The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) just released its Barriers to Digital Inclusion study, which identified the key areas where accessibility gaps still exist for online and mobile application content. And, as one would expect, education still rises to the top when it comes to accessibility hurdles. To close the gap, AFB wanted to share some valuable resources we have prepared for parents, students, and advocates over the past year.

Three years ago, as the novel coronavirus pandemic set in, many schools closed for spring break. Many students and families expected that at the end of the spring break, schools might re-open. Instead, lockdowns led to universal school closures, and students, families, and educators all scrambled to prepare for remote schooling.

Researchers at the American Foundation for the Blind conducted a series of three studies to investigate the impacts of the pandemic on children who are blind or have low vision. In all three studies, a major theme was the limited accessibility of virtual learning technology. For example, in November 2020, families of school-age children reported their children needing to use an average of 4.90 different digital tools to complete their online lessons and assignments, and on average, about half of the tools were inaccessible.

Parents and educators told us that students fell behind or became frustrated when technology was not fully accessible, and sometimes families even opted to return their children to in-person education earlier than they preferred because their kids were having so much trouble accessing virtual learning. Additionally, gaps in access to the Internet, computers, and mobile devices meant some kids could not fully participate in virtual learning, or even dropped out.

Three years after the pandemic began, schools have re-opened, but digital learning tools are not going away. Based on our research, AFB staff have published two free toolkits to help make the digital school environment more accessible.

First, our Accessible ed tech resources share practical guidance for ed tech creators and school officials who procure technology to ensure accessibility in the classroom. Second, our Digital inclusion toolkit offers tips for students, families, teachers, and school administrators on ways to advocate for full digital inclusion at school.

We hope these resources will be a valuable reference for your own journey to assure that students who are blind or have low vision receive every opportunity to succeed in the classroom, or wherever their education may occur. Please share these resources with your own network. Together, we can all create a world of no limits for our students who are blind or have low vision, setting them up for future success.