In the United States, all too many students with disabilities are still denied equal opportunity to engage in the same curriculum as their peers without disabilities because they do not have adequate access to educational materials that are necessary to learn and succeed in school. The good news is that major changes in technology are reforming education, writes CEO Jim Fruchterman in a United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report, The State of the World’s Children 2015.
The report, which focuses on the theme “innovation for every child,” was published today, November 20, in celebration of Universal Children’s Day and the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It calls for new ideas to tackle the most pressing problems facing children in every part of the world.
In his contributed essay, Fruchterman describes how ebooks offer the possibility of dramatically improving access to quality education and equal opportunity for students with disabilities, and for disadvantaged children everywhere. He brings up Bookshare, Benetech’s accessible online library for people with print disabilities, as a model for removing barriers of accessibility and for transforming students’ lives. To realize the potential of accessible ebooks to help millions more students in the United States and worldwide, argues Fruchterman, we must also ensure that all newly created digital content is made accessible from the outset, and advocate for the ratification of two landmark United Nations disability treaties, namely, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.
“It is our collective responsibility,” says Fruchterman, “to continue unlocking the potential of the ebook to bring equal access to knowledge and learning for all.”