Understanding the costs of accessible EdTech solutions for learners with disabilities

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Information and communication technologies can be catalytic tools in advancing equity and inclusion in education, ensuring that learners with different disabilities can access, participate, and achieve in school
Information and communication technologies can be catalytic tools in advancing equity and inclusion in education, ensuring that learners with different disabilities can access, participate, and achieve in school. Copyright: Shutterstock

Persons with disabilities have traditionally been among the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further widened inequalities. Prior to COVID-19, learners with disabilities were already 2.5 times more likely to never go to school than their peers. Once in school, learners with disabilities might face unique and additional barriers to learning, including limited access to appropriate and accessible teaching and learning materials.

Information and communication technologies (ICT) can be catalytic tools in advancing equity and inclusion in education and ensuring that all learners, including learners with different disabilities, can access, participate, and achieve in school as outlined in the World Bank’s recent ICT landscape review study. A focus on user-centered design and an emphasis on equity and inclusion is one of the guiding principles (design at scale and for all) part of the World Bank’s EdTech Approach. Guidance for disability-inclusion in World Bank education projects is built on four criteria to 1) engage with stakeholders, 2) collect and analyze disability disaggregated data, 3) ensure inclusive design and 4) include monitoring and reporting.

However, the effective inclusion of technology to support learners with disabilities does not always receive the relevance in the political agenda that it deserves to support education reforms in unique country contexts to support learning for all. While there is a consensus that the high cost of ICT is one of the critical barriers that hinders the utilization of ICT for inclusive education in low- and middle-income countries, scarce evidence exists on costs to provide ICT resources and assistive technologies to support inclusion.

Educational technology (EdTech) for accessibility is far from being a one-size-fits all solution. It requires thorough screening, planning, but also a careful analysis of the support needs of learners with different types of disabilities to provide the required hardware, software, pedagogy and support. As the landscape study showed, there is little guidance for policymakers on how to conduct screening of disabilities and select and procure accessible EdTech cost-effective solutions. The underlying challenge is the need to develop sustainable financial strategies to scale up accessible EdTech for learners with disabilities, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Towards more informed and evidence-based decision making

Data is a fundamental part of decision-making at all levels of an education system. Knowing the needs of learners in any given classroom, can inform the design of teacher practices and training programs, curricula and assessment tools, the preparation of teaching and learning materials, school leadership efforts, or parental engagement support. Reasonable accommodations should be made for learners with disabilities to engage in learning activities. Systematic investment and support are needed to train and prepare teachers with the knowledge and skills required to educate learners with disabilities.

Making ICT and assistive technologies accessible

To support the development of effective and inclusive EdTech policies and to inform investment decisions for accessible and inclusive ICT solutions and assistive technologies, the World Bank’s Education Global Practice has developed with the support of Inclusive Education Initiative (IEI) Trust Fund an interactive Decision Making Tool for Tech-Enabled Disability Inclusive Education (TEDDIE) Interventions.

TEDDIE is organized around four different pillars: 1) stakeholder engagement, 2) mapping of ICT and assistive technologies, 3) teacher/staff training and 4) maintenance to facilitate planning, costing, budgeting and financing inclusive EdTech policies. The TEDDIE tool is currently being adapted and applied in two low- and middle-income countries to estimate the cost of EdTech and the additional actions needed to implement inclusive education in these unique country contexts and to support identification of policy priorities. Based on the findings of these pilots, TEDDIE will become an actionable global public good for decision makers interested in collecting data, processing, and prioritizing accessible EdTech policies to support disability-inclusion in education in different county contexts.

What is the next step for TEDDIE?

Upon completing the pilot of the tool, key insights and lessons learned will be summarized in a report, which will be publicly available. The report will include a mapping of the existing EdTech for disability-inclusive education policies in the pilot countries; a creation of a resource repository of the main ICT and assistive technologies for disability-inclusive education that exists in the market; and elaboration of the financial cost tool. Key insights will also draw on qualitative data from dialogue with key stakeholders, including their perspectives on country-specific needs and how these requirements shaped the adaptation of the tool, as well as the potential for scale-up.

Data requirements for using the TEDDIE

Effective policy decisions require accurate and relevant data. Countries interested in adopting the TEDDIE tool will need critical data about learners and their contexts. The "6 P’s Framework" outlined in the ICT landscape review study highlights the nature of data needed to plan and budget for inclusive EdTech policies:

  • People: availability of specialized teachers; support to principals; teacher professional development; support to students and parents.
  • Products: inventory of digital resources such as special software and hardware (see EdTech Toolkit ).
  • Pedagogy: special learning materials; pedagogical guidance for different disabilities.
  • Policy: regulatory policies focused on disability; inclusive education national strategy; institutional capacities and key stakeholders.
  • Place: the readiness of learning environments; quality of infrastructure considering access to electricity and/or connectivity.
  • Provision: monitoring via inclusive Education Management and Information System ( EMIS ); financial management; procurement; supply and maintenance.

This information will be essential to effectively guide decision-makers in implementing inclusive EdTech policies that target learners with disabilities.

If you are interested in piloting the TEDDIE tool in your country or would like to learn more, you can contact the TEDDIE team at: inclusive_education@worldbank.org. Please stay tuned to see how this work progresses.

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