The President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning, Professor Kanwar, called for more institutions to make more effort in designing open and distance learning (ODL) opportunities for persons with disabilities, in her address at the International Conference on Information and Communication Technology and Accessibility, held in Muscat on January 12, 2018
The President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning, Professor Kanwar, called for more institutions to make more effort in designing open and distance learning (ODL) opportunities for persons with disabilities, in her address at the International Conference on Information and Communication Technology and Accessibility, held in Muscat on January 12, 2018.
ODL provided better accessibility, therefore further assistive technologies should be developed to support these learners, she said.
Kanwar gave four reasons why ODL presented better opportunities, the first being that ODL is convenient for persons with disabilities to be able to study in their own time, at their own pace, in a place convenient for them.
Second, the flexibility of ODL offers content in a variety of formats, so learners can choose to read, listen to or watch lectures.
Furthermore, ODL costs significantly less than campus-based instruction and so is more affordable.
Finally, a degree of anonymity is also provided with ODL, meaning students can engage with peers and professor without fear of discrimination.
COL’s open and distance learning opportunities form part of the Commonwealth’s efforts to reach Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aspires to provide inclusive and equitable quality education to everyone by 2030.
The level of inclusion in learning for people with disabilities varies across the world, with people with disabilities estimated to make up 15% of the global population.
These 1 billion people are affected by some form of disability, and the numbers are expected to rise further due to ageing populations, conflicts and poverty, among other factors.
Globally, 186 million children with disabilities have not finished their primary education, with the situation worst in developing countries where 90% do not attend school.
In Canada, around 11% of people with disabilities have access to tertiary education, whilst in Australia this number is closer to 5%.
The figures worsen in less developed countries, with India seeing only 0.56% of its disabled population in tertiary education.
South Africa is hardly better at 1%; in fact, 80% of South Africans with disabilities aged 20-24 are not in tertiary education.
Professor Kanwar said: “Research shows that more and more people with disabilities are joining ODL institutions.”
Read More: Professor Asha Kanwar, President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), makes it clear that to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education that promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all, we must find ways to reach learners regardless of where they are and do so efficiently and at scale