Children with disabilities remain one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society. Children with disabilities are 49 per cent more likely to have never attended school compared to children without disabilities. Even when in school, children with disabilities still face unique and additional barriers to learning, including limited access to appropriate and accessible teaching and learning materials.
New and innovative technologies can be catalytic to advance inclusion in education to ensure ALL children can access, participate and learn in school. The UNICEF-led Accessible Digital Textbooks (ADT) initiative, in collaboration with Ministries of Education and implementing partners, follows Universal Design of Learning (UDL) principles to design and produce accessible digital textbooks (ADTs) for children with and without disabilities, to ensure that all students can learn together. ADTs have accessibility features such as sign language videos, navigation support, voice over and image descriptions, subtitles and interactive UDL activities.
In Uruguay, UNICEF and the National Administration of Public Education (ANEP)1, have designed and tested the first ADT for primary education in the country: Cuaderno para leer y escribir en primero. The ADT offers much more than a traditional textbook, with a variety of accessible writing and reading activities, covering topics like vocabulary, decoding, and phonological awareness.
Accessible features of the Accessible Digital Textbook: Cuaderno para leer y escribir en primero
To ensure the quality and fit for purpose of the ADT, user testing was carried out to see how children were able to engage with its features. The user testing encompassed four types of schools, involving groups of children aged 6 to 12. Each group consisted of 4 to 5 students, including children with learning difficulties, visual impairments, hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities and students without disabilities. Students used their personal accessible devices provided by Ceibal2. Each group was supervised by a teacher and additional support from specialized teachers was provided based on the specific needs of students.