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(Digital) Accessibility and Inclusion: Breaking (Language) Barriers for All

The crucial importance of digital access and inclusion has been highlighted during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, when online and remote learning became been the norm for millions of learners around the world—and, for many, their only contact with the outside world. No matter the disability—visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive—accessibility removes barriers and unlocks possibilities. Language-learning in and of itself is a barrier-breaking process, with the barriers ranging from merely linguistic or deeply cultural, so inclusivitymust be its polestar.


Inclusivity and Accessibility: Law and Practice

In Italy, the right to an education and the right of students with disabilities to study is guaranteed by law 104/1992: “Framework law for assistance, social integration and rights of people with disabilities.” The 104 (la 104, as it is commonly referred to), guarantees respect for human dignity for people with disabilities, as well as their rights to independence and autonomy, thus facilitating their integration into communities, schools, jobs, and society. There have been further laws, regulations, and updates, but la 104 continues to be the main framework regulating inclusivity and accessibility.


In daily practice at school, this means special needs teachers for students with disabilities, extra time for homework and tests, technical and learning equipment tailored to learners’ needs and support aimed at removing architectural or sensory obstacles.


Digital Accessibility: Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Thursday, May 16, 2024 will be the thirteenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), the purpose of which is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and the more than One Billion people with disabilities/impairments.”


In Italy, the main 2024 GAAD events will take place in Roma on May 16 and 17. Developers, designers, professionals, and everyone committed to promoting digital accessibility will organize conferences, workshops, and seminars to share their knowledge and discuss new and old challenges.


What’s the state of the art of digital accessibility in Italy? According to several national and European laws, Italian schools and programs must be (digitally) accessible to everyone. There are lights and shadows, as they say. Despite an advanced legislation, the practice is often burdened by bureaucracy, lack of resources, and lack of proper training to school staff and teachers. In daily practice, in language classes as well as in other subjects, this affects textbooks, electronic rosters, and remote learning, among others.


In addition to more and more companies implementing accessible technology, there are many valuable initiatives, including the matematica accessibile program at the University of Torino, where students are given access to assistive technology–equipped computers as well to software that decodes formulas and that works with the most common screen readers.


Starting from 2025, Italy will need to comply to the European Accessibility Act, which covers products and services that have been identified as most important for persons with disabilities. For the very latest, stay tuned for Global Accessibility Awareness Day and take it as a valuable chance to talk, think, and learn about digital access and inclusion.


By Claudia Quesito


Read also:

Global Accessibility Awareness Day: 6 Strategies for Creating Optimal Accessibility in the Language Classroom

Global Accessibility Awareness Day


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