- With 6.6 million students receiving special education services in the 2014-15 school year (the latest for which data is available), services and tools that support their learning experience have become more important than ever.
- According to EdTech: Focus on K-12, increases in accessibility from new and existing assistive technology are helping educators provide these students with more personalized learning opportunities, utilizing Universal Design for Learning approaches that help in the development of lesson plans that can play to any student's individual strengths.
- The publication notes that Microsoft's OneNote is among the most accessible, and that these advancements are also helping students in special education take advantage of opportunities in STEM areas like robotics and computational thinking.
When procuring technology for the classroom, a major pitfall can be overlooking accessibility features. This should be one of the first levels of questioning any vendor is put through. Does a platform or application have text-to-speech for students who are blind or vision-impaired? Is it accessible to students who might be colorblind and, as a result, unable to read text or view graphics if certain colors are used in combination? Do videos have subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing? These and other factors must all be explored.
At the higher ed level, the problem is such that the Campus Computing Project's Casey Green has called it a "lawsuit waiting to happen" during the past three Educause conferences.
But beyond the tech, educators should ensure — especially in inclusive classrooms that pair special education students with their peers — that all assignments have opportunities for each student to play to their particular strengths. As the old critical saying often recited in regard to standardized testing goes, you wouldn't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, so why would you measure a student on their ability to perform in a single format?