Every device comes with settings and features that help users access what is on their screen. Familiarize yourself with the available features on your students’ devices to help them access instruction, content, and the tools necessary to demonstrate their learning.
The following resource is a compilation of accessibility features that are available on commonly used technology devices in New York schools.
View a print-friendly version of this resource: Accessible Technologies by Platform
Devices should be viewed as a tool for learning. School leaders and teachers need to consider how these tools will help students access their learning material and produce quality work. Likewise, they also need to anticipate potential barriers students may experience when using these tools and find ways to remove them so students can successfully participate in a virtual learning environment.
Accessible technologies are those that help individuals navigate, perceive, understand and interact with educational content, activities and services.
Technology companies have developed accessibility features that are meant to help people navigate and access information on their devices. Knowing more about the categories used by developers can help educators understand the purpose of each feature and how they can help their students.
More information: Digital Accessibility Toolkit: What Education Leaders Need to Know
This accessibility toolkit provides a variety of information about accessible technologies including the different categories developers use to design and build these features.
Consider the individual need
While learning in a hybrid/remote learning environment, students are expected to learn content and produce evidence they have learned said content. They are expected to engage with their teacher and their classmates via video chat or posts in their learning management system. All students learn and demonstrate their understanding differently.
In the physical classroom, you as the teacher make adjustments and provide tools/strategies to help students based on their individual needs. The same must be done in a virtual setting. These accessibility features are tools meant to help your students better access the virtual classroom. Therefore, like in the physical classroom, consider each student’s needs then identify a feature (or features) that may help your students successfully learn and demonstrate their learning in the virtual classroom.
It is not necessary to match your students’ disabilities or needs directly to each of these categories. Instead, the information under each category is meant to help guide you toward the most useful accessibility features to use with your students.
Note: some students may already have assistive technology identified in their IEPs or 504 plans. Be sure to review and comply with all IEPs and 504s.
Learn more about these general accessibility categories and which accessibility features can help address the needs of students:
- Visual accessibility
- Auditory accessibility
- Neurological accessibility
- Cognitive accessibility
- Physical accessibility
Devices, operating systems and browsers
It is a fact that students come from different home environments and their access to hardware and software vary greatly between households. A student may have a school-issued device (or not), but only have access to the internet on a smartphone (or not!). Therefore, it is advantageous to familiarize yourself with the devices and accessibility features from the three main technology companies (Apple, Microsoft, and Google).
Do you know what devices your students are actually using to participate in virtual learning? The information below provides general information about each of the main technology companies’ products (hardware and software).
Notes and reminders
- If you want any student to use a particular feature on their device, it is essential they are given the proper instruction for how to use the feature. Don’t remove one barrier only to create another.
- Specially designed instruction (SDI) is essential to ensure that a student can utilize the accessibility feature successfully
- It is possible for any student to benefit from one or more of these accessibility features, not just those with disabilities.
- For visual support with enabling and using listed accessibility features, search Youtube by company and feature. For example, “How to use Apple’s Dark Mode”
In the spirit of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), what benefits one student, may in fact benefit all students. Please consider these accessibility features for any of your students. Just because they may not have a disability, does not mean they won’t struggle with learning in a virtual environment. The goal is for ALL students to be successful in a learning environment, regardless of the model of instruction. For further support with using accessibility features, utilize a web browser search, such as Google, or a video delivery application, such as YouTube, to learn more. If you want to share videos or other resources with students and parents, make sure all the content in the video and surrounding the video is appropriate.
Want to learn more about accessibility features and design? Visit the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials