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NCDAE: The National Center on Disability and Access to Education

Increasing universal access by
developing educational resources

Wish List and Beyond

In January 2006, the International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE) published an editorial in the E-School News describing its education technology Wish List for 2006. It was an intriguing list of ideas to consider with respect to improving the accessibility and usability of technology in our nation's schools. Among those items of interest to the disability community was a call for a systemic national conversation regarding the essential elements of technology in schools and national education technology standards. There was a recognition of essential 21st century literacies for our nation's students. Modern teacher preparation, including highly qualified teachers and "effective use of modern digital tools and resources" were among the highlights of the list. Those of us concerned with access to educational technology by children, youth, and adults with disabilities agree that this wish list is important, in fact, we want to make it our own and suggest several additions.

Since 2004, NCDAE has sponsored several national summit meetings with partners and affiliates who represent over 500 organizations interested in the development and effective implementation of accessible information and education-based technology in our nation's education system. Themes have arisen from these discussions that we believe can be used to round out the wish list ensuring that all students, including those with disabilities, have their education technology needs met. The most prevalent themes from the 3 national meetings include:

  1. Research on model policies and standards in school districts. We need to do a better job of figuring out which education technology policies and standards work best for students with disabilities and which serve to open the doors in a real and meaningful way to all students.
  2. Based on research and evidence, find a way to include accessibility and adherence to standards in policies and in real life settings at the school district and classroom levels.
  3. In the public and private sector, disseminate evidence-based practices with respect to full inclusion of students with disabilities in our education technology initiatives.
  4. Encourage interoperability and compatibility of AT devices in the education technology development processes. We need to take a better look at ensuring accessibility for all students, following up on the 2004 CoSN initiative calling for integration of IT and AT at the school district level.
  5. Help people policy makers become more aware of the issues surrounding disability access through federal legislative reauthorizations such as the Higher Education Act and the anticipated revisions to No Child Left Behind. We can do a much better job of ensuring that the needs of all students are included in education technology policy and practice implementation guidelines.

The ISTE and Consortium for School Networking, Impact of Technology in Schools document recognizes that education technology assists students with special needs and is a "powerful equalizer" among students. Our challenge is to make the equalization a reality. We look forward to working with our colleagues throughout the United States to continue improving the accessibility of education-based electronic media. As we do so we will help our nation's children prepare for the workforce demands of the 21st century and become educated in a way that will improve their quality of life and competitiveness in a global economy.

This brief summary is a request to NCDAE affiliates and others who are interested in this issue to focus on those research and practice activities that will address common, essential themes. As 2007 wish lists are compiled, we are hopeful that the needs of all students, particularly those for whom technology sometimes represents a barrier, are recognized and planned for in our national research, policy and effective practices agendas.