The most effective approach to know from where to start supporting your students and providing inclusive digital distance education is getting advice from people who work in this field. Professionals of the digital accessibility world and social inclusion and those who work for (student) supporting organisations are the ones that know the tips and tricks for providing inclusive education. It is advisable to do so because no silver bullet method suits your local regulations, educational context and student-specific needs. Therefore, the recommended workflow is the following:
- Look if the information you need is contained in the following FAQ section.
- Contact the student support service of your HEI.
- Find information at your local social inclusion ruling organism. It can provide you with your local legal requirements and the guidelines and best practices applicable to your field.
- The local training centres for people with disabilities are experts on ATs and how people with disabilities work.
- Find reliable organisations and experts on distance digital teaching on the Internet.
- I am going to teach a student with X disability. Do I have to teach them separately or should I teach them together with the rest of the students?
It depends on the individual needs and abilities of the learner and the support resources available. In any case, it is always preferable to take an inclusive approach in which the student is tough together with their peers. This benefits everyone, as the student with a disability improves their social and communication skills, while their peers can learn about diversity and empathy. Note that it is possible to provide accommodations while keeping the inclusive approach. This is done, for instance, in the case of students with hearing impairment, by providing sign language interpreters or live transcripts.
Usually, the choice of non-inclusive solutions is based on the lack of adequate support resources. This does not mean that all needs can be covered by inclusive approaches. In order to find out the right kind of support is of paramount importance to be flexible, empathise with the student, and collaborate with student support service in your HEI.
You may find related information in the “Understand student accessibility needs” page of the eTeACHERS toolkit.
- Is my Educational Material (EM) accessible?
When it comes to online teaching, it depends on the type of digital format used for each EM. Then, you have to check the accessibility following the suggested procedures for each type of digital format. You may find useful information in the page “Check the accessibility of the educational material” in the eTeACHERS toolkit.
- How can I make my EM accessible?
It depends on the type of digital content (see: Accessible digital content) and the tools you use to create the EM (see: Tools for creating accessible content).
- Is my EM suitable to my student with X disability?
This is a reasonable question after having made sure that the EM complies with the accessibility standards.
To get an answer, you need to know a little about ATs, types and limitations (see: Understand the uses of the assistive technologies) and about the specific needs and abilities of your student. The pages “Identify student user groups” and “Assess individual student needs” could be helpful to understand the potential issues.
In any case, asking the student support service is always advisable. They can inform you whether your material is usable by the student as is or needs further adaptations.
- How does my student with X disability actually work? How they perceive my EM?
See: “Understand the uses of the assistive technologies” page. There you can find information not only about ATs but also how AT-users work and perceive the EM.
- What are the Assistive Technologies (AT) the students may use?
The most used ATs in online teaching are:
- Mobility aids that tackle physical disabilities. Eg. adaptive switches and trackballs.
- Communication aids. Eg. speech-to-text software and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.
- Hearing aids. Eg. assistive listening devices.
- Vision aids. Eg. screen magnifiers and screen readers.
Find out more in the page “Understand the uses of the assistive technologies” of the eTeACHERS toolkit.
- How can I deliver my students accessible EM?
You may find yourself with accessible EM but not knowing how to deliver it efficiently to your students. This is not an uncommon issue for educators.
- As in most issues related to inclusive education, the first step is to understand the needs of our students.
- The second step is getting information about the communications channels available for communicating with students and their accessibility capabilities.
- If a LMS is used in your HEI then it should be accessible for people with disabilities. Then, students can get the EM directly from it. For more info go to the page “Learning Management Systems”.
- Otherwise, you have to choose an available communication channel suitable to most of your students. You should pay extra attention to the accessibility of the communication channel which usually is Web or email for asynchronous communication and video-conference or instant messaging software for synchronous communication. For more info go to the pages “Web” and “Tutoring”.