Accessibility.com kicked off the fall back-to-school season with an event that addressed accessibility in today’s changing educational landscape. Scott Ready, Global Head of Accessibility & Inclusion at Verbit, spoke at the event and shared his decades of experience in education and accessibility.
The webinar, Class is in Session: The ABCs of Accessibility in Education delved into how educators can support student accessibility in their classrooms and online. Leaders in the education industry can watch Ready and Accessibility.com discuss why and how accessibility is essential for today’s schools.
Why to watch
Most educators understand that they must provide certain accommodations to students with disabilities. However, knowing the specific actions to take to achieve true accessibility can be challenging.
Education has also changed in recent years, meaning that accessibility solutions also need to evolve. In particular, online education forces instructors to look at new tools and technology to support their students.
In the current landscape, it might not always be clear whether something is a legal requirement, a moral obligation or a best practice. The panel addressed these issues and worked through students’ expectations in today’s schools.
Meeting a panel of experts
The event featured three experts with unique perspectives on accessibility in education. Darcy Hardy of Anthology Inc. and Bryan Gould of the National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH joined Ready and give educators the tools they need to plan a successful school year.
Ready is a renowned accessibility advocate with more than 20 years of experience in education and over three decades of work in accessibility. As a Verbit Company, AST works closely with Ready and benefits from the wisdom he gained through his unique background.
In addition to his professional experience, Ready’s personal background helped shape his perspective. Both of Ready’s parents taught at the Missouri School for the Deaf. Growing up, Ready’s first language was American Sign Language. As a result, Ready’s been following and influencing accessibility-related trends throughout his life.
Now that the accessibility needs of educational institutions are changing, Ready is a valuable source of information and insights.
As Director of the Center for Advancing Learning (CAL) at Anthology Inc., Hardy has a clear view of the way technology is changing education. She specializes in the online learning ecosystem and its interaction with all facets of educational institutions. Additionally, Hardy is the Chair Emerita with the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) and the founder of the International Forum for Women in E-Learning. Hardy’s 25 years as an educator in the public school system also give her a rich background and intimate understanding of educators’ and students’ needs.
As the Director of the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH, Gould works closely with non-profits and corporations to address accessibility standards and solutions. Gould has 25+ years of experience researching and developing accessibility solutions for people who are blind. Gould’s publications include the STEM Image Description Guidelines, which many academic institutions adopted to provide STEM-focused audio descriptions to their students.
Understanding students’ evolving needs
According to Ready, one topic for the panel was the changing expectations of students regarding accommodations.
“Having experienced education being delivered remotely, students are more forthright in requesting adjustments and accommodations in order to better succeed,” said Ready.
When schools had to adapt to online learning during the pandemic, many students started to speak up about what they needed from their educators. Universities were already in a state of adaptation, so perhaps they were more receptive to those requests.
Institutions that listen to their students are wise. With declining enrollment rates, universities must do everything possible to attract new students. Many of the individuals who are pursuing higher education are now nontraditional students. Hybrid and remote course offerings tend to help support these students who may have family or work obligations in addition to their coursework.
The panel will discuss the importance of making these flexible options accessible. Additionally, they’ll cover ways to provide support and accommodations in a virtual learning environment.
Discussing the costs students pay for inaccessibility
Lori Litz or Accessibility Plus pointed out, “When we prohibit specific demographics from access to areas of education, we limit the pathways in life they can travel.” Inaccessibility is an unacceptable barrier that prevents many students from achieving their academic and career goals.
For example, if a class doesn’t offer captions or another tool that a student relies on, they won’t be able to participate in that course. That barrier to participation can limit the subjects a person can study or the universities they can attend.
“By bringing awareness of the need for digital accessibility in classrooms and eLearning to the front of educators, administrators, and students’ minds, we start to bridge the gap that has excluded many people from achieving careers and obtaining the education that so many of us take for granted,” said Litz.
The event will help expand on this concept and relate it to real-world challenges that educators are facing.
Watch and learn more about the evolving education trends
The many changes to the field of education are prompting the need for more discussions between industry experts. For instance, virtual learning has progressed far faster than education and accessibility-related laws. As a result, the requirements for accommodations in online settings may not always be clear. This webinar offers an opportunity to better understand these challenges from individuals who are up to date on the latest trends in education.
AST, a Verbit Company, is a valuable accessibility partner for educational institutions worldwide. Watch and find out what Scott Ready and the rest of the panel had to say about this timely subject.