March 2008

European Initiatives for People with Different Disabilities

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Introduction 
People with disabilities are much more liable than their peers without disabilities to be unqualified or unemployed. Unfortunately, because of an explicit lack of an operational infrastructure and the poor range and quality of provisions, many disabled people do not have the opportunities to learn or re-learn basic skills. As a result of this, they not only start under-performing but also loose self-confidence, which often creates a major impediment upon their learning process. In order to vindicate the disabled people from the scourge of cyclic unemployment, certain European Nations are taking recourse to skill-oriented and trade-oriented training measures.

Learning difficulties, such as those caused by poor short-term memory, poor sequencing skills or language dysfunction require professional teaching that is not available to many learners because of the shortage in suitable skilled and qualified trainers. Some learners require assistive technology such as tape recorders, touch screens, Braille, voice synthesisers, without which they cannot learn at an appropriate level. Most would benefit by the access to new technology where the software is pertinent. But many trainers are unfamiliar with the range of available software. Other learners require transportation to the place of learning, more accessible accommodation, timetabling that avoids fatigue, or even a personal assistant. The existing standards are not sufficiently accessible and the curriculum is insufficiently flexible to enable all learners to develop basic skills.

ICT and VLE

New Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and virtual learning environments (VLEs) together with assistive technologies can support learners with disabilities to achieve basic skills. e-Learning has the potential to enable learners with particular needs to engage in learning when both accessibility and usability issues are solved. Developments in the use of ICT reflect government investment and local innovation, but the developed systems are often incompatible with each other and with assistive technologies needed by people with disabilities. Each institution or organisation buys its own system and support services and they are often more expensive. A more strategic approach to the future development of ICT in education and development of basic skills of people with and without disabilities is necessary. So ICT in education should:

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