Y. Politis1, D. Deveril1, S. Baldiris Navarro2, C. Avila2, E. de Lera3, T. Monjo3, L. Goodman1

1University College Dublin (IRELAND)
2University of Girona (SPAIN)
3Raising the Floor International (RtF-I) (SWITZERLAND)
Approximately 15% of the world population live with some form of disability, face barriers to education and “struggle every day to be integrated into society” (UNESCO, 2013; Preface). The UN and UNESCO have actively promoted the rights of people with disabilities and the principles of inclusion. An early landmark was The Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons (UN, 1975), which states that disabled persons have the right to education and respect for their dignity. The Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) highlighted that those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools that accommodate them within pedagogy capable of meeting these needs; such schools would be most effective in creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving an education for all. The Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (UN, 2006) included a significant commitment to inclusive education. The above policy documents resulted in diversity and inclusivity becoming core watchwords for educational quality.

In recent decades, the use of ICT for educational purposes has increased, and the spread of network technologies has caused e-learning practices to evolve significantly (Kahiigi et al., 2008). Virtual Learning Environments, e-portfolio (Hughes and Purnell 2008) and mobile learning (Traxler, 2004) are all used extensively to deliver parts of the curriculum and support student learning. E-learning has become an essential tool for the teaching of large numbers of diverse students. Indeed Forman et al. (2002) maintain that e-learning can act as a catalyst for educational diversity, freedom to learn and equality of opportunity. The SMARTlab team at UCD have pioneered the Inclusive Design model for education in the implementation of new Creative Technology Innovation tools and methods to support all learners.

The authors are members of an EC-funded Leonardo Da Vinci project called “Inclusive Learning”. A key deliverable is a Handbook that outlines key concepts and precepts, followed by a how to guide for developing teaching and learning tools, resources and practices for technology enhanced learning contexts. As such, the handbook is primarily intended for educators involved in teaching students with diverse abilities, needs, and preferences. It aims to assist educators in creating engaging and motivating learning experiences for all students, regardless of their special abilities and preferences. It also seeks to create a heuristic evaluation method for instructional technologists to use when designing online learning spaces and scenarios. Professor Goodman introduced the conceptual basis for this work in her Keynote, 21st Century Learning for All: Innovative Tools and Methods in Practice-Based Education for People of All Ages and Abilities (Edulearn, 2009). We now present the results of this innovate project.

The Handbook incorporates a selection of guidelines generated in two previous projects of current partners – e Access and Alter Nativa – as well as other sources such as WCAG 2.0 (W3C, 2008), the AHEAD’s Charter for Inclusive Teaching and Learning and IDRC’s FLOE project website. The Handbook will be an online OER resource that can be modified in the future, as new tools, methodologies and technologies appear. It can also become a set of recommendations for policy makers. In order to increase its reach, use and influence, the project is seeking to find similar mission-driven institutions to translate it.