Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal approved the release of the guidelines which has been initiated under the comprehensive initiative, PM e-VIDYA to unify all efforts related to digital/online/on-air education.
The 124-page report documented detailed guidelines for essential components and technical standards for accessible e-content, adaption of printed textbooks into accessible digital textbooks(ADTs) for all children based on Universal Design of Learning (UDL) principles, e-content for students with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, mental illness, multiple disabilities and blood disorder, e-content development for children with specific learning disabilities (SLDs), e-content for students with blindness, low vision, deaf and hard of hearing.
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The department of school education and literacy, MoE had constituted a Committee of experts, for recommending guidelines for developing e-content for these children. The Committee submitted a report titled “Guidelines for the Development of e-Content for Children with Disabilities” comprising eleven sections and two appendices.
According to the report, the e-content for CwDs should be developed based on the four principles namely: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Also, e-content including text, tables, diagrams, visuals, audios, videos, etc. should comply with accessibility standards: national standards (GIGW 2.0) and international standards (WCAG 2.1, E-Pub, DAISY, etc).
The recommendations also include distribution platforms on which content is uploaded (e.g. DIKSHA) and Reading platforms/devices on which content is accessed and interacted (e.g. e-pathshala) must comply with technical standards and reasonable pedagogical accommodations have been recommended to meet specific needs of CwDs.
The report while suggesting the technical features by UNICEF for the development of ADTs, it stated, “However, these are not sacrosanct and can be customised according to local conditions, and discussions with technical experts of digital publishing.”
These features include “The software should be able to store such information as preferences, layout, and answers to exercises, and to mark where the student last opened the book,” “All audio recordings must be converted into text and videos must have subtitles in local language and subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (both ON/ OFF selectable),” and “The text block must be highlighted when the user browses with a mouse or finger and when the narration reads the text,” among others.
As per the report in phased manner textbooks may be adapted into Accessible Digital Textbooks (ADTs). The content of ADTs should be provided in multiple formats (text, audio, video, sign language, etc) with turn-on and turn-off features. Further, ADTs should provide flexibility to CwDs to respond to its content/exercises in multiple ways.
In addition to ADTs, the committee has recommended specific guidelines for the development of supplementary e-content as per 21 disabilities specified in the RPWD Act 2016 for students having intellectual and developmental disabilities, multiple disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, specific learning disabilities, blindness, low vision, deafness and hard of hearing and others.
The implementation roadmap along with the suggestions to strengthen compliance suggested that while under PM VidyaDaan, experts, teachers, individuals, and organizations are being encouraged to upload content on DIKSHA, its quality and accessibility be validated, as mandated in RPwD Act 2016, all contents available in audio, print and electronic media must be in an accessible format and persons with disabilities must have access to electronic media by providing audio description, sign language interpretation and close captioning and post NCF 2021, textbooks are likely to undergo a major revision. The new textbooks may be published in accessible digital format ab-initio so that they are ‘born accessible’, among others.