Coordinating Early Childhood Systems
While early childhood providers and families prioritize activities that optimize interactivity with peers and the natural environment, print and digital materials and technologies are commonly present in early learning settings, including the home and community. If and when they are determined to be appropriate, interactive materials and technologies need to be accessible if children with disabilities are to benefit from inclusive settings. Examples of accessible materials and technologies in early learning settings can include:
- Tactile books that include a combination of print and braille
- Video that includes captioning of sounds and audio description of visual elements
- Mobile apps that are compatible with a child’s assistive technology (AT)
Ensuring that children with disabilities in early childhood programs can participate in all range of activities in early childhood programs is effectively achieved through a coordinated approach requiring collaboration between a number of agencies, federal, state, and local service providers, and families and caregivers.
The Critical Components of the Quality Indicators for the Provision of Accessible Educational Materials & Accessible Technologies for Early Childhood describe how agencies, programs, and services can work together to improve the accessibility of early learning environments for children with disabilities.
In inclusive early childhood programs and settings, social and learning activities are designed for the participation of all children. Objects, tools, and materials that are selected for inclusive activities provide options for engaging through multiple sensory, physical, and perceptual means.
AEM Center at CAST
This synthesis summarizes the knowledge development activities that informed the development of the Critical Components for early childhood, including a literature review, insights gained from a partnership between CAST and the Santa Clara Office of Education, interviews/focus groups with national and state technical assistance providers and a crosswalk between the National AEM Center’s existing Quality Indicators and the Indicators of High-Quality Inclusion (ECTA and NCPMI).
AEM Center at CAST
Relevant Laws and Policies
In addition to guiding early childhood programs toward more inclusive settings for all children, the Quality Indicators address the following laws and policies related to equal access for children with disabilities:
- IDEA as relates to the timely provision of accessible materials and technologies
- Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as relates to coordination between early childhood programs and K-12 schools, including use of the Early Learning Guidelines
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as relates to providing preschool children with disabilities equal access to the program, with reasonable accommodations and modifications
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as relates to federal technology accessibility standards in the procurement of digital materials and technologies