Digital Does Not Equal Accessible!

21 12 2017

We’ve recently refreshed the copiers in our district. You’d think this wasn’t a big deal, however, the ability to scan in color is pretty exciting (I know, it doesn’t take much to bring joy to my world)!  This opens up a whole new level of possibility for teachers who, with the best of intentions, want to ensure that students have access to content on a tablet or laptop.

This is a great idea.  Paperless classrooms are now a “thing”, and that’s great for the trees and the environment! Simply scanning documents into a copier and posting them in Google Classroom DOES make them digital. It DOES lend itself to a paperless classroom. However, what it does NOT do is make that media ACCESSIBLE.

What does accessible mean? When we are talking about content that is on a computer phone, or tablet, we mean that ANY user can use tools to access the content (i.e. screen reader, text to speech, magnification software, etc).  The content literally comes to life for a user with (or without) disabilities.

I posed this question a while ago on “the Twitter”, as I know I’m not the first person to talk about this concept, or face this dilemma in their setting.  In reaching out to my PLN (Professional Learning Network, I received some wonderful responses! Here’s what they had to say when I posted the graphic “Digital does not Equal Accessible” and asked for their thoughts.


In other words- ALL means ALL.



In other words, intentional use, with end user (i.e. students) as focus.



In other words, don’t be afraid to explore and allow students to explore as well! 


In other words- Dear Developers, please listen to us as you continue to develop tools to support ALL  learners.



There are no other words here- this about sums up this whole blog  post! 


Luis Perez

In other words, forethought, not afterthought. 



In other words, leverage UDL.

I also took the time to email John Brandt  from MaineCite and Cynthia Curry from CAST and the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM Center) on the subject, as their primary roles in their work center around accessibility.

John graciously shared some resources, which help in building understanding around accessibility as a forethought, not an afterthought:
Born Accessible from Benetech

Born Accessible Guide from CTD Institute

Tara Robertson’s thoughts on digital vs. accessible

Building Accessible Infrastructures

Cynthia Curry, in the most eloquent of ways, summed up how to think about accessibility rather nicely:

“Materials can be born print and require retrofitting

Materials can be born digital but difficult or impossible to retrofit

Materials can be born accessible and thereby readily usable”


I hope this post and resources are helpful to you in developing deeper understanding of accessibility. Many thanks to  John Brandt,  Cynthia Curry, Leslie DiChiara, Nancy Kawaja, Mike Marotta, Cheryl Oakes, Audrey O’Clair, and Luis Perez for their time, expertise, and invaluable contributions.

” Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”

– Maya Angelou*.

*Cynthia Curry used this quote in a presentation at ACTEM in October. I love it.



Making Curriculum Materials Accessible for All Students: An Overview of AIM

4 08 2016

Educators are challenged to provide curricum materials that are accessible to all learners. It can be quite a challenge in providing this without any prior knowledge, resources, or processes. Ensuring that all curriculum materials are accessible to all students requires careful planning, consideration, timely delivery, and a team-based decision making process. Curriculum Materials should be accessible to all students as a forethought, not an afterthought. There are those instances where a student will require a specialized format (ie large print, braille, digital or audio text) to access the curriculum. This is known as providing Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) or Accessible Educational Materials (AEM).

I’ve created a simplified flowchart of AIM and the decision-making process for IEP teams (for those visual learners out there):

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 12.46.54 PM

There are a wealth of resources regarding AIM/AEM. Recently, I have had the honor to present on the topic for MaineAIM and I offer these resources to you, the reader, to help you better understand the AIM process and provide resources in te selection, acquisition, and use of AIM for your students.

Check out the webinar from MaineAIM regarding AIM/AEM, Assistive Technology, and the IEP here

Check out the webinar on AIM from here! 

Providing AIM for your students in a timely manner will help keep the content accessible, ensure FAPE, and provide your students the opportunity to learn grade-level material regardless of disability.  I hope these resources are helpful to you as you navigate the AIM/AEM process for your students!