Accessibility to education is a mandatory and necessary social responsibility. It is for the good of all because it is not about achieving the academic integration of people, regardless of their ability, only as a matter of solidarity, but for the mutual benefit of the whole community.
Organizations and administrations are responsible for providing education to all citizens, regardless of their age, race, sex, physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory aptitude.
Thus arises the concept of diversity in the classroom, which ranges from curricular adaptation to the adaptation of educational resources and the transition through shared spaces and classrooms. And here, the e-learning system plays a critical role in guaranteeing a training offer without architectural barriers.
What is accessibility to education?
To know what accessibility to education is, we turn first to the Cambridge dictionary.
noun [ U ]
UK /əkˌses.əˈbɪl.ə.ti/ US /əkˌses.əˈbɪl.ə.t̬i/
– the fact of being able to be reached or obtained easily.
– the quality of being easy to understand.
UK /əkˈses.ə.bəl/ US /əkˈses.ə.bəl/
– able to be reached or easily got.
– easy to understand.
In this way, we understand accessibility to education as that which has the quality of easy access or comprehension. And both of them converge on the perspective of equal opportunities.
This equality or equity includes accessible educational environments, programs, and tools that allow all people, without exception, to choose within the educational offer without discrimination.
The importance of accessibility to education is that legislation is behind the regulation. We see this with Organic Law 2/2066 of the LOE, which states:
“Administrations must provide resources to people to access training according to their capacity.”
We have already told you about education and sustainable development, mentioning the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN, where, in the fourth point, they include this fundamental right:
“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
Precisely, the United Nations also includes educational regulation in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), in such a way that it delegates to countries the competence to: “identify and remove obstacles and access barriers that persons with disabilities may have to access on an equal basis with others.” And it explicitly mentions the physical environment, transportation, facilities, public services, and information and communication technologies.
This is an outline of the educational needs and challenges we face. The next step is to make it a reality.
How to offer accessible education?
We start from the premise that education is accessible when inclusive and not exclusive. In this way, it fulfills the right of all people to receive a quality education, whether or not they have a recognized functional or cognitive diversity.
Francesc Aragall, in his guide Accessibility in educational centers, mentions a series of measures to be taken into account to offer an integral and inclusive academic center.
He points out, for example:
- The building (where there must be architectural accessibility).
- Human, material, and didactic resources
- Programs and contents,
- Teaching, learning, and evaluation processes
- Documentation and other elements necessary to carry out the education.
And it includes the e-learning and virtual campus sectors as complementary accessibility measures. It ensures that both aims are to improve the quality and accessibility of European education and training systems through the effective use of information and communication technologies.
He considers three points to be fundamental:
|1. To promote and facilitate the effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in European education and training systems.|
|2. To promote quality education.|
|3. To adapt education and training systems to the needs of the knowledge society and the European model of social cohesion.|
New technologies, ICTs, and SMOWL contribute to inclusion
Within Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), we include online exam proctoring systems and, therefore, our SMOWL system.
Technology is at the service of people, and educational resources have become digital formats. Their design is based on the premise of accessibility, specifically physical accessibility in the case that concerns us.
Under the premise “zero barriers, zero inequality”, this last decade we have made an immersion in the academic and business environment to contribute to accessibility, affordability, adaptability, and acceptability in education.
Given the positive impact we have witnessed, we can affirm that the use of technology and digitalization contributes positively to people with disabilities.
Just in Spain, there are an estimated two and a half million people with reduced mobility, according to the Mutua de Propietarios Foundation and the Spanish Confederation of People with Physical and Organic Disabilities.
These are data that we cannot and should not ignore and are even more significant if we add the figures worldwide. This makes it clear that a population sector needs us to adapt traditional academic means without delay or excuses.
And how can companies cooperate?
In addition to promoting hiring personnel with diverse profiles and in some way affected by a disability, companies can contribute to accessibility to education through their Corporate Social Responsibility policies. How? Here are three ways:
- By creating and financing specific and inclusive academic programs for employees or their family members.
- Supporting foundations or entities involved in educational inclusion.
- Raising staff awareness of the importance of access to education for the entire population.
Social recognition, legislation, and concrete actions have progressed little by little. Today we have the opportunity to go faster thanks to technology, although we cannot forget the human will to want to improve. Significant changes begin with small actions supported by a common idea and goal.