By Stacey Pusey
April 11th, 2019
Rockville, MD: If we want to help every child reach his or her potential, we need to take the appropriate steps
While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was last reauthorized in 2004, with amendments in 2015, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) updated back in 2008, the demand for accessibility and equality in education continues to grow. Administrators and teachers, who want to help every child reach their potential, can’t afford to wait for new laws and policies. To ensure accessibility, educators need to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of accessibility initiatives, advocate for resources for their students, and anticipate where they need to go next.
During the edWebinar “Accessibility: Effective, Equitable Learning Environments for All Students,” which is part of a series hosted by CoSN and edWeb.net, the presenters discussed how they approach CoSN’s five steps to ensure accessibility.
5 steps we need to take to ensure accessibility and equality in education
Step 1: Stay current with federal and state legislation.
First, every district needs an administrator who stays current on federal and state laws regarding compliance. That person then disseminates information as needed to principals, teachers, etc. The presenters also recommended reaching out to colleagues, staying in touch with state associations, and in general having an ear out for any changes.
Step 2: Develop and communicate a district-wide policy for accessibility including guidelines for accessible purchasing.
The onus is on the district leadership to create accessibility compliance policies for teachers as well as the materials they use. Previously, when talking with vendors about accessibility, the conversations didn’t go very far, but now they are able to discuss it in depth. Both sides need to do their due diligence to remove barriers to student learning. All policies should be regularly communicated to all constituents and readily available upon request.
Step 3: Build staff capacity.
Accessibility is the responsibility of all educators, staff, and administrators. All staff should receive regular professional development on the district’s guidelines and topics related to accessibility.
Step 4: Conduct regular accessibility audits.
Like professional development, audits shouldn’t be done once a year. Educators need to perform regular evaluations of how the policies, teaching strategies, technology, curriculum, etc., are being implemented and the impact on student achievement. Educators should also talk to the parents to find out their views on accessibility. The goal is to determine where there are gaps and inequities, and the school needs to understand what’s happening outside of the classroom.
Step 5: Set expectations. Model accountability.
Starting with the district office, all staff need to follow the accessibility policies. They need to be a part of the normal, everyday procedures.
Most important, we must ensure accessibility is not limited to any one group of kids or description. All of the presenters go beyond what’s required by the law to make sure that every student who needs assistance receives it.