How to Choose Virtual Learning Tools for Disabled Students

By Nioka Clark – Senior Project Consultant

Instructors are inundated with software options for designing virtual lessons—from online programs to collaborative tools and educational apps. A teacher’s first instinct is usually to focus on how the software will deliver content to students. Is it easy to use, visually appealing, customizable?

Unfortunately, some software values flash over functionality, which often inadvertently creates accessibility barriers for students with disabilities.

Instructors can use the checklist below to help ensure lessons can be adapted and supported for all learners. Can students:

  • change the size of the font?
  • adjust the color or contrast of the background?
  • read captions on all videos?
  • access a transcript of all videos?
  • slow the speed of all videos?
  • read a description of an image?
  • use a screen reader on all text?
  • copy text and paste it in a different program?

Virtual learning presents unique challenges for students who need additional supports and modifications, but the extra effort means instructors can provide greater growth opportunities for all students.

Contact Nioka at:




Virtual Learning Must Wait for Many Students

By Stephen Catt, Ed.D. – Senior Director


If virtual learning is to work in schools, we must close large, sometimes unfathomable gaps in service most of us take for granted.

Microsoft estimates that over 162 million Americans have no access or extremely slow access to broadband Internet. The United States also has the 3rd most expensive Internet in the world.

A workforce leader in rural Pennsylvania tells me roughly 95% of residents in some counties have no access. Some school districts are sending buses with access nodes outside apartment buildings, while others are printing millions of documents to augment lessons.

Virtual learning requires four components: a computer; a usable program; human support (teacher/tech); and access to the Internet. Schools have control over the first three but not the last.

Short term, schools must come up with solutions like buses or cooperation with a network of community libraries and other facilities.

Long-term, Congress must fund the Federal Communications Commission to make the Internet as accessible as electricity, phone or water. In 1934, only 11% of rural homes had electricity, but within 20 years, the Rural Electrification Administration created by Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed 90% to have low-cost electricity.

Let’s continue to innovate fixes for now, but work toward a more permanent solution in the long term.

Contact Stephen at:





Keep the Momentum of Work-Based Learning

By Brenda Vogley – Senior Project Consultant

Local, state and federal agencies have made remarkable investments in apprenticeships and other work-based learning (WBL) in recent years. It is now critical that the progress is sustained through this difficult time so everyone can continue benefitting.

An example of WBL progress is the Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprenticeship Network, which covers five workforce areas in 14 counties of eastern Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania. TPMA helped register 237 apprenticeships and create Ohio’s first competency-based, manufacturing-registered apprenticeship program thanks to an American Apprenticeship Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

TPMA currently manages apprenticeship programs for machinists, industrial maintenance mechanics and welder-fitters in the region on behalf of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

As we wrestle with unknowns of the economy, education and training in the wake of COVID-19, TPMA will continue striving to support WBL programs, providing flexibility for employers and learners to upskill and reskill the workforce.

This time of uncertainty can be used to build flexibility into WBL programs and transform classroom-based learning into online and virtual delivery. Rather than cancelling assessment of on-the-job training, postpone or offer alternative channels for assessment. Train and upskill your WBL mentors.

Perhaps most importantly, explore avenues for expanding access of WBL opportunities to under-served and underrepresented populations.

TPMA is providing technical assistance and counsel to clients across the country as they tackle the upcoming school year and serve students and employer partners. We are eager to share these experiences and successes.

Contact Brenda at: