Creating an Accessibility-Friendly Environment

Author: David Andrade
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Accessibility is an important topic in education and encompasses the classroom space, digital tools and resources and much more.

Creating an Accessibility-Friendly Classroom Environment

  • Is the classroom bursting with patterned borders on the bulletin boards and bright colorful posters/word walls/anchor charts? Many teachers follow this trend because they believe more is better (it is touted as best practice on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers), but the research shows that this is detrimental for student focus and ability to retain information.

    • For all students, but consider those with ADD/ADHD

    • Bring this back to decluttering and focusing on the room being as open as possible – an empty canvas for the students to paint every day based on the lessons and activities that will be happening.

      • This then returns to the furniture needing to facilitate the day’s tasks by being flexible, and active learning environments.
  • How can seating support a student who learns best with movement?

    • i.e. MooreCo’s Grow stools and sit/stand workspaces

      • Making this an option for all students, not just those with an IEP or 504, otherwise they may feel “different” and not want to use the tools available to them
Creating an Accessibility-Friendly Digital Environment

  • Going back to decluttering the barrage of bright colors and patterns in the physical space, the same holds true for a digital classroom environment and assignments. If a teacher has created a presentation or assignment that is bursting with unnecessary Clip Art, distracting transitions between slides, and heavy text/unreadable “fancy” fonts, they have just made that information less accessible to their students.

    • Also, if they have a class website that is cluttered with images and hard-to-read fonts, they are making it challenging for students who already have difficulty concentrating or reading to access the information

    • Consider – if they are embedding links in assignments online, are they including alt-text for students who use a screen reader?
  • How is the physical and digital classroom layout supporting English Language Learners?

    • All of this is not to say to get rid of visuals on the walls of the classroom – make sure they are intentional

    • For a classroom with ELL students, labels that include a picture of an object along with the word in English and their native language can be helpful for language acquisition

  • Make use of accessibility tools to support personalized learning in the digital environment

    • Microsoft Accessibility Blog

    • Google Chrome Accessibility Tools Slide Deck (covers native accessibility Chromebook settings and extensions/apps)

    • Consider native accessibility settings that can assist students reading below-grade level access articles and text that are appropriate for their grade level, as so often they are given books written for younger grades and miss out on the rich content

Here is a resource document that has resoures on Assistive Technology and Accessibility:

Related:

More Accessibility Resources

Google Accessibility Features and Resources

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Creating an Accessibility-Friendly Environment
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