Almost halfway into 2020, a lot has changed. COVID-19 has brought with it new challenges and expectations across a number of different industries. One of the most impacted industries is education with the abrupt shift from in-person classes to online schooling. Teachers, students, school districts, and the educational technology itself are all challenged with these changes as well as how to keep up the expectations for efficient and effective learning.

Many of the difficulties that have arisen since millions around the world moved to learning from home revolve around technical issues: Video and audio quality problems, bandwidth concerns, and scalability of educational platforms. We’ve written about some of those challenges already in a previous blog, but want to focus today on another important subject as remote learning becomes the norm: ADA (American Disabilities Act), or IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), compliance.

The academic implications of COVID-19 remain to be seen, but one major area that has already driven cause for concern among students, parents, and teachers is trying to maintain a quality education for disabled individuals despite the shift to online learning. This means, remote educational platforms must strive to be inclusive with the features that they have available in their online classrooms. Given the unexpected change in classrooms around the world, some school districts, and educational platforms alike, are struggling to keep up with these necessary accessibility demands.

Luckily, at Lineate, we are already primed with having solved these issues before with our dedicated technical team and decades of expertise. From providing custom technology solutions to improving learning capabilities to building ADA compliant features for Edtech, we understand the need, now more than ever, to ensure all students are able to learn at their own pace, and as effectively as possible, when moving to online classrooms.

Read on below to learn more about what ADA compliance is, some ADA compliance examples, and how you can help your school or Edtech platform meet new online requirements for inclusivity.

What is ADA Compliance in Online Education?

As previously mentioned, the implications of the shift to online learning are vast. Many school districts are still reeling from understanding what compliance features they must include as part of remote learning to meet the needs of disabled individuals.

With the quick adoption of platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, and more, teachers and schools have had to adopt educational platforms without fully vetting their capabilities. When considering students with special needs, it’s legally required for schools to make their classrooms, whether online or offline, accessible to disabled students.

In the United States alone, 74,000 schools serving almost 39 million students have been required to close as a result of COVID-19. This has left many teachers and schools wondering how to meet the learning needs of those that are disabled while federal government guidelines continue to change. As NPR recently reported, “According to federal law, children with disabilities have a right to free, appropriate public education whenever and wherever schools are operating.” The article also noted that 14 percent of public school students receive special education services in the U.S.

Regardless of how many students are impacted, the need for compliance is the same to ensure the integrity of online education and the equality in learning no matter an individual’s situation. The U.S. The Department of Education backed this up in a recent fact sheet, declaring: "To be clear: ensuring compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ... and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction."

Let’s explore some of the ways in which educational programs can provide accessibility to disabled students in this new online learning environment.

Examples of ADA Compliance in Remote Learning

To reiterate, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that accommodations be made to students with disabilities. Disabilities are defined by American University’s School of Education into two buckets: Physical conditions and cognitive conditions. Physical conditions include hearing loss, vision issues, and mobility impairments, while cognitive conditions include autism, down syndrome, dyslexia, and attention deficit disorder, to name a few.

While there are suggestions individual teachers can take in the way they create their lessons to be more inclusive, there are also tangible technologies that can aid disabled students in an online classroom. Examples of this, from both American University and Inside Higher Ed articles, include:

  • Add written out hyperlinks in text for better usability
  • Translate text design to sans serif font for better readability
  • Create and use accessible images and graphics that include “alt text” that describes the photo in text for those that are hearing disabled
  • Integrate speech-to-text transcribing programs or features to online or video lessons and platforms
  • Like with images and graphics, videos and audio must also be rid of background noise, have consistent volume, and clarity in word pronunciation
  • Documents must be easily searchable: If a different version of documentation is used that cannot be searched, provide an accompanying plain text format. Charts, tables, and other graphs must also be ADA compliant by including proper labels and headers
  • Voice activated features can and should also be integrated for students to communicate and write via voice-activated text

These are just a few of the popular examples of how to be ADA compliant in online learning. However, each state and district also may have their own rules and restrictions, so be sure to understand those details when adopting new technology or creating an ADA compliant plan.

How Lineate Can Help with ADA Compliance

In these unprecedented times, many educational technologies and their users need to adapt to meet and improve learning expectations. Given the urgency with which many schools moved online, Lineate recognizes that not all Edtech platforms or districts are yet equipped to provide the necessary tools teachers need to help students that are physically or cognitively impaired.

Our custom solutions can help with these ADA compliance challenges. Here are just a few of the features we have been able to build and integrate into Edtech platforms to improve online learning and make remote education more accessible to everyone:

  • Making all text easier to read through design
  • Adding captions to videos and images
  • Audio translations for the video impaired
  • Chatbots for teachers to communicate with hearing impaired or non-verbal students
  • Voice activated controls and translation for those that are physically impaired
  • Gamification of lessons to help some who are cognitively impaired
  • Features to help with timed tests or requesting extended time or help from a teacher for those with learning disabilities

The above are just a few examples of what we have been able to create, but Lineate has a dedicated team of experts and decades of experience to take on any educational technology challenge when it comes to distance learning. By integrating features like this into Edtech platforms, teachers and schools can drastically improve how they reach and engage students from all different learning backgrounds.

Reach out today to a Product solutions expert to learn how we can help your remote learning activities meet ADA compliance standards to create a better, more inclusive, learning environment for all students online.