As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more educators may offer accessible school resources after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accessible School Resources After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Remote learning requirements mean that more school and library resources are now online. Teachers, school staff, and school board personnel are presenting lessons and other school information in new ways. For instance, teachers are now receiving and grading student work online, rather than in hard copies. Similarly, students may be using online learning resources more often than print textbooks.
School staff, and other producers of educational resources, are adapting to the need for school resources in new formats. In the same way, schools, school boards, and other educational institutions can learn to improve the accessibility of school resources.
Accessible Formats for School Resources
School staff may now upload lessons or handouts in formats that are not accessible. For example, many portable document format (PDF) documents are not accessible. Due to the rapid transition to online learning, some staff may think about accessibility as an afterthought. For instance, staff may post accessible versions of documents after PDFs have already been posted. Instead, staff should make these documents accessible from the start by creating the original documents in accessible formats, such as Word or HTML.
Likewise, ebooks can be an important alternative to hard-copy print books. Currently, many publishers have ebook options available, but the ebooks are not always accessible. As a result, publishers must convert an ebook into an accessible format after a school or student has bought or requested it. However, if all ebooks were accessible from the start, publishers would not need to convert them later.
Similarly, all academic publishers could create accessible-format versions of all the books or journals they publish. Therefore, accessible formats would be available for all books school libraries buy, and all journals they subscribe to. As a result, school library staff would be better prepared to meet the research needs of students with disabilities.
Schools and school boards are becoming accustomed to providing information in different ways. They can adapt just as easily to making more learning resources accessible. In this way, they can better serve students, educators, and parents with disabilities.