Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In this article, we outline the Postsecondary Committee’s recommendations for digital learning and technology plans at college and university.
The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on publicly-funded colleges and universities. However, students and educators with disabilities also face barriers in other education settings, including:
- Privately-funded colleges and universities
- Transitional job training programs
Therefore, all these settings should comply with the forthcoming postsecondary education standards.
Digital Learning and Technology Plans at College and University
Colleges and universities should create and implement plans to ensure that the digital technology students use is accessible. Each college’s and university’s plan should identify barriers students face in digital learning, and list steps for removing those barriers. For example, plans should identify organizational barriers, or barriers in systems and environments, especially persistent barriers. Similarly, plans should outline how each college or university will implement student feedback on the usability of technology.
Furthermore, each college’s or university’s plan should outline how the school will begin implementing Ontario’s Accessible Procurement Standards for Educational Resources. Moreover, each plan should include resources to inform or remind educators how to use these standards to procure accessible technology. In addition, a plan should describe how the college or university will support educators and staff as they make content for all programs and services digitally accessible. For instance, a college or university Accessible Digital Technology Lead might provide resources to help staff learn about and implement accessible technology.
Likewise, plans should follow accessibility standards for teaching and learning. To develop its plan, each college and university should consult its Committee for Responding to Results of the Campus Climate Instrument.
Digital learning and technology plans should mandate equitable access to resources, opportunities, and services. In other words, students who need accessible technology to succeed in school should not need to pay additional fees. Therefore, colleges and universities should provide clear information about how to gain funding for equitable technology access.
Publicly Posting Plans and Progress Reports
Finally, colleges and universities should make their digital learning and technology plans publicly available, such as by posting on their websites. Colleges and universities should also post yearly status reports on their progress implementing the plans. These reports should address recent actions of the Accessible Digital Technology Lead. In addition, a college’s or university’s multi-year accessibility plan, and yearly status reports, should describe progress in meeting the school’s accessibility commitments, including to digital accessibility.