6 Checklist for policy-makers

The following is a review and checklist of the concepts and recommendations put forward in this module:

1. Policies for the implementation of accessible ICTs in connected schools should be developed together with disabled persons’ organizations and within the framework of international law and policy that includes the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Summit on the Information Society principles, actions and targets.

2. Policy development and implementation of accessible ICTs in connected schools should be used to further the inclusive educational policies of a country -- that is, education provided within the context of the mainstream educational system and not in a segregated setting.

3. Because inclusive education is a model that must be progressively realized, policy-makers should consider the development of national-level statements on the principles, intentions, means, objectives and timeframes for implementing accessible ICTs in connected schools.Policy development on the use of accessible ICTs in inclusive schools will cut across several areas of governmental responsibility including:

  • Education
  • Telecommunications/ICTs
  • E-government
  • Finance and public procurement
  • Customs/import duties and taxation
  • Welfare and employment
  • Equality

4. Four key stages in the implementation of accessible ICTs in inclusive education are:

  • Design and development of accessible ICTs,
  • Their implementation and delivery,
  • Improvement, and
  • Assessment of their benefits.

5. Six key areas for policy development include:

  • Infrastructure,
  • Support for practice,
  • Needs assessment for persons with disabilities,
  • Training for students and teachers,
  • Co-operation and research on best practices, and
  • Evaluation on the benefits and uses of ATs.

6. Research activities to support evidence based policy development should focus on establishing:

  • Societal attitudes towards persons with disabilities and their inclusion as equal participants in the educational system;
  • Attitudes of children with disabilities and their teachers, parents and car-givers on the use and benefits of assistive technology;
  • National demographics on persons with disabilities, including the numbers of people likely to benefit from accessible ICTs in schools/Multipurpose Community Telecenters;
  • Current ICT infrastructure within the school, including the number of computers already in schools and the number of schools connected to the internet;
  • Current usage of ICTs in schools – how and for what;
  • Types and numbers of accessible ICTs required;
  • In-country availability of required accessible ICTs;
  • Likely costs and strategies for development of alternate solutions, including open-source solutions;
  • Preparedness of teachers to incorporate accessible ICTs into their teaching practices;
  • Attitudes and knowledge of students, parents and teachers towards accessible ICTs; and
  • Availability of support networks.

7. Policy implementation will require the cooperation of a wide range of stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, educational authorities and international aid organizations.

8. All consultation meetings on policy development held with persons with disabilities should be done in an accessible manner.

9. The policy development framework for the provision of accessible ICTs in connected schools should include a mechanism for evaluation and monitoring of outcomes. This should include metrics on

  • Levels of access by persons with disabilities to education and experiences of teachers and students in using accessible ICTs in the classroom,
  • Levels of AT abandonment, if any, and reasons for abandonment ,and
  • Costs of AT and learning resources in accessible formats.

10. Funding options for investment in an AT infrastructure for connected schools include government funding and subsidies, public-private partnerships, partnerships with international aid organizations and corporate social responsibility programmes from technology companies. A key policy consideration for government and school investment in accessible technology is the choice between open-source and proprietary models of software licensing. Policy-makers should consider the implications of the choice of investment in terms of the likely short, medium and long-term impacts on the availability and affordability of ATs.

11. Government investment policy in ATs for connected schools should look beyond just the provision of technology and aim to develop and support a sustainable AT infrastructure that provides for needs assessment, supply, maintenance, training and support in the use of ATs for both students and their teachers.

12. The development of a national online database on ATs will help provide teachers, students and their families with accurate information on ATs and their availably in-country.

13. Support by government of the AT industry in-country is essential for a sustainable and viable AT industry.

14. Support of research and development into AT is essential to enable further development and localization of AT. Ensuring that AT software such as screen readers are available in local languages is of critical importance. Research and development can be supported by a mix of stakeholders including universities with suitable technical competencies and resources, industry and technical centers within disabled persons organizations (DPOs).

15. A range of current and near-future technology developments should be monitored by government and schools such as cloud computing, m-learning and the development of accessible Open Educational Resources.

16. Targets and timeframes for the development of publicly funded and private websites to be accessible according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the W3C should be implemented.

17. Consideration should be given to leveraging connected schools with accessible ICTs as accessible Multipurpose Community Telecentres (MCTs) for use by the wider community.

18. In the context of accessible MCTs based in schools, which provide employment and ICT skills training to persons with disabilities, consideration should be given to the sustainability of the centre’s business model. While much of the infrastructure can be made available at no cost to the community, careful planning is required to ensure adequate funding for trainers and course materials.