February 23, 2022
What key ingredients around ICT need to be in place for learners with disabilities to be successful? What does this look like in practice? How can different actors contribute?
These were the topics addressed by USAID Disability Inclusive Education Specialist Josh Josa, representing All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development, during a panel at the Global Disabilities Summit on February 16. ACR GCD, a partnership between USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government, has focused on identifying and bringing to scale the most promising EdTech solutions for addressing barriers to ensure children with disabilities learn to read.
Josa drew on lessons learned from evaluations conducted on ACR GCD funded projects for students who are blind or low vision to highlight key ingredients that need to be in place for EdTech to be successful for learners with disabilities, including:
- Organizational capacity to support students with disabilities, which greatly impacts the quality of the intervention
- A close match between the technologies provided, the needs of students, and the skills of teachers to use the technology and work with the student
- Students who appear to be willing to use technologies—and enjoy using them.
- Engaged parent and guardian, which appears to be critical to student success
- Reading materials produced locally, especially at the school level, which can greatly improve student access to accessible learning materials
- Engagement with government stakeholders, which can enhance project rollout and potential for future scaling
Josa highlighted ACR GCD solutions as examples of what successful ICT solutions for learners with disabilities looks like in practice, including accessible books in underserved languages, digital libraries, accessible book creation software, Accessible EPUB toolkit, and toolkits for Sign Language Storybook production. He also highlighted ACR GCD’s adapted reading assessments for children and youth who are blind and deaf, which were modified to better measure learning outcomes of children with disabilities more validly and reliably and to make assessments more inclusive.
Josa also announced a new collaboration between ACR GCD and the Girls’ Education Challenge, an initiative of the UK government, to develop a technical brief that will provide a framework to for funders, implementers and researchers to guide the development or implementation of more inclusive assessments.
Josa concluded with a call for equitable change, giving steps different actors can take to be part of the solution to advance literacy for children with disabilities. He called on publishers to commit to adopting accessible publishing standards, and NGO and educational practitioners to include persons with disabilities in their programs, including collaborating with local Organizations of Persons with Disabilities, and purchasing books for education programming that meet the needs of every child. He also called on government and donor orgationals to promote the collection of disability disaggregated data (see USAID guidance), ensure education programing efforts are disability inclusive, conduct assessments to identify equity gaps, set aside resources to address gaps and promote the hiring and retention of persons with disabilities.