It’s officially back-to-school season. For most students, this means checking out their classes and making sure they have all the learning materials they need. For students with disabilities, however, the latter comes with a challenge, because not all textbooks are available in an accessible format. Every student should have access to quality education, especially as online learning becomes the new norm amidst the pandemic. That’s why accessible textbooks and learning materials must be a priority in order to ensure every student has the tools they need to succeed.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss how accessible textbooks can empower all students and enhance their learning experience.
What are accessible textbooks?
Accessible textbooks are essentially e-versions of print textbooks with added accessibility features. These features are designed to make learning materials accessible to students who are blind or have low vision, to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and to those who have intellectual, developmental or learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. These features can include text-to-speech (TTS) to narrate text out loud, audio descriptions of images, and customization options for font colour and size. The best part about accessible textbooks is that they can actually enrich the learning experience for all students because they present information in a more interactive way, since students can customize the way they study unique to their needs.
Why Accessible Education Matters
Education should be challenging for all learners, but the added challenge for students with disabilities is struggling to adapt to traditional forms of teaching that use a “one size fits all” approach. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 7.3 million public school students in the United States received special education services in 2019-2020. Every student is unique in the way they retain information, which is why it is important to develop tools that provide them with a level playing field and equal opportunities for success. Unfortunately, the consequences of inadequate learning environments can impact the success of a student beyond their school years. Not only are students with disabilities less likely to complete post-secondary education, they are also less likely to attain employment in comparison to their peers without disabilities. According to Statistics Canada, persons with disabilities have lower personal income compared to those without disabilities, and almost one-third of working age adults with more severe disabilities are living in poverty.
Mental health is also an important factor to consider, because the impact of an inaccessible education system goes beyond the economic repercussions. Most recent data from the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada for Canadian students aged 15 or over showed that three out of five youth with disabilities have a mental health-related disability. With implications that the after-effects of COVID-19 have increased anxiety amongst students learning online, there is a strong case for the need to find a solution for accessible education in all forms.
How InclusiveDocs can contribute to accessible learning
Our platform provides fully accessible digital editions of learning materials equipped with accessibility features like text-to-speech and customization options. InclusiveDocs is also designed to make learning from home easier, since students can access their learning materials through their desktop computers or any mobile device connected to the internet.