EDUCATION & SCHOOLS

USU set to receive a federal grant to help more people with disabilities nationwide

Jun 19, 2024, 6:25 PM | Updated: 7:16 pm

LOGAN — Utah State University will be creating a new program to help more people affected by disabilities get the tools they need to learn.

The new program called the National Center on Accessible Digital Educational Materials and Instruction, or N-Academy, will be conducted at USU’s Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice. 

USU school officials said the N-Academy will do similar work to what they do now, but the new center will allow them to reach a more extensive range of people nationwide.

“Organizations come to us some higher ed, some nonprofits, some in the corporate world come to us and they’ll ask us, help us find the problems on our website so that we can improve,” said John Northup, the web accessibility specialist for the institute.

John Northup showing how their tools work on the KSL.com website.

John Northup showing how their tools work on the KSL.com website. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

Northup said these are the building blocks of what’s done at the institute. But bringing all of that info into an educational space takes work, and it can be challenging for researchers.

That’s why USU is getting a $7.2 million grant that will help take its findings to all age groups and different kinds of institutions nationwide.

“So all textbooks should be accessible to them digitally, whatever their needs are, making sure that all instruction and materials are in a format that they can use,” said Brenda Smith, associate director for the institute.

The accessibility tools being used on KSL.com

The accessibility tools being used on KSL.com (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

Smith said she usually focuses on special education, but it’s important to make sure people with disabilities can learn alongside everyone else. Not just because of ethics, but because it’s the law.

“So when that doesn’t happen, it’s discrimination, and it’s a violation of the individual’s civil rights,” Cynthia Curry, the upcoming director of the N-Academy.

Curry said that if everyone has the opportunity to learn together, then society is positively affected.

“We need a variety of perspectives across all areas of society,” she said.

USU said N-Academy will open in early October. It will be working to help kids through all levels of school and adults in higher education. All ensure they have that access essentially pre-programmed into their materials.

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USU set to receive a federal grant to help more people with disabilities nationwide