Accessibility: what is it and why does it matter?

What is accessibility?

Accessibility means shifting our focus away from after-the-fact “retrofitting” of the curriculum in order to prioritize the design of teaching and learning experiences that can benefit all students.

Its helpful to keep the principles of UDL at hand when designing accessible teaching and learning experiences. These allow us to design for student variability, which is the norm rather than the exception.Screen Shot 2020-09-30 at 3.41.24 PM

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Accessibility is also important when providing and creating curriculum materials, such as textbooks/workbooks, novels, assignments, websites and evaluation materials.

What’s especially important is that these materials work well with the assistive technologies that we have available for our students at EMSB. What does this look like in our schools? Some examples are below:

  • Sam, a high school student, needs to complete a research project in science. When reading articles on the web, they use text to speech with Read & Write for Google Chrome to read the text out loud. Sam finds that listening and following along with the highlighted text helps to understand the text better. 
  • Alex, an elementary student, uses word prediction in WordQ to write a response to a writing prompt that was assigned by their teacher. This helps to bypass spelling difficulties that would otherwise take a lot of effort and reduce the flow of ideas.
  • James, a high school student, needs to use a keyboard due to difficulty writing with a pencil. For history, they use a digital workbook in an accessible PDF format that can be written on using the Texthelp PDF Reader. 
  • Jordan, an elementary student, needs picture support to help illustrate complex vocabulary words in the text. As they read an assignment with Immersive Reader in WordOnline, words can be defined with the Boardmaker picture dictionary symbols to support comprehension.

These are just a few examples. We’ve got many more to share! For more information on accessibility at EMSB, or to ask about increasing accessibility in your classroom, please contact the assistive technology consultants. 

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