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RE: Strategies for Disabled People

From: Chuck Hitchcock <chitchcock@cast.org>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 15:06:47 -0400
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NBBBKAJEGLHENOJJCLGHOEFEEAAA.chitchcock@cast.org>
Hi again Anne,

I do want to point out what I consider to be a major difference between the
"learning styles approach" and "Universal Design for Learning" in education.
Today, we are mostly in a phase that I describe as "curriculum modification".
In other words, we take what exists and modify it or apply some special tool
to it so that it is more flexible or better suited to some individual need.
We turn books into digital books then use our special engines to make them
talk.  We modify traditional approaches to the identified special needs of
individuals.  As you point out, this work has clearly been going on for quite
some time and is still the most prevalent and practical approach to helping
those with various learning differences to survive, perhaps even succeed, in
regular classrooms.

Universal Design for Learning implies that the pedagogy, practices,
curriculum, materials, and environment are inherently flexible from the start.
For example, textbooks are delivered both as books (maybe) and as electronic
versions with built-in single and multiple switch scanning, size adjustments,
contrast adjustments, text to speech with synchronized highlighting,
navigation aides, links to reference materials, organizational tools, summary
tools, expressive opportunities, interactions in multiple media, branching for
special interests, and much more. We also like the idea of "half-full"
curriculum materials where teachers and students can modify, localize and
enrich the content and activities.

We know how to do this for access by those with sensory and physical
disabilities but still have much to learn about how best to do it for those
with cognitive differences or disabilities.  Of course, this is much easier to
do when content is digital and we use technology tools.

The main point is that it will be built in - not added on later

By the way, CAST has just been awarded a 2.5 million dollar grant from DOE to
deal with the issues related to learners with disabilities being denied access
to the same curricula that all kids have access to.  As you know, this is
important with regard to standards and high-stakes testing.  I will be
directing the project along with other ongoing product development, research,
and project management.  We just put a link on www.cast.org with a description
of the Center work and will be kicking it off in December.

Others on the list should perhaps indicate if this level of discussion should
be taken off line.  I have a feeling that it is very pertinent to the next
level of development for guidelines.  We need to keep an eye on the Open eBook
standard, EBX, and new tools for the delivery of content in flexible learning
environments.  The W3C could play a critical role in how content is prepared
and presented by educational publishers and others who prepare material to
enhance learning.


Chuck Hitchcock, Director
Universal Design Lab (UDL)and
Product Development,
>9 Cross Street, Peabody, MA 01960
Voice 978 531-8555
TTY 978 531-3110
Fax 978 531-0192
Received on Friday, 30 July 1999 15:05:46 UTC

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