Introduction

‘If anybody asks me what the Internet means to me, I will tell him without hesitation: To me (a quadriplegic) the Internet occupies the most important part in my life. It is my feet that can take me to any part of the world; it is my hands which help me to accomplish my work; it is my best friend – it gives my life meaning.’ -- Dr ZhangXu1

Children with disabilities in developing countries face particular difficulties in accessing the most basic forms of education. They face the lowest levels of access to education of any cohort of students. Of the 75 million children of primary school age worldwide who are out of school, one third are children with disabilities. Information and communication technologies (ICTs), and in particular assistive technologies (ATs), can provide students with disabilities access to traditionally inaccessible educational content through electronic and online learning channels. Connected schools, with the right mix of ATs, can provide children with disabilities unprecedented access to education.

Connected, accessible schools can also be leveraged as community ICT centers, facilitating job-skills training and even providing employment opportunities for youths and adults with disabilities in the wider community. This module will also show how connected, accessible schools can be developed into accessible Multipurpose Community Telecenters (MCTs).
The barriers to education faced by children with disabilities in developing countries are complex. They include barriers associated with societal and attitudinal belief systems that maintain that it is not possible to educate children with a sensory, physical or cognitive disability.
 

In Section 1, this module primarily concentrates on how accessible ICTs can facilitate connected schools that provide equal access to education for children with disabilities. Section 2 examines the situations many persons with disabilities face in developing countries when trying to receive an education or job-skills training. Section 3 examines the types of accessible ICTs, ATs and accessible formats and media that enable an equitable educational experience. It also examines issues of cost and the development of local and national technology eco-systems capable of supporting and sustaining the development of, and training in, accessible ICTs. Best practices in the development and implementation of ICT accessible schools are provided in Section 4. The potential of these schools to be leveraged as accessible MCTs that provide job-skills training and employment opportunities is dealt with in Section 5. Section 6 provides a checklist of key steps for policy-makers in ministries of education, communication, local government and local schools boards to achieve accessible, connected schools. Section 7 outlines the significant body of international legislation and policy on the rights of children with disabilities to an inclusive education in mainstream schools, and the important role of accessible ICTs in achieving these rights. Meanwhile, Section 8 provides case studies and best practice examples of accessible ICTs in action, and Section 9 provides a range of resources for teachers and policy-makers.