Developing accessible content and digital library for students with learning differences
OLE Nepal has embarked on a new project, supported by UNICEF and KDDI Foundation, with the aim to reduce disparities that children with disabilities are facing with their learning. The project is particularly relevant in the COVID19 context where their physical access to schools and learning environments is greatly reduced, and the school shutdown has disproportionately affected students with learning disabilities. Students with learning differences who depend solely on their teachers’ instruction have been left out from the online home-based learning experience. We are working to increase inclusive access to learning materials on our free and open digital learning platforms – E-Paath and E-Pustakalaya. Our approach to make the learning experience inclusive will move away from traditional methods and towards technology, while promoting lifelong learning.
With the understanding that inclusive education needs to start at the foundational level, we are working with Nepali Sign Language (NSL) experts and interpreters to create NSL instructional videos and embed them on digital learning content E-Paath for Grades 1-6. While all of the contents have text for corresponding audio/sounds, we believe that students with hearing impairments will benefit from having NSL instruction within each E-Paath lesson and exercise.
Our technical team is working on adapting our free and open digital library to ensure it meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), to make the library accessible for users with visual impairments through the use of screen reader software so that they can easily navigate through thousands of resources available. Early adaptation to accessible assistive technology is not only advantageous, but also cost-effective in the long-run. A major part of this project will be creating school level textbooks that are usable with assistive technology. Not many digital books have been converted to a format that can be read by assistive technology for easy access. Our team will work together with experts to create accessible content for the digital library.
The inclusive education contents developed under this project for Nepal Sign Language (NSL) instruction and with accessible books for students with low-vision or blindness will then be tested and piloted in schools for students with visual impairments, speech-hearing impairments. OLE Nepal’s technical team will prepare and provide computers recommended and selected for their assistive technology and ease of access features that meet the needs of the users. The computer labs will be equipped with a power back-up system to avoid any disruptions during classroom sessions, and an offline digital library server (E-Pustakalaya), which will host the offline version of the digital library space with accessible learning contents.
The computer lab set ups in these schools will be accompanied by a teacher training program at the school. The training will help prepare the teachers on the use and methods of instruction for students on interactive digital learning NSL contents and assistive technology. After the teacher training program, OLE Nepal’s teacher trainers and technical staff will provide support based on the school’s requirements. Our content team will also monitor the usage during this period. We plan to have further discussions with the teachers and students of these test schools to learn about their needs and experiences.