[Nfbmo] [NFBAffiliatePresidents] FYI: NFB Comments on National EducationTechnology Plan

Gary Wunder gwunder at earthlink.net
Mon May 17 00:22:03 UTC 2010

Mark, this is a fantastic write-up which I will share widely. I am so proud 
to be associated with it.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Riccobono, Mark" <MRiccobono at nfb.org>
To: <nfbaffiliatepresidents at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Friday, May 14, 2010 9:14 AM
Subject: [NFBAffiliatePresidents] FYI: NFB Comments on National 
EducationTechnology Plan

> Comments on the DRAFT National Educational Technology Plan 2010
> Prepared by:
> National Federation of the Blind
> 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
> Baltimore, Maryland 21230
> (410) 659-9314
> We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the draft plan
> entitled, "Transforming American Education:  Learning Powered by
> Technology" as released by the Office of Educational Technology, U.S.
> Department of Education, on March 5, 2010. The below comments offered by
> the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) express our serious concern
> that this plan fails to recognize the need for the U.S. Department of
> Education to provide concentrated leadership, in both policy and
> practice, in order to ensure that students with disabilities can take
> full advantage of the opportunities offered by emerging educational
> technologies in America's classrooms.
> We are pleased to see the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP)
> embraces principles of universal design for learning, including for
> students with disabilities.  However, the attention the NETP pays to
> accessibility for people with disabilities is disproportionately minimal
> to its importance.  The significance of accessibility to people with
> disabilities must play a more prominent role within and throughout the
> NETP. Because accessibility to students and teachers with disabilities
> relates to every aspect of the NETP, the impact on people with
> disabilities should be acknowledged consistently and repeatedly
> throughout the report.  Further, because accessible mainstream
> technology requires specific and significant considerations beginning in
> its design phase, accessibility for people with disabilities must be
> treated with greater detail in the NETP, as opposed to merely a bullet
> point within the section on universal design.
> Overall, what is missing from the NETP is an appreciation of the
> opportunity and challenge that technology presents for teachers and
> students with disabilities.  We have the opportunity to change the
> paradigm-to drastically reduce the necessity for separate and unequal
> special education resources by allowing, for the first time, persons
> with print disabilities in particular to have the same access to
> education as their nondisabled peers. If properly implemented, we have
> the opportunity to ensure that access to educational materials is a
> nonissue for a blind student or one with cerebral palsy who cannot hold
> her head and hands steady enough to read a book.  At present, these
> students are consigned to a separate and not equal access, and the
> mainstream resources (many of which will be developed by mainstream,
> highly capitalized technology companies) will always outstrip any
> separate special streams.
> The challenge is that as technologies are adopted in the schools, the
> disability community will be left behind and thus left out.  Because of
> the logarithmic pace at which technology develops, there is no such
> thing as being a near-follower of technology and if the early decisions
> are made without consideration of students and teachers with
> disabilities, then the educational gap between those with disabilities
> and those without will widen from the width of the Grand Canyon to that
> of the Pacific Ocean.  If the message of inclusive technology is not to
> be lost, it must be stated not just as a bullet point in a section on
> universal design but be included consistently and repeatedly (as when a
> goal is stated for equal outcomes for persons without regard to income
> or race, but not for persons with disabilities), and with particularity.
> So that the report can strike effective notes, let's briefly consider
> some of the barriers.  First, there is the "cubby-holing" of
> accessibility at the Department of Education.  For example, the
> Department of Education funds grants for both accessible technology and
> for mainstream educational technology, but in the latter case it fails
> to include accessibility as a requirement in the RFP or in the actual
> grant itself, thereby perpetuating a separate and unequal status for
> those with disabilities.  This dichotomy is to be found throughout the
> educational system.  Universities and colleges, for example, routinely
> procure and adopt new technologies, such as course management systems,
> iTunes U, and digital reading systems like the Kindle without any
> consideration for their accessibility, and it is nearly unheard of for
> the CIO of a college, university, or a school system to consult with
> their own disability service offices in selecting the technology that is
> adopted.
> Without market demand or insistence by the Department of Education on
> compliance with federal law, the result, inevitably, is inaccessible
> technology and a deepening discrimination against those with
> disabilities.  It should be noted that the barriers are not
> technological in nature and that mainstream access occurs when it is
> required, as witnessed by (1) the latest version of Blackboard becoming
> substantially more accessible after Cal State refused to let Blackboard
> bid while its course management software was inaccessible; (2) iTunes U
> becoming fully accessible after the NFB threatened Apple's collegiate
> partners with law suits; and (3) Amazon announcing it would produce an
> accessible Kindle after the Department of Justice secured consent
> decrees from the colleges to cease and desist its inaccessible Kindle
> pilot projects.
> Although these examples come from higher education, the lesson is
> equally true for K-12.  Unfortunately, however, disability groups do not
> have the legal opportunities to be an agent for change in K-12 that they
> do in the college arena.  Thus, the responsibility of the Department of
> Education to take a leadership role here is correspondingly greater.
> At present, by largely confining accessibility to people with
> disabilities to a bullet point within the NETP, the Department of
> Education loses a unique opportunity to ensure that technology is
> transformative for this group.  It is also critical that the demand be
> stated unambiguously:  That all technology that is adopted be
> accessible.  Since this is the law, it is a reasonable request.  It is
> in that spirit that we offer the following suggested actions for
> inclusion in the final version of the plan:
> 1. Throughout the NETP, "disability" should be added when
> identifying achievement gaps. Blind students and other students with
> disabilities are underserved in the same way as students of a racial
> minority or of a lower socioeconomic status. To ensure the current
> inequality of service delivery is addressed, the NETP must include
> disability as an overarching theme as it does race, income, and
> neighborhood.
> 2. The standard of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) cited in the
> NETP is very broad and as a result deemphasizes the type of
> accessibility required for viable nonvisual access. The UDL definition
> should be appended to include items 3.a.i and 3.a.ii below.
> 3. Far too many of the interactive educational technologies that
> enrich the learning experiences of students today are inaccessible to
> blind, dyslexic, and other print-disabled children. If educational
> technology continues to be made without the consideration of
> accessibility at the outset, the gap in service delivery-and
> consequently achievement-between those students with print disabilities
> and those without will grow exponentially. Accessibility fits the
> definition of a "grand challenge problem" as outlined in the NETP and
> should be added as an additional problem to address. The problem should
> be addressed in the following manner:
> a. Research should be done in collaboration with the
> National Federation of the Blind and other blindness and print
> disability organizations to create standards for the development of
> accessible educational technologies.
>                                                              i.
> The standards will ensure the nonvisual experience with technology is as
> rich as the visual experience.
>                                                            ii.      The
> standard will require that the ease of use of all technologies is the
> same regardless of whether the means of access is visual or nonvisual.
> b. Once standards are developed they should be published
> and manufacturers of educational technology should be required to adhere
> to the standards when producing new technologies.
> 3. Accessibility must be treated with particularity within the
> NETP. Though there are some overlapping issues between students with
> disabilities, English language learners, pre-k students, and low-income
> and minority learners, accessibility for learners with disabilities is
> distinct. Substantial action must be taken in the design phase of
> technological development to produce an accessible product. For this
> reason accessibility should be addressed both throughout the report and
> in a separate section. The necessity of accessibility needs to be
> prominent in this report to ensure that all learners can truly benefit
> from the resulting technological and pedagogical reform.
> 4. As the medium of textbook production shifts from physical books
> to digital content, the field must move away from the NIMAS standard-a
> separate and inferior regulation-and capitalize on mainstream
> technology. The production of mainstream accessible textbooks is a far
> superior solution for students with disabilities. This issue should be
> addressed in the separate section on accessibility that we recommended
> in item four.
> _______________________________________________
> NFBAffiliatePresidents mailing list
> NFBAffiliatePresidents at nfbnet.org
> http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/nfbaffiliatepresidents_nfbnet.org

More information about the NFBMO mailing list