I would love to introduce you to my friend Matt. Most folks admire him as a leader in our hometown, but things haven't always been so good. With minimal support for limited vision, Matt describes his public school years as “low-skill career readiness.” Matt entered university without the skills he needed in a culture not-so-welcoming to learners like him.
But, cultures continue to modernize as strategic plans chart the course for healthy and diverse institutions that are friendly and accessible for everyone in both the physical and digital learning ecosystems. Within the digital learning ecosystem we find students benefiting from extended access to instructional content, peer learning communities, and personalized learning experiences. We find faculty providing rich, interactive learning opportunities as well as personal, meaningful feedback more often. Accessibility within this ecosystem is non-negotiable.
To power up the ecosystem, institutions lean toward academic technology with accessibility engineered into its DNA:
- Accessible user interfaces compatible with assistive tools
- Simple, seamless tools to make user-generated content, like exercises and videos, accessible
- Consistent, predictable, intuitive user experiences
Institutions also recognize the tool’s form is as important as function. When accessibility enhancing features fit comfortably into everyday workflow, users are much more likely to use them. In other words, within the digital learning ecosystem, institutions seek compliance-by-design and compliance made easy for everyone.
This matters because even though learners can handle the course work and often have access to assistive tools and services (though getting them can be difficult), attrition rates among learners like my friend Matt remain concerningly high. Compliance ensures accessibility, and accessibility advances inclusion. Inclusion expands our horizons, and together we keep learning.