Description: This article is mainly talking about the Bookshare program of the District of Colombia Public Schools which allows the disabled students to get access to the curriculum and studying.
I want all of you to imagine for a minute that it’s the first day of school, now let’s suppose you’re a student that’s either blind or visually impaired; or has some type of a physical disability and you can’t hold the book; or you have a learning disability that affects reading and so you’re not able to access those textbooks and other instructional materials the same way that your peers can.
So instead of getting a textbook or other things on the first day of school, you got nothing and you were told that you have to wait weeks, maybe even months to get your materials and so that excitement of the first day of school turns into disappointment and then to anxiety and maybe even frustration and you’re worried that you’re going to fall behind.
The odds are against them and it doesn’t have to be that way. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate is two-thirds higher than their non-disabled peers and for individuals with low incidence disabilities, such as legal blindness, the employment rate jumps up to 70% and this is not the future that we see for our students at DCPS.
DCPS is on a mission to provide a world-class set of services and supports to meet the unique needs of these students that have print disabilities. Our vision is that these students will receive text books and other core instructional materials in accessible formats at the same time as their classmates that don’t have disabilities.
And we envision that this is going to give these students more opportunities for integration with their non-disabled peers, it’s going to contribute to higher graduation rates, it’s going to prepare more of our students for college entry and ultimately, it’s going to result in higher rates of employment.
So we are really determined to help these students break their cycle of poverty, go on and achieve at the same rates as non-disabled peers. It’s said that it takes a village to that end, our school system has been partnering with rehabilitation services, administration and the DC Public Library adaptive services to ensure more positive outcomes for these students, both while they’re in school and when they transition to post-secondary life.
One key goal to equipping our students is with the right assistive technology. Technology is a fundamental tool for our students to increase their independence and quality of life, while breaking the barriers to access academic and employment opportunities.
Bookshare is an example of a type of technology that will allow our students with disabilities to get immediate access to the curriculum with their assistive technology devices and participate in the general education setting.
It’s the type of technology that our students need to take, to help break those cycles of poverty and to make sure that we’re putting them on a trajectory for not just economic and success but for lifelong learning and service to their community member.