Access problems with on-line education? : LUSENET : MCU - Accessible Web Design : One Thread

Last July I wrote an article for the Times Educational Supplement- Scotland, (Opinions, 13th July, 2001) "Are disabled students set to lose out in the digital revolution?". In the article I looked at how the rush towards providing more on-line provision within education could end up leaving many disabled students behind.

I took to heart the warning by Cyndi Rowland in her article Accessibil ity of the Internet in Post-secondary Education: Meeting the Challenge,

The winds of change have blown over postsecondary education. As Internet technologies transform our educational experiences, so these technologies create a wide chasm.

In my own article I suggested some practical steps further education institutions could take to tackle the ever more pressing problems related to Web accessibility. In summary, I suggested, training for those involved in creating and updating Web sites, access audits of exisisting Websites, and adherence to standards to ensure that new sites are built in a way that will make them accessible to everyone.

I can't say in truth the article made much of an impact at the time - but I can report that from the increased number of e-mails and request for help I am now getting that my predictions may well becoming true quicker than I thought. I am aware of courses where the 'online learning environment' is being used as the primary delivery channel - and that this is causing problems for students. It is causing problems in particular for students who are blind or who have a visual impairment.

Do we have a problem with inaccessible Web sites in further education? Is it getting worse or better?

-- Anonymous, February 19, 2002


Speaking as a student, I think the problem will get worse before it gets better. In the rush to provide on-line seducational services the sometimes complex issues with regards to accessibility are likely to be marginalised, at least in the initial phase.

My course (In Human Computer Interaction) has a WebCT website that is a framebased nightmare, even refreshing the screen to update discussion postings will dump you to a different screen. I can't even read or post a message if I'm using Opera, or have Javascript disabled due to the programs insistence on openeing a new pop-up window

Universities are more likely to buy-in a "proven" system rather than develop a system from scratch, until the vendors of these systems make them accessible, by ditching the deeply nested tables, frames and javascript navigation it is unrealistic to believe the situation will get better.

Given the current lack of accessibility of on-line education is it reasonable to assume that as more complexity is added accessibility will improve, sadly I believe the inverse is more likely.

-- Anonymous, March 22, 2002

Hi Jim:

I know your post is old but for those that happen upon it like I did, I offer the following which may be of interest.

The folks at the University of Toronto's Adaptive Technology Resource Centre have been developing a Learning Content Management System called ATutor.

It is free, supports multiple languages, is open source and conforms to W3C WCAG 1.0 accessibility specifications at the AA+ level.

Those interested might like to visit for more information.

All the best.


-- Anonymous, October 07, 2004

Moderation questions? read the FAQ