Expert meeting convened by UNESCO to validate Guidelines on the Inclusion of Learners with Disabilities in Open and Distance Learning

New Guidelines on the inclusion of learners with disabilities in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) are soon to be launched by UNESCO. These Guidelines aim to promote the systematic inclusion and use of accessibility aspects via open solutions (Open Educational Resources - OER, Free and Open Source Software - FOSS and Open Access to Scientific Information - OA) in Open and Distance Learning (ODL). They also highlight the key roles and obligations of educational stakeholders – Governments, Institutions as well as Quality Assurance and Recognition bodies in making accessibility a reality for learners with disabilities.

UNESCO will gather together leading experts working in the field of higher education particularly open and distance learning (ODL), quality assurance and accreditation institutions, disabled peoples’ organizations and IT sector representatives to UNESCO Headquarters on 17 and 18 September 2015 for a consultative meeting on the draft UNESCO Guidelines for the Inclusion of Learners with disabilities in Open and Distance Learning.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all people have basic human rights and fundamental freedoms that include civil and political rights, liberty and privacy, including the right to education and information. There are approximately 1 billion people living with disability in the world today and as such it is vital, and indeed a human right, that access to educational opportunities and information be made widely available to this portion of the global population.

It is foreseen that these Guidelines will support the capacity of higher education institutions to be better equipped to provide inclusive ODL opportunities and enroll a greater number of students with disabilities. A further goal of the Guidelines is to support quality assurance and accreditation institutions in the establishment of appropriate mechanisms to monitor accessibility requirements.

UNESCO has developed these Guidelines in close collaboration with other international, regional, and national partners with the aim of supporting access to quality learning opportunities for persons with disabilities through ODL by harnessing open solutions (Open Educational Resources, Free and Open Source Software, and Open Access).

Adequate learning opportunities that take into account issues of inclusion and information accessibility are vital to ensure that all citizens, including those with disabilities are active participants and contributors to Knowledge Societies. UNESCO is striving to promote new opportunities to overcome challenges to the inclusion of learners with disabilities in education through the effective use of ICT for educational purposes.