promoted by education stakeholders in an effort to provide as many options as possible. However, gaps in knowledge about accessible resources and tools continue to exist, largely due to:
- A lack of awareness of where to find accessible resources,
- A lack of understanding of what constitutes accessible materials,
- A lack of available materials in accessible or alternative formats - as of writing approximately 10% of materials for education are available in accessible formats.
Many platforms, solutions, tools and libraries are available to support digital and remote learning, however, few are compatible with accessibility requirements and many can be challenging to implement in contexts where connectivity is inconsistent.
In response to these gaps, resources and tools to support accessible digital learning have been curated into a catalog spanning open-source to paid solutions that are deployable in low- and high-resource environments and support the production, distribution and implementation of accessible digital content for education. Additional technical notes, guidance and examples of practice are also made available to support knowledge sharing. Through crowd-sourcing additional resources and examples the portal will continue to grow and serve as a global knowledge product to support inclusive education for learners with disabilities.
The Global Portal Includes:
- The accessible resources catalog - a searchable database of accessible content libraries, platforms, tools, authoring applications, mobile applications and assistive technologies in an easy to use interface.
- Implementation examples - demonstrating ways to implement accessible digital content and resources to support Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in classrooms, at home and on-the-go.
- Ecosystem of the accessible digital content & tools - an analysis of the digital content and tools pipeline from production, distribution, infrastructure to implementation in education settings.
- Resources - additional resources and guides to support the accessible digital learning both in at out of the classroom.
- Increase production, distribution and uptake of accessible materials globally.
- Improve cost-effectiveness of accessible content production.
- Make assistive technologies and tools more readily available.
- Strengthen accessibility in existing products and services.