Born Accessible and the New Golden Age of Inclusive Education
Betsy Beaumon’s Keynote Address at the 52nd
Annual Learning Disabilities Association of America Conference
Rapid advances in technology are remaking the content landscape and have made it possible to get more content, in more ways, to more people. Will the digital revolution usher in a golden age of access to books and information for people who cannot use standard print, such as those affected by dyslexia and other learning disabilities?
Benetech President Betsy Beaumon posed this challenge in her keynote address at the opening of the 52nd Annual Conference of the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Beaumon, an authority on digital accessible materials in education, has spearheaded the movement to see to it that “born digital” books and curricula are “born accessible” to all, that is, made accessible from the outset, as an integral part of the publishing process. In her keynote, she highlighted the convergence of accessible digital materials, mobile devices, and promising new education technology tools that are cloud-connected. These advances can empower students and teachers through personalized interfaces, multi-modal access formats, and better, timelier data on student learning progress.
Beaumon described Benetech’s multi-pronged approach to making this vision a reality. Through its Bookshare online library, Benetech makes the text of ebooks accessible and delivers it to hundreds of thousands of members around the world. Through its DIAGRAM Center and Born Accessible initiatives, Benetech’s work also encompasses research, standards, guidelines, and the development of technology tools to make it easier to create, discover, use, and interact with accessible content, including images, graphics, and math. The challenge of making new digital content born accessible, and accessible all the way to the end user, requires partnerships and technological innovation. Indeed, much of Benetech’s work is done in partnership with corporate, technology, university, publisher, and nonprofit communities.
Accessible content that is universally designed, noted Beaumon, is good content: it works better for everyone and meets the needs of learners with disabilities, advancing inclusive education and equality of opportunity. She concluded with a call to action to educators, administrators, and parents: now is the time to make inclusion a reality, and all of us working together can make it happen.
The Learning Disabilities Association of America is a nonprofit organization of parents, professionals, and adults with learning disabilities providing support, information, and advocacy on behalf of individuals with learning disabilities. Held in Chicago last week, the 52nd Annual Learning Disabilities Association of America Conference brought together leading experts in education, assistive technology, and public policy, attracting a diverse audience of educators, administrators, support professionals, and parents and adults with learning disabilities from around the country and abroad. They discussed issues and best practices in areas ranging from professional preparation and evaluation to advances in research, assessment for learning disabilities, and the transition from school to work or college.