Page 31 - THE Journal, June/July 2017
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is presented to students, how students are engaged or interacting with the information and how students get a chance to express what they have learned.”
Part of any new resource adoption is
led by Bartholomew’s UDL coordinators and facilitators to make sure the district is looking at the material through the lens of UDL, he said. “All our rubrics are based on making sure we are looking at curriculum that is going to support all of our learners.”
Bartholomew’s embrace of UDL has coincided with an increase in the use of digital content. “All our teachers look at technology as a tool they can use to break down barriers or offer more options to students in terms of engagement,” said Nick Williams, coordinator of instructional technology. The district has adopted
a learning management system called “itslearning” because it has different language options as well as video, audio and image options for students and teachers.
“Anything we look at in instructional technology has to support all students,” Williams said. “We invest in Read&Write for Google Chrome, which has a lot of accessibility features for students. We put closed captioning on videos. For dyslexia there are tools we teach all our teachers to use consistently so that any learner can have access to these tools.”
Van Horn said that Bartholomew has seen encouraging results. “We have
87 percent of students with disabilities spending 80 percent of their time in regular ed classes. We have seen a decrease in referrals to special ed, and, while that is happening, we have seen an increase in the percentage of our students passing our state tests in every subgroup we’ve got.”
The Role of IT Leaders
Burgstahler, who has consulted with several K–12 districts about accessibility issues, says often it is unclear whose responsibility they are. “It tends to be distributed sort of like IT security,” she said. “Everybody in IT or procuring IT needs to think about it at some level, but they have to think about it in different ways depending on their role, so everyone is on the hook a bit.”
There also is a role for state-level groups to play. The National Center on Accessible Educational Materials is working with the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), Stahl said. SETDA has created an online database called DMAPS (Digital Materials Acquisition Policies,, which identifies acquisition policies state-by-state with links to the state documents. “We have been working with them to build accessibility documentation into it,” said Stahl, who added that 24 states have clear policies
on accessibility and guidance related to the purchase of accessible materials. “Two years ago it would have been 10 or 12
states,” he added. “We are starting to see some traction in the community.”
IT leaders have a key role to play, Stahl insisted. “Ten or 15 years ago the IT folks were seen as an adjunct support system for communication and record keeping,” he said, “but now we are seeing such a flow
of digital content materials into
K–12 and postsecondary education that IT folks become a key component and contributor to the procurement process. They need to be as aware of accessibility issues as curriculum developers or content area experts.”
With the changeover to the Trump Administration, school boards are watching to see if OCR remains as aggressive
about enforcing website accessibility. Joel Gerring, the attorney with the Michigan Association of School Boards, said that
at the recent National School Board Association conference in Denver, the buzz was that web accessibility was not going
to be a priority for the OCR in the new administration. “So this whole thing may go away,” he said. “They may put a full
stop on this enforcement thing and divert attention elsewhere.”
David Raths is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer focused on information technology. He writes regularly for sev- eral IT publications, including Healthcare Informatics and Government Technology.
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