Accessibility of Online Learning

Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product (e.g., device, service, environment) is accessible by as many people as possible. Accessibility is often used to focus on people with disabilities and their right of access to entities, often through use of assistive technology.

In regards to computer technologies, there are numerous types of impairment that impact computer use. These include:
  • Cognitive impairments and learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, ADHD or autism.
  • Visual impairment such as low-vision, complete / partial blindness, and color blindness.
  • Hearing impairment including deafness or hard of hearing.
  • Motor or dexterity impairment such as paralysis, cerebral palsy, or carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury.nolog

Some specifics to making webpages more accessible (there are more, but these are the big hitters and a good starting point):
  • Add alternative text to all graphics (if a label is not needed, simply type a space - <img src="logo.jpg" alt=" ">
  • Use high contrasting colors (dark text on light background or light text on dark background) and stay away from using background images behind text
  • Don't use color to convey instruction (i.e. Don't say, "Click the red button". Do say, "Click the square button labelled GO")
  • Include transcripts with all audio files or video files with audio
  • Include a summary of videos with all video files
  • Use <th> tags in tables to specify the headers from the data
  • Label text entry boxes on forms so the labels are read in a screen reader
  • Ensure your pages are decipherable and readable without the use of a style sheet (style sheets can be used, but if turned off, necessary content should still be present)
  • When links to multimedia or objects requiring a software plug-in or player are present, a link to download the software plug-in or player should accompany

Accessible e-learning has 2 major components:
  1. making the interface accessible
  2. making the actual content it holds also accessible

In elearning, accessibility involves eliminating barriers to learning that many learners have found in traditional classrooms.

Here's a URL that has some links to more info...

Resources & Helpful Links

Creating Accessible On-line Course Materials with WebCT

Vischeck - tool that allows you to upload images & webpages to check color contrast for color blindness

The National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education (AccessIT) - University of Washington - information about web accessibility

Illinois Center for Information Technology Accessibility - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - information about web accessibility, particular to e-learning

Equal Access to Software & Information - offers courses on multimedia, e-learning, and information technology accessibility

WebAIM Screen Reader Simulation - simulation that shows what using a screen reader on a webpage is like

WebAIM Low Vision Simulation - simulation that shows what viewing a webpage is like with a vision impairment

WebAIM Cognitive Disability Simulation - simulation that shows what viewing a webpage is like with a cognitive disability

More Resources

National Center on Accessible Distance Learning (AccessDL) Resources

National Center on Disability & Access to Education

AAP's Publisher Look-Up Service

Accessible Opensource Content Management System Reviews

Untangling the Web: Making Online Teaching and Learning Accessible

Making Educational Software and Web Sites Accessible Design Guidelines Including Math and Science Solutions

IMS Global Learning Consortium - Accessibility

Courseware Accessibility

ATutor Open Source Web-based LMS designed with accessibility and adaptability in mind

Sakai: Collaboration and Learning Environment for Education

Docebo Project open source suite completely free and WAI (accessibility) compliant

WebCT accessibility

Blackboard Accessibility