Education is arguably the most important agent for lasting change in the world. It enables us to expand our knowledge, form our values, and develop confidence in our capabilities. For those with disabilities, however, the process of learning can be a struggle. When one lacks hearing, sight, or the ability to cope with their learning environment, they may find themselves feeling uninspired and dejected. However, BIBC’s online learning platform aims to change the dialogue for those with disabilities by introducing four incredible new features.
The first of these, which caters to students with hearing disabilities, is a sign language translator for all audio and video lessons. When students click a specified button above the lesson screen, a second screen appears to its right. On it, all oral information is visually delivered through an animated sign language translator, allowing students to stay on top of their education. Other students have visual impairments, so the second feature alters the delivery differently. Most of the lessons are already largely oral, which would benefit these students. However, diagrams are sometimes used to convey information more effectively. In these situations, a pre-recorded verbal depiction would be available to the students, making their educational experience completely oral.
Now, the third feature could be of aid to all students, but would make the learning process for those with visual impairments even smoother. It is an in-built artificial intelligence assistant, similar to Siri or Alexa, which would offer features like the opening or closing of tabs and voice typing. This way, there would be minimal necessity for visual interaction with the screen.
Finally, the fourth feature would offer students with all types of learning disabilities a tool to achieve a calmer mind. Overwhelm and frustration has a presence in the lives of every student, but can be even more prominent for those with disabilities. Through partnering with the wellness app HeadSpace, meditation and calmness exercises are available directly on the BIBC portal. At any point in the day, this feature could bring students clarity, even aiding those with learning obstacles like anxiety or ADHD.
As someone who stands by empowerment for all, inclusion and accessibility hold a large spot in my heart. Education has offered me immense confidence, and instilled the belief that the sky's the limit. This is the kind of mentality that every student should be able to embody, and under no circumstances should a disability hinder it. My personal passion for inclusivity and accessibility was further strengthened through my summer job at Camp Robin Hood. There, campers with disabilities were fully immersed in the wonderful camp community. Some of them had been diagnosed with autism, while one of the campers in my very group was visually impaired. What I discovered through that experience is that these kids are incredibly bright, and have such potential to accomplish great things. If we offer students the tools to gain control over their disabilities, the opportunities are endless. A student with visual impairment tested the added features and claimed that it was the first time they had found an educational program that enabled them to be truly independent. Another with hearing disabilities stated that they no longer felt out of place in their learning environment. And, clients with anxiety and ADHD found that the Headspace feature brought them a sense of calmness in the moments they most desperately needed it.
BIBC’s features go a long way in moving the quest for inclusivity forward, but ultimately, it is our community which must cultivate the ideal environment. Our peers at BIBC can make this happen in a number of ways. First of all, they can make these students feel fully capable. It is important to offer the necessary support, but employees should still hold them to the same standards as any other student. This will remind them that their disabilities do not define their opportunities. Instead, they do. Secondly, they can make these students aware of suitable extra-curricular activities. This will create a more engaging educational experience overall. Finally, they can make it clear to these students that the BIBC community is a family which is always there for them to lean on. Whether it is through checking in on students, reminding them they are not alone, or sending kind messages on a special occasion, the smallest actions can make the biggest impact. Every single student deserves a bright future, and at BIBC, we strive to ensure that happens.