The reality of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK and countries around the world means that universities, colleges, and many schools are physically closed for the foreseeable future.
But education never stops, so students and pupils around the world are now using the internet to learn online (broadband bandwidth permitting!).
That said, the level of provision for online learning can range from using high-quality existing e-learning portals, which many universities have, through to very limited digital infrastructure. But the question is, is any of this accessible to all?
Accessibility support is badly needed because evidence shows that many young people with disabilities and learning conditions struggle to get the support they need during their education.
Some universities and colleges provide assistive technology across their online portals and websites to support students with remote learning, but a high percentage do not. In the 2017/2018 academic year, 94,000 students with disabilities entered UK universities which were up by more than 6,000 from the previous year and by 26,000 from 2013/14.
This year on year increase proves that there is a growing case and need for educational organisations to be more accessible and inclusive online. As simple as providing accessibility and language support tools can greatly improve the digital learning experience of a student.
The University of London uses Recite Me assistive technology on its website to support students with disabilities, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language. Within six months of easily integrating the software across all digital platforms, The University of London had supported over 16,400 unique people to read and understand their content online barrier-free.
As mentioned accessible online learning support for young children in schools is limited compared to universities. Nine out of ten young people with dyslexia will leave school without being diagnosed. This means they receive no essential specialist support while learning or support for exams.
With everyone now learning from home online, it is vital that students with hidden disabilities are able to access the support they need in a way that works for them to understand and engage with tasks.
When you consider that over 80,000 of the young people who sat their GCSEs last year have dyslexia, it reveals a situation that needs remedying quickly.
Ultimately, it’s just as important to ensure that young people can access digital learning materials by using accessibility and language tools like Recite Me, as it is to make sure they are still learning.