The Future of Accessibility in Higher Education
Individuals with disabilities make up a large percentage of the total population of United States college students. The U.S. Department of Education reports that around 11 percent of college students have a disability, which is classified as “a specific learning disability, visual impairment, hard of hearing, deafness, speech impairment, orthopedic impairment, or health impairment.” As such, accessibility is an important consideration when delivering eLearning. With the advances in technology over the past decade, the possibilities and reach are endless.
Recent studies by the National Science Foundation have shown that people with disabilities are now as likely as their non-disabled peers to pursue academics in STEM-related fields, i.e., science, technology, engineering and math. Recent advances in technology may be one of the reasons that doors are opening up for such individuals. Education Dive says “Now, new tools for robotics, coding, and other STEM fields are helping students with disabilities realize viable careers in hard science fields previously closed to them.” This new technology is going far beyond the scope of traditional assistive technology such as screen readers or advanced word processors.
According to Ed Tech Magazine, robots are helping learners with social skills and hand-eye coordination, as well as STEM technology tools that can help students with autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit disorder succeed because of their inclination to be hands-on learners.
ProctorU, the world’s largest online test proctoring company, is also making things easier and more accessible to students with disabilities. The convenience of testing from home is attractive to many, regardless of ADA status, and testing from home may be the only option for others. ProctorU’s live proctors are highly trained to handle any technical situation that may arise, and are understanding and professional throughout the entire proctoring process.
According to ProctorU’s front-end developer, Scott Thigpen, to ensure that ProctorU’s services are easily utilized by students with vision impairment, ProctorU “took it upon ourselves to make sure we cover the major VPAT/WCAG compliance requirements. We also have 24/7 phone and live chat support to accommodate most ADA needs.”
Reporting on a Department of Education study, Education Dive stated that “fewer than 20% of students with disabilities received support in higher education, compared with 87% who received it in high school.” Advances in technology and services like ProctorU can help catalyze the process of accelerating students with disabilities into opportunities that may have proved difficult otherwise.