October 26, 2020
As the world recognizes Disability Awareness Month throughout October, what are you doing to support language and literacy learning for the 90 percent of children with disabilities in low-resource countries who face barriers to attending school and accessing books and learning materials?
Children with disabilities remain among the most marginalized in access to education, a challenge further compounded by poverty, inaccessible environments, social isolation, and conflict and crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic. As the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 calls for inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030, more must be done—and quickly—to ensure learning environments are designed to be accessible, with appropriate tools and resources for children with disabilities to realize their full potential.
That is why literacy and learning for children with disabilities is a key focus of All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD), a partnership of USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government. This partnership identifies and brings to scale the most promising EdTech solutions for addressing barriers that prevent children with disabilities from learning to read.
Below are five innovations ACR GCD has funded to increase reading outcomes for early grade children with disabilities around the globe. We encourage you to explore these solutions and determine ways you can leverage them in your programming:
1. ICT Solutions to Support Universal Design for Learning
ACR GCD’s UnrestrICTed Challenge called on global solvers to submit expressions of interest to scale Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solutions to support inclusive learning for children with disabilities at home and at school. The winning solutions will be piloted in Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Rwanda over the next two years and have the potential to dramatically transform education systems and policies globally to become more inclusive. Click here to stay updated on the selection, implementation and testing of these innovations.
2. Storybooks in local spoken and sign languages
ACR GCD’s Begin With Books Prize is funding the creation of thousands of accessible e-books in 16 of the most underserved languages, including sign languages. These books will be developed in accessible formats—including audio narration, image description, and sign language video—and uploaded to the Global Digital Library, a web-based platform that makes high-quality early learning books and resources available for free use on the web, mobile or for print. The four winners of the prize, along with their local Disabled Persons Organizations partners, are also part of ACR GCD’s Sign Language Storybook Cohort, which will be trained on and will validate minimum standards for sign language storybook production developed by ACR GCD to ensure the creation of high quality sign language storybooks.
3. Tools for Accessible Publishing
ACR GCD’s Book Boost: Access for All Challenge awarded innovators for creating business models to optimize the production of accessible children’s books, thereby reducing costs and making it easier to produce high-quality reading materials for all children. The competition yielded several tools publishers and others can use to produce accessible books for children. 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:
4. Innovations for deaf education
ACR GCD’s Sign On For Literacy prize awarded three innovators providing sign language access to deaf children in Kenya, Rwanda, the Philippines and Nicaragua. These innovations have increased access to local sign languages and advanced language and literacy learning for children. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that has closed schools around the globe, prize winner eKitabu in Kenya was asked by the Ministry of Education to package the sign language videos created through Sign On For Literacy into television episodes that now air twice daily on Kenyan television, supporting education that is inclusive to all children during the pandemic. ACR GCD encourages the use of these solutions to support education programming for deaf children.
5. Innovations for children with print disabilities
Finally, ACR GCD funded and tested four projects through our 2014 grant competition that provided innovative solutions and teaching and learning materials to children who are blind or low vision, or deaf or hard of hearing, in India, Lesotho, Morocco and the Philippines. The research and lessons learned from these approaches can help education implementers make informed decisions about how to support the literacy and learning needs of children with disabilities.
The disability-focused work of ACR GCD reflects the heart of our three Founding Partners and numerous other partners and innovators to include 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. We invite you to join us in our efforts to get all children reading by using one of our funded innovations for children with disabilities or partnering with us.