November 29, 2021
More than 93 million children globally have a disability, and of those who reside in countries with high poverty levels, at least 90 percent do not attend school. Factors like a lack of suitable transportation and infrastructure, inadequate teacher training, or a dearth of quality learning resources prevent children with disabilities from attending or fully participating in school, leaving them among the most marginalized in access to education.
This challenge has been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the UN reports a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools, impacting more than 91 per cent of students worldwide. Children with disabilities face an even higher risk of poor outcomes due to more pronounced social isolation, lack of tailored public health messaging and even further barriers in accessing school and education.
Without new and innovative solutions, we risk leaving the most marginalized children even further behind their peers in learning–especially reading, a foundational skill for a child to learn and succeed in school and a proven driver in reducing poverty.
Educational technology provides an opportunity to bridge these gaps and provide solutions for children with disabilities, both at home or at school. EdTech solutions are shown to improve reading outcomes for marginalized children in low-resource and crisis contexts, including children with disabilities.
At All Children Reading Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD), our mission is to advance EdTech innovation and research to improve reading outcomes for marginalized children in low-resource contexts–and at this critical time for children with disabilities, we encourage you to take action to increase literacy opportunities for these children in your work and programming.
- If you are a policy- or decision-maker in education, you can dramatically transform systems and policies to become more inclusive. Push for meaningful investments in and use of innovations that increase access to local sign languages and advance language and literacy learning for children and innovative solutions and teaching and learning materials for children who are blind or low vision, or deaf or hard of hearing. Take time to learn about research and lessons learned from these approaches that can help education implementers make informed decisions about how to support the literacy and learning needs of children with disabilities. And include persons with disabilities in decision making and leadership. ACR GCD includes people with disabilities in all we do, not only to meet their needs but to ensure they are a part of the solution to poverty we hope to build.
- If you are an educator in a low-resource context, one action you can take is to learn about using Information Communications Technologies (ICT) to implement Universal Design for Learning, which can help you present information to learners of different abilities using a variety of methods and allow learners to express their understanding of the knowledge in personally meaningful ways. Another action is to seek out opportunities to learn about tools you need to ensure children with disabilities are included in your reading programs–like open source resources like book creation software, online libraries, reading assessments and more. Or learn how to access thousands of free e-books in underserved languages on resources like Global Digital Library, the World Around You, Kitkit School, Bloom and Bookshare. These resources contain free and high-quality early learning books in accessible formats, including audio narration, image description, sign language video, talking books, books for the visually impaired, and content for people with print disabilities, including people with dyslexia, cerebral palsy and other reading barriers.
- If you are an educator or development worker serving the more than 4 million migrant and refugee children out of school, consider promoting or integrating in your organization’s work apps like Senas y Sonrisas (Signs and Smiles), an app offering resources for hearing families with deaf children and a dictionary of Nicaraguan Sign Language, or mobile-friendly online libraries like those listed above. For more resources and tools, learn about more EdTech solutions to support education and literacy in conflict settings and in emergencies.
- If you are a writer, author or publisher, consider utilizing several tools publishers and others can use to produce accessible books for children, including World Around You’s open source platform that enables you to create literacy content in local and national sign languages and Bloom’s open source software that makes it easy to create simple books and translate them into multiple languages or create talking books, books in sign language or books for the visually impared. ACR GCD encourages all publishers to leverage these tools and advises those buying books for education programs to consider books that meet the needs of all children. Learn more about these tools in ACR GCD’s video:
- Interested in piloting or scaling one or more of these solutions or innovations in your community or a region served by your organization? Or want to know how you can help fund the scale-up of an innovation piloted by our innovators? Partner with us! Our mission is rooted in sourcing new EdTech solutions, testing new ideas and scaling what works. Through a series of challenges and prizes, we’re investing in the most promising edTech innovations and approaches to address gaps and barriers to child literacy, partnering with leading education researchers to measure the impact of those innovations, and advancing innovations with the greatest potential to improve reading outcomes for children in low-resource contexts. We would welcome the chance to talk with you about how you can be part of the effort to get all children reading. Contact us to learn more about scaling and partnership opportunities.
Today, children with disabilities are at higher risk than ever to be left behind their peers in literacy. You can help. You can be part of the solution. Start today.