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Three tips to address an accessibility gap

The Newsela Team
Feb 18, 2022

How does the phrase “students lack” transform to “every student has”? Well, it can start with a conversation on how to address an accessibility gap. When we talk about accessibility, valuing student differences and potential must be top of mind. As many educators know, the needs of students differ, so it is important that content is accessible for learners who need extra support or lack the required background knowledge. When that doesn’t occur, there is an accessibility gap. We must meet students where they are and ensure lessons are accessible from any point of entry. 

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In 2019-2020, 14% of public school students received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).   However, it takes more than just inclusion to promote equity among students with disabilities. There also needs to be a focus on the education process, such as differentiated instruction methods. That’s why content on Newsela is designed to consider accessibility at every turn, taking concrete actions that address the differences among students. Plus, the Newsela student experience is fully compliant with World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA. What does this mean? In short, this means that significant supports are made for students with disabilities as they navigate Newsela content. 

If you notice you need to make your content more accessible, don’t worry. Check out these 3 tips to address an accessibility gap using Newsela. 

Scaffold texts with features such as read aloud, to meet diverse learning styles and reading levels 

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Text-to-speech technology, also known as read aloud, began in the 1980s to help students with reading disabilities. Newsela’s read aloud feature allows students to both follow along with the text and stay engaged. It reads text aloud, whether it’s in Spanish or English,  and highlights the text along the way. This feature brings more opportunities for differentiated instruction and accessibility throughout the learning experience for students.

Leveled content is another feature within scaffolding that’s key to accessibility. Newsela content is published at 5 different reading levels, allowing students with diverse reading needs to access content. In ELA, students may feel more confident when they experience more success in reading comprehension, and in social studies, every student in class has the opportunity to get content and participate in the same discussion.

[Read this post to learn more about the ways teachers use the read aloud feature on Newsela.]

Ensure texts are available in languages other than English

Another key part of addressing an accessibility gap includes meeting the needs of English language learners (ELL). The ELL population increased by more than 1 million since 2000 in K-12 schools. To address this increase we must continue to ensure the appropriate supports are in place to meet the diversity in student language.

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Newsela offers texts published in English and Spanish at 5 reading levels. Additionally, our Spanish Write Prompts and comprehension quizzes are curated by native Spanish speakers. 

Want to learn more about Spanish texts in Newsela? Take a look at this blog post or search within Newsela Products for Spanish articles.

Provide reading supports for students who have difficulties seeing 

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Screen readers make access and interaction with digital content more accessible for individuals who have difficulties seeing. Newsela’s student experience is compatible with screen readers VoiceOver, NVDA, JAWS and TalkBack.  

Read more about our accessibility features here.

The one size fits all educational approach fails to acknowledge differentiated instruction, including the circumstances when students don't fit the “traditional mold” of learning. Closing an accessibility gap allows educators to supplement core materials with leveled, information-rich content for all students. Plus, lessons can become more accessible with content that builds confidence and background knowledge for every learning need. 

Stay tuned for more about the common gaps in core materials in the next blog in the series on the skills reinforcement gap. If you missed the previous blog on the student agency gap read it here.

Read the story of how a school district leveraged Newsela’s accessibility features to approach equity in their curriculum content here. 

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