National Education Technology Plan: Many children left behind

"We certainly applaud efforts to ensure that American students benefit from the explosive growth of technology in education, but what about the more than six million students with disabilities?" asks Martin Blair, Policy Director of the National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE).

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education released its 2004 National Education Technology Plan entitled, "Toward a New Golden Age in American Education: How the Internet, the Law and Students are Revolutionizing Expectations." The plan outlines seven recommendations for technology in our nation's schools. The needs of disenfranchised populations, such as minority students, are mentioned, but conspicuously absent are the needs of students with disabilities.

"It seems that with this plan, millions of American students will be left behind" according to Cyndi Rowland, Technology Director for NCDAE, "There is no mention of universal design or assistive technology. It is tragic that so much energy and effort was placed on developing a plan that does not appear to include everybody."

The 2000 U.S. Census data indicated that although 49.7 million, or one in five, American's over the age of five have a disability, approximately 8.5% of the population, has at least one disability that would impact computer and Internet use.  This includes long-lasting severe vision, hearing, mobility, and manual dexterity problems.

"Students in our day and age are 'weaned on technology'. This includes children with disabilities. We must be sure that the unique needs of these students are considered when developing technology infrastructure in education, including the development of curriculum and teacher training," says Sarah Rule, Director of NCDAE.

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