Digital inclusion refers to ensuring all people can participate and connect in today’s digital society. This includes:
Access to technology and connectivity:
Having access to digital devices like computers and smartphones, as well as reliable internet connections through broadband, WiFi and mobile networks. Infrastructure and connectivity are fundamental prerequisites for digital inclusion.
Having the abilities needed to use technology and navigate the internet. This includes basic IT skills as well as more advanced skills to participate meaningfully. Lack of digital skills, however, is not the only barrier to digital inclusion.
Services and technologies that are designed to be accessible and usable by all people, including those requiring assistive technologies. Digital services need to work for everyone, not just the “average” user.
These aspects of access, skills and inclusive design work together to enable everyone to participate and benefit from today’s digital tools, services and information.
Digital Inclusion and SEN Pupils
When we talk about digital inclusion of our students we need to be mindful of the barriers that may exist in our staff teams as well as in the home environment. Technology today is easier to use than ever. Often a device works straight out of the box with minimal set-up time needed. However, this can lead to the children having a greater understanding than the adults supporting them.
However the graph above shows 10% of the population will not engage with the internet, through lack of confidence or lack of resources or motivation. This will probably include a proportion of our stakeholders.
Digital Inclusion and SEN
To make the most progress we know our students need consistency and high expectations. Our biggest successes occur when we can provide strategies that are applicable in all settings. For this reason, part of our digital inclusion policy should be the engagement of stakeholders in research, training or discussion. That way when you find a technology or adaptation that works you can share it with all those working for the child.
Staff are easy to engage through CPD, this can be made mandatory if you have identified it as essential for supporting the students. Supporting parents is harder but needs to be attempted as students make the most progress when their learning is supported at home.
Access to technology is increasingly important in education. Yet pupils with special educational needs often face additional barriers to digital inclusion. Here are some key considerations to improve access for pupils with SEN.
Providing the Right Equipment.
The first step is ensuring students have the necessary hardware and software. This may mean:
- Laptops or tablets optimised for accessibility
- Assistive technologies like screen readers, switches and adaptive keyboards
- Software like text-to-speech, voice recognition and touchscreen magnifiers
Teaching Digital Skills Tailored to Needs
Digital literacy programs need to be adapted for students with SEN. This means:
- Simplifying basic computing concepts
- Practising skills through real-life examples relevant to students
- Repeating content using multiple modalities to aid comprehension
Making Online Content Accessible
Many websites and learning content remains inaccessible. Schools can:
- Look for content that meets WCAG accessibility standards
- Modify or create resources with accessibility in mind
- Teach students strategies to navigate less accessible materials
With focus and planning, schools can close the digital inclusion gap for students with special needs. Providing the right technologies, skills training and accessible content can empower these students to realize the full benefits of technology in their education.
Can anyone share any successes they have had engaging/upskilling parents and staff teams?