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The Cornell University Online Resource for U.S. Disability Statistics estimates that there are about 54 million people currently living in the United States with a long-term illness, impairment or other disability. Fortunately, their disabilities no longer have to prevent them from getting a quality education. Many disabled persons are now taking advantage of online educational resources for both high school and university courses.
From High School to College
Any higher education journey starts with a high school diploma or GED, which then paves the way for college and other opportunities. Online high schools are already a growing trend, with both public schooling available as well as private options like the Penn Foster high school program. Online college courses are growing in availability and popularity as well.
Technology Levels the Playing Field
The Office for Disability Issues reported that disabled persons are about three times less likely to have employable qualifications than non-disabled persons. They are also about half as likely to hold a degree. Around 19 percent of working-age disabled people have no formal job qualifications. However, due to technological advances and the advent of the online school, the tide is turning where this is concerned.
Technology plays a vital role in allowing students with disabilities and educational resources to intersect. In many ways, technology has become the great equalizer, creating a level playing field for all students regardless of their physical capacity. Even textbooks have been affected and are playing a vital role in these changes; now that e-books, e-readers, apps and text to speech software is widely available, there is no set form that educational material has to take. This flexibility opens the door to more and more users having access to materials that might not have benefited them through traditional forms.
More Opportunities for All Students
With technology and online learning, education is much more flexible to specific student needs. Classes and lectures migrated outside of the lecture hall and onto podcasts, YouTube videos, tablets and smartphones. Via the cloud, the material is much more accessible to users anywhere, anytime.
Students with disabilities definitely have a need for more flexibility and compassion for their situation, and technology is helping to facilitate this. With the advent of online learning, students no longer have to travel to class or libraries or carry heavy textbooks. In many cases, they can learn at their own pace and have access to tools and resources they would not normally have at their fingertips. They can chat with instructors or other students from the comfort of their own locations via email, Skype or social media.
Only the Beginning
While technology has helped to increase the accessibility of high school and university level education, there is still more to be done. At this time, there are only about 250 online high schools in the country, compared with about 37,000 physical schools. More students should have access to online education if they desire it and if it best suits their learning style.
There’s a need for both public and private schools so that the needs of all student needs can be catered to. Of course, one of the groups that benefits most from the online schooling option is disabled persons, so ideally their needs should be taken into consideration as educational innovation continues.
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