Inclusive Learning Communities with ARC-BC Materials and Digital Alternate Formats

Inclusive Learning Communities with ARC-BC Materials and Digital Alternate Formats

This presentation will focus on accessibility standards and best practices in the creation and use of digital learning materials and platforms used to align with the new BC Curriculum. Presenters will make reference to ARC-BC service delivery as an example of how digital alternate formats enable students to achieve curricular access with greater independence in inclusive settings.
Some have stated that we are in a “golden age” of access to literacy materials for students with perceptual disabilities.There are currently more eText materials available than ever before, and with an increasing portion of learning materials available in electronic format, the promise of curricular accessibility for students with perceptual disabilities
has never been greater. However, full access to the curriculum for these students can only be realized if digital materials are made available in formats that are accessible for all learners of diverse sensory and learning profiles. The Accessible Resource Centre – British Columbia (ARC-BC) is an online repository of learning materials in digital alternate formats whose mandate is to promote and enhance access to the BC curriculum for students with perceptual disabilities. ARC-BC currently serves over 5000 users across all BC school districts and many independent schools.
These users download materials on behalf of 8700 students with perceptual disabilities (e.g., learning disability, physical impairment, visual impairment) province-wide. As an online repository, digital file production is centralized, avoiding costly duplication of effort in alternate format production. Digital alternate format specialists produce materials in a variety of accessible formats (e.g., Kurzweil, adapted PDF, .RTF) according to best practice guidelines for document accessibility.

Under the “Communication” competency in the new BC curriculum, all students are expected to “understand and effectively engage in the use of digital media.” To realize this goal for all learners, it is critical that educators and IT professionals have an awareness and understanding of the principles of accessible design for digital learning materials and for the digital platforms/portals through which students access this material. This presentation will outline several key steps and considerations for inclusive design for digital materials and provide suggestions for how ARC-BC materials can be used to ensure equal access to the new BC curriculum for students with perceptual disabilities.