Access: The Web and the Law
10 Issues in Education Technology for Policymakers
Making digital content accessible is a critical issue not only for schools and colleges to pursue their mission to reach and teach all students, but because it’s the law.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 13 percent of public school students, and 11 percent of postsecondary students, have disabilities. To do their best work they need access to all the information and resources their fellow students have. Federal law has been working to see that they do, most recently with new web content standards that went into effect in January.
Ignoring such mandates, or failing to implement them, denies students with disabilities equal access. It also runs the risk of lawsuits from the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the Office of Civil Rights. What schools and policymakers need, first and foremost, is awareness of federal and state regulations, standards and best practices. SREB can help.
To move from awareness to implementation, schools and universities need to create a long-term accessibility plan. That means:
- adopting standards such as WCAG 2.0 and the Federal Government Accessibility Standards to align with federal and state regulations
- examining digital content but also the software, platforms, vendors and contracts that deliver it
- ensuring collaboration across campuses and systems — between administrative and academic offices, IT, human resources, student affairs and disability services
Addressing these issues in a piecemeal, patchwork way risks expensive legal consequences. It also fails to serve a substantial portion of our student population, who to reach their highest potential need barriers lowered on all educational spaces, physical and digital.
“State leaders need reliable information about these issues and how they affect decisions about education.”
— Dave Spence, SREB president
Read more at SREB’s Educational Technology Cooperative, where Expanding Accessibility to Digital Spaces through Improved Policy and Practice offers recommendations for states, agencies and schools to comply with federal and state disability laws.
The Southern Regional Education Board, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, works with states to improve public education at every level, from early childhood through doctoral education.
SREB’s Educational Technology Cooperative brings together ed tech leaders from K-12 and higher education agencies that represent more than 800 colleges and universities and more than 3,100 school districts in SREB states.