Accessible versions mean we now have a Youth Advocacy Toolkit for everyone
On the eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Rolando Jr Villamero – a member of the Global Education First Youth Advocacy Group – writes about new formats of the Youth Advocacy Toolkit.
The status of inclusive education in my home province of the Philippines has been improving. More and more children with disabilities are enrolled in regular classes and teachers have been trained on how to effectively accommodate these children.
In addition, inclusive education is intensively emphasised as one of the principles of the K-12 Basic Education Program, meaning the Philippine education system has to be responsive to the diverse needs of all learners, especially those with disabilities.
I had the opportunity of working for inclusive education and I observed that there was minimal participation of persons with disabilities in the area of inclusive education. When we conducted teacher trainings we had a difficult time involving those with disabilities to become trainers themselves. In other words, the efforts of bringing inclusive education forward in the past did not truly involve persons with disabilities.
One strong reason I see is the lack of opportunities for persons with disabilities to actively participate in aspects of development in society. As one young deaf person said: “We do not have many opportunities to participate in the different activities in our community. In my case I am deaf. How can I go to school if there is no interpreter?”
Youth Advocate Rolando at the United Nations
As a community, how can we ensure that persons with disabilities are able to participate in the society and are able to advocate for their own rights? How can we achieve inclusive education if society does not give persons with disabilities the opportunity to be empowered?
The Youth Advocacy Group of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative works to address these challenges with the support of A World At School, Women Thrive, Plan International, Lumos and Inclusion International.
Together we have produced several accessible versions of the Youth Advocacy Toolkit with the aim of increasing the capacity of young people from around the world to advocate for education. The accessible versions come in different formats which are responsive to the diverse needs of persons within the disability spectrum. Most can be accessed online with the exception of the Braille and audio books. Further down is a description of each format.
It is important to emphasise that these versions relate to the importance of technology in empowering persons with disabilities. Making the Youth Advocacy Toolkit available to everyone, especially to persons with disabilities, is the first concrete step in empowering and enabling this sector to become effective advocates of their own rights.
The time has come when people with disabilities have to be assertive in bringing the issue of inclusive education forward. Indeed, certain policies have been formulated and initiatives have been implemented, but they alone are not yet enough. Take the Youth Advocacy Toolkit as a springboard to achieving our goal of making education and learning truly accessible and inclusive to all.
EASY TO READ
The production of Easy to Read format plays an important role in ensuring that the information in the Youth Advocacy Toolkit is accessible for persons with: intellectual disability, learning or communication disability, and basic reading skills. The document is made up of short, simple sentences that will communicate the most important messages about effectively advocating for education. These are accompanied by pictures that will aid understanding. You can get the Easy To Read version of the toolkit here.
This format provides blind persons access to the information provided in the Youth Advocacy Toolkit. Braille is a system of touch reading in which raised dots represent the text. Braille contains symbols for punctuation marks and provides a system of contractions and shortform words to save space, making it an efficient method of tactile reading.
The audio version of the Youth Advocacy Toolkit is specifically designed for persons with blindness or visual impairment, with reading difficulties or those who are auditory learners. It is a recording of the Toolkit being read.
DAISY AND EPUB
The Youth Advocacy Toolkit was also translated into Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) format, which is an internationally recognised accessible multimedia publishing system that has opened up a much wider choice of reading for individuals unable to use standard-sized print such as people with visual impairments, with dyslexia, with motor disabilities or with age-related macular degeneration. DAISY users can navigate the document precisely sentence by sentence, can search, place bookmarks and control the reading speed without distortion. In addition, the toolkit is also available on EPUB, a free and open e-book standard developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum. It is the most widely adopted format for publishing eBooks. In its latest upgrade, EPUB 3 has embraced all accessibility features present in the DAISY standard.
This multi-page HTML format makes for easier reading on a web browser. The pages offer a clean interface and contain keyboard accessible links to different sections as well as a table of contents. It also contains image descriptions and print source page numbering. The magnification and colour customisation features work well with this format.