Technology offers a wide range of benefits for teaching and learning. Digital formats allow users to personalise the way they access content, making the aim of "access for all" much more achievable.
Usability & Accessibility
Usability in the context of online learning materials (web pages, Moodle pages, audio, video etc) refers to the ease with which people can use them, and find relevant information quickly. Usability is descriptive of the quality of a website: the more a website is designed to allow user to access its content in different way, to suit different styles, the more it will have universal appeal. Clarity and ease of use are paramount principles for any successful design, not only for the purpose of providing access to disabled users.
Accessibility in the context of online learning materials refers particularly to design qualities that make online resources available to all, i.e. without creating unnecessary barriers however a user accesses it. For example, computers should be functional without a mouse, textual information on web pages should be readable by screen readers, and in fonts whose size and colours are adjustable.
The good news is that the move to online resources has generally increased accessibility, since they are in a more flexible format.
"Access for all" means that cognitive or physical impairments are no hindrance in accessing information. Learning materials in particular should be created so as to enable universal access. This is not only a legal requirement, but above all a moral one. As an HEI we have a duty of care towards all students and staff. It makes good practical sense, too: websites designed with access for all in mind provide greater flexibility and meet a greater variety of needs of different users, regardless of impairment.
Duty to anticipate
The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001(SENDA) and the earlier Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)* laid out that responsible bodies (HEIs) should anticipate the requirements of disabled people or students and the adjustments they could be making for them, including all elements of course delivery.
*SENDA continues to apply though it has mostly been replaced by the 2010 Equality Act.
- Use simple presentation and language
- Use given headings instead of formatting your own headings. This allows screen readers to jump from section to section
- Provide meaningful text in your hypertext links
- Remember to add alternative text to images and other media
- Where possible, consider providing information as HTML or Moodle pages rather than Word documents
- Avoid specifying ("locking") font colour and size, i.e. allow students to view text in a font they prefer.
Is Moodle accessible?
Moodle is a very complex environment and though it strives towards universal accessibility, full compliance has not as yet been achieved. The JISC TechDis article on Moodle accessibility summarises key issues. For more information, see also the Moodle Accessibility page on moodle.org.
You can do a lot by making sure you think about what kinds of materials you present to your students.
Any further questions, contact email@example.com
They also provide support in using assistive technologies. For more information email ITS.Disabilities.Support@lse.ac.uk
The "Accessibility: Make your teaching accessible and inclusive" event was recorded. If you missed the event you can access the recordings and presentations.
Open access is a moral as well as legal responsibility
Key to the open door - photography by Tawheed Manzoor on flickr
TechDis - UK's leading advisory service on technology and inclusion
AccessApps - a free suite of software applications that "support reading, writing, planning as well as senosry, cognitive and physical difficulties".
RNIB Web Access Centre - information on how to make websites accessible to everyone from the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
University of Bath post on "Designing accessible e-learning materials" (2007)