Importance of Accessibility for People with Dyslexia

Tarveen Kaur September 4, 2019
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition, spelling and decoding reading. Dyslexic learners need support, and technology can go a long way in making content more accessible and learner friendly.  
Understanding Dyslexia
Language-based learning disabilities (LBLD) are fairly common, given that one in five American students are likely to experience language-learning disability, who find it hard to communicate. The term includes a whole range of conditions, such as Dyscalculia, auditory processing disorders, psychomotor difficulties and Dyslexia. Mayo Clinic defines dyslexia as a learning disorder that involves difficulty in reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also known as reading disability, dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language. People with dyslexia struggle with sounds, making it difficult for them to read and spell. For school-age children, common symptoms include reading below the expected level and having difficulty remembering sequences, spelling, or finding the right word. Teens and adults may read slowly, mispronounce words, or have trouble memorizing. According to statistics published by the Dyslexia Center of Utah, it is the most common language-based learning disability, with over 70%-80% of the people with poor reading skills are likely to be dyslexic.  
Creating Solutions for Dyslexic Thinking 
Dyslexia can affect language fluency, reading comprehension, recall and even speech. Due to the nature of their condition, students with dyslexia struggle to read, absorb and repeat large chunks of text. Since they struggle with expressing themselves, it is also difficult for them to comprehend what they need and ask for help. Children with this learning disability not only experience trouble learning but also struggle to “fit in.” Also, dyslexia sometimes occurs in tandem with other conditions, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This can cause a range of social and psychological issues, and youth with untreated dyslexia are more likely to drop out of high school and become unemployed, underemployed or incarcerated. However, a learning problem is not an intelligence problem. By ensuring accessible content for dyslexic students, we, as a society, ensure that talented and productive members of the labor force are able to develop the skills, knowledge and acceptance to become successful members of the community. Accessibility is not just a normative requirement, it is also a legal requirement. The most recent addition to the American Disability Act (ADA) of 1990, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 guidelines, introduced in 2018, are intended to help people with low vision (those who have some level of usable vision), people with cognitive disabilities and people with learning disabilities. They also aim at removing barriers from mobile technologies. When it comes to learning material, accessible learning materials ensure that students can interact with the text as an aid to learning and are not limited by their disability. The law is moving towards the true spirit of being inclusive and it is now imperative for publishers and EdTech companies to keep pace.  
Designing Content Solutions that Ensure Accessibility
With the right educator attitude and accessibility-focused study aids, students with all forms of learning disabilities can thrive. The most important feature of accessible educational material lies in the improved ability of students to interact with the text. This includes the use of visual, audio and experiential aids, wherever possible. For example, dyslexic students have noted that since one key struggle they face is being able to write notes fast enough to keep pace with the lecturer’s speech, the use of speech to text software can be quite helpful. In addition, accessibility consultation services can help educational institutions ensure accessibility compliance, while also including accessibility design, remediation and Audit & conformance services. For instance, Magic EdTech makes sure of diversity within its design and testing teams, including people with special needs as part of the team, so that products are built keeping in mind the accessibility needs of various types of students, including those with dyslexia. In fact, the organization has 200+ accessibility trained accessibility engineers. Through such efforts, Magic EdTech is able to create solutions that are Accessible, Affordable and Sustainable, while achieving accessibility competence and 100% compliance with existing guidelines, such as the ADA, WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1. Online learning has proven very useful for students with dyslexia, given that it offers the scope to restrict the volume of text visible on the screen, while allowing students to consume content at their own pace.   
Magic’s Recommendation
When it comes to EdTech content, interactive video tutorials, eBooks with narration, mind maps, PowerPoint presentations, images and self-assessments, we ensure effective learning for students with dyslexia and making the content as per WCAG requirement. Our team works with experts, psychologists and successful dyslexics that help us meet all requirements and need for people with Dyslexia. As a publisher, there is a lot that you can do, from layout to fonts to new features, to ensure accessibility for those with learning disorders. It is important to remember that the need for assessments, instructional approaches and materials vary for each child. The digital space gives you the freedom to personalize education like never before. Developing accessible content is just the beginning.

Tarveen Kaur

Accessibility Practice Lead at Magic EdTech, Tarveen is actively engaged in building new class digital accessibility solutions for education.