Equal Accessibility: Digital Inclusion Advantage in Education

Sameena Mahmood

Sameena Mahmood

March 16, 2022

As digital audiences expand, the demand for digital accessibility to support inclusion is getting louder. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that organizations cannot afford to exclude any section of their audience in any industry, be it retail, healthcare, or education. A study from WHO estimates that at least 2.2 billion people live with visual impairments, underlining the need to ensure that this demographic does not feel left out when it comes to accessing online content. This need for greater digital inclusivity and accessibility assumes special significance in the development-oriented education discipline. Educators and learners are now embracing online and hybrid learning, and the time is ripe to adopt accessibility technologies to help every learner and teacher flourish.

Inaccessible Education

The hard fact is that 3% of the world and 1% of North American students suffer from visual impairment. Most visually impaired high school students are forced to discontinue their education because of their inability to keep pace with other students. They begin to lose interest in education when they discover that course materials are not designed with them in mind and are difficult to access or consume. Unfortunately, all educational institutions, including schools and universities, tend to presume that only a few students are inconvenienced by technological inaccessibility – a dangerous assumption that creates a disbalanced and an unequal learning environment. Clearly, there is an urgent need for sensitization among educators and change makers to make education equally accessible to all the populations across segments.

Prioritizing Remediation in the Education Industry

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act, all educational institutions are required to treat all students without discrimination. To remove barriers, many educational institutions are now paying attention and starting to comprehend the need for creating accessible material including websites, admission portals, surveys, course materials, and assignments. Enabling digital accessibility would assist students with visual impairment or low-to-poor vision to operate and interact independently with their educational institution.

Holistic Remediation at Scale

Ensuring digital accessibility for the visually impaired cannot be treated merely as a check-the-box exercise for meeting government guidelines. Making institutions digitally accessible and inclusive to everyone is morally the right thing to do. By doing so, institutions can ensure they help every student dream big and achieve their goals. Though there are tools in the market to address digital accessibility challenges, most educational institutions are skeptical of their performance as they cannot guarantee a high level of remediation accuracy. The underutilization is self-restricting, and causes delays in creating valuable materials that can cater to differently-abled students.

The pandemic has sped up the adoption of technology such as AR, VR, AI in education and has reopened the discussion on digital accessibility in a big way. Using technology, the education industry can now provide visually challenged students the same opportunities as sighted students, and promise an equal learning experience. They can consume the same textbook or material in text or audio or braille format. When students realize that they can access their education-related materials and study like sighted students, they will strive to excel and progress, and ultimately, achieve their dreams.

Accessibility for Change and Inclusion

RRD RemediAd is an assistive technology designed specifically for the community of people - including students - with low to poor vision. RemediAd converts online PDF documents into accessible information by tagging, and as a result, helps remove learning or communication barriers. In a nutshell, remediation is not really an option, but a necessity for the online education industry, and a chance to plug the accessibility gap in most websites. While several remediation players in the market lack end-to-end solutions, RRD incorporates AI and human intelligence to ensure attention to every detail, from start to finish, irrespective of volume or complexity.