Project provides educators with inclusive tool for teaching digital literacy skills

WASHINGTON, DC (August 18, 2020)—Delving into the rich trove of information contained in the digital Helen Keller Archive, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the official launch of a series of free lesson plans designed to teach middle and high school students about using digital and physical archives, the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how to use them appropriately in scholarly projects. A third lesson plan, released today – the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment – focuses on Helen Keller’s advocacy for women’s right to vote.

Using the digital archive, AFB has created fully accessible online lessons focused on Keller’s life, her role in American history, and the use, function, and value of digital archives. The goals of the project include modeling best practices in digital accessibility, making education more inclusive, and teaching principles of research to middle and high school students. AFB also worked with teachers, curricula writers, and academics to make this project a reality.

Aligned with Common Core curriculum standards, each lesson contains a review of the lesson as a whole, as well as teacher and student activity pages. This enables teachers to guide students in using digital archival collections while discovering Keller’s work as a leading author, activist, and advocate.

“It is important for young students to learn about disability history,” said Helen Selsdon, AFB archivist. “We want students to have a real understanding of how Helen Keller, a deafblind writer and activist, was incredibly engaged in the world and social issues.”

Thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, AFB pioneered one of the most accessible digital collections in the world with the 2018 launch of the Helen Keller Archive, which was both developed by and extensively tested with people with disabilities. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic demonstrating the vital role of distance learning resources, these lesson plans ensure the inclusion of blind, deaf, hard-of-hearing, low vision, and deafblind students, as well as bringing Helen Keller’s role in disability history to a global audience.

The first two lesson plans in the series were launched in June: Introduction to Digital and Physical Archives and Primary and Secondary Sources. Using the digital Helen Keller Archive, these two lessons challenge students to consider what an archive is, the value of historical materials, the differences between physical and digital archival collections, and how to analyze a document. Students learn how to use the Browse and Search functions and to independently dig into fascinating primary sources. Throughout all these tasks, students learn about Keller’s extraordinary life as a leading advocate for people with disabilities, a fighter for women’s rights, and her battles for social and civic equality.

These free lesson plans were possible thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Humanities New York.

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About the American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: