Newsletter - April 2003Welcome to the first newsletter for 2003. Many thanks to all organizers, presenters and delegates for making the 2002 Conference in Auckland such a big success. Hopefully it won't be too long before another annual conference is hosted in New Zealand. As well as providing an excellent conference venue, there were some fine holiday plans to follow the busy schedules of those attending ICCE at Massey University followed by ascilite2002 at Unitec. The NZ membership count grew significantly last year and every effort will be made to sustain this level of involvement in the society.
The section What's interesting on the ascilite website in this edition of the newsletter announces the Call for Applications for the new ascilite Community Mentoring Program (ACMP). This initiative was announced at the annual conference last year and we look forward to a strong interest from our members. It provides a grant of $500 each for the mentee and the mentor to support their involvement. Applications close 20th May 2003
The lead article on Disability and Access to Digital Education is co-authored by Carol Cooper, a recent addition to staff at The Auckland University School of Nursing and two colleagues from the UK. Their contribution provides a welcome reminder that access means more than making sure students can get onto a computer with an Internet connection and applying culturally sensitive instructional design principles. Many practical suggestions are offered and links to current literature included.
I hope 2003 has started off on a positive note for all Ascilite members if not in some parts of the world, and that the year brings new and exciting challenges and successes.
ascilite Newsletter is produced three times per year and we welcome article suggestions from our readers. Send your article suggestions to any of the editors.
Editor for this edition: Cathy Gunn
Editorial team: Gerry Lefoe, Meg O'Reilly, Russ Pennell
Web Editor: Russ Pennell
Accessibility in Digital Education
What's interesting on the ascilite website?
What's interesting elsewhere?
Accessibility in Digital EducationDoyle, C.A.*, Robson, K.*, && Cooper, C.D.** (2003)
* The Disability Department, Student Centre, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC), UK
** Faculty Education Unit, Faculty of Medical && Health Sciences, University of Auckland, NZ
Introduction Tertiary education the world over is charged with increasing numbers and widening participation. A UK government target, for example, is to increase participation in Higher Education (HE) to 50% of all 18-30 year olds by 2010 (1). Similarly the NZ Ministry of Education aims for "more students participating in and achieving in [higher] education" (2).
To accommodate all these new entrants, the way education is delivered needs to change. One option is to incorporate digital education methods (web, virtual learning environments (VLEs), CD-ROMs and so on) to reach more students via distance learning or by supplementing face-to-face courses.
Increasing numbers of students in HE and widening access means that more students with disabilities will also be entering campuses and online environments and design approaches may need to be adjusted accordingly. To meet this challenge, a strategic approach will ensure legal compliance and ensure that additional work is not created.
How should disability be approached? Current beliefs about disability access are consistent with the Social Model. This requires changing the 'environment' to remove inherent barriers rather than expecting the individual to make the adjustments. Consequently, digital and web based material should be designed to take account of ALL users.
Why do educators need to be aware of accessibility in digital education? Most educators want to ensure that all students are able to engage in their courses. This includes students with disabilities. To facilitate learning via digital education for these students, accessibility design principles can be adopted. If we do not create digital education that is accessible we are disabling the individual.
Many countries have legislation to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Probably the first country to do this was the USA, where Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973) (4, 5) requires that electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured or used by the Federal government should be accessible to people with disabilities. Additionally the Assistive Technology Act (1988) requires that any State receiving a grant under the act must ensure compliance with Section 508.
New Zealand's amended Human Rights Act of 1993 (4), includes specific reference to disability as grounds for unlawful discrimination. The legislation states that institutions should make reasonable accommodation and offer affirmative action to avoid both direct and indirect discrimination. Denying students with disabilities access to digital education would constitute denied access to a place or service.
In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 has generated important case law regarding web accessibility. In Maguire V Sydney Organising Committee for Olympic Games (SOCOG), the website was judged inaccessible to people using screen readers. SOCOG were found to be discriminatory, incurred $20,000 in damages and a lot of negative publicity. The website of Blind Citizens Australia includes guidance to users if they discover a website which is inaccessible and recommends lodging a complaint under the DDA. Access then is taken very seriously.
In September 2002, UK HE institutions (HEIs) came under the jurisdiction of Part IV of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) (4, 6). Under this amendment, HEIs are required by law to ensure that they do not treat disabled students less favourably and to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them. The legislation places proactive and anticipatory duties on institutions. Although the DDA itself does not directly address Internet sites, supporting documentation (the Statutory Code of Practice) clearly indicates that online materials should be recognised and that developing case law will clarify this duty as is the case in Australia. Further information on policies for other countries can be found on the W3C web site (4).
So what does accessibility mean for digital education? You may be aware that pavements have lowered kerbs to assist wheelchair users but these can in fact assist others (e.g. people with pushchairs, bikes, etc). This is the premise of universal design. Adhering to the rules of universal design cuts across all areas - if digital education materials are written in line with the premise of universal design and accessibility, they will be easier to use and navigate for all and there will be no barriers to individuals with disabilities.
Can you make your digital material accessible? There is a plethora of information available for those with time to read it. However, most academics do not have time to search for information. The following summary of design principles presents an outline universal design for web based material, probably the commonest form of digital media today.
If placing an image online, include a textual description (ALT tag) for students using screen reading software.
Avoid using colour alone to convey meaning since students with eye colour deficiency and some with dyslexia may have difficulty. Use some other method of highlighting. This can also benefit anyone who does not have a colour printer.
All of the numbers in red (underlined) are prime numbers:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Sans serif fonts are preferred for all users. Research with dyslexic students has demonstrated that Arial is the preferred font (7).
- Font size
Although students can change the font size on their computer it is good practice to use 12 point as a minimum size.
- Keep it simple
Scrolling text, rainbow text, blocks of italics, blocks of capital letters, justified right margins, should all be avoided as individuals with visual impairments and dyslexia have difficulty with reading text set out in this way.
- Posting documents up online
If you use Microsoft Word to create web content, don't rely on the built-in 'Convert to HTML' option. Equally don't cut and paste straight from Word into FrontPage. Both of these actions result in HTML code with Microsoft extras in it and can be problematic for users of adaptive technologies such as screen readers. A better solution is to prepare the text directly in a web editor such as FrontPage or Dream Weaver or to paste the text from Word into a text editor (Notepad or equivalent) then from the text editor into your web editor.
- PDF files
PDF (Portable Document Format) documents should not be offered as a student's only access to information. Older screen readers are not able to read these documents. Instead, offer both PDF and HTML versions.
- Tables, Charts and Complex Diagrams
Ensure that tables and charts read line by line. Offer alternative textual form.
If using audio or video materials online use text alternatives to describe the function of each visual (or provide a link to a detailed description) and add an audio description or commentary.
The above information is not a definitive list but rather a quick starting point. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have a useful checklist (8) as well as sources by two of the authors, Doyle and Robson (9-11).
What Next? This guidance assists you with converting your Word file - it is now good practice to carry out a validation check using a specialist checker and the human eye. A range of useful URLs relating to all this information is available at: http://www.uwic.ac.uk/new/disability_dept/digital education.asp
- Labour Party. Admissions for Britain: Labour's Manifesto 2001. 2001. [PDF File: http://www.labour.org.uk/ENG1.pdf] (accessed: 6 March 2003).
- NZ Government. Ministry of Education. [Web Page: http://www.govt.nz/en/search/govt-contact-details/?urn=urn:nzgls-an:000014] (accessed: 9 Jan 2003).
- Self Direction Community Project. Accessibility and Inclusive Design. University of Salford, [Web Page: http://salford.selfdirection.org/] (accessed: 9 Jan 2003).
- W3C. Policies relating to Web Accessibility. W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, 1998-2002. [Web Page: http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy/] (accessed: 9 Jan 2003).
- Section 508: The Road to Accessibility. Center for Information Technology Accommodation, [Web Page: http://www.section508.gov/] (accessed: 18 Feb 2003).
- Disability Discrimination Act. 1995. [Web Page: http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/1995050.htm] (accessed: 18 Feb 2003).
- British Dyslexia Association. Dyslexia Friendly. British Dyslexia Association, 2003. [Web Page: http://126.96.36.199/main/information/extras/x09frend.asp#font] (accessed: 06 March 2003).
- Chisholm W, Vanderheiden G, Jacobs I. Checklist of Checkpoints for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. W3C, 1999. [Web Page: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html] (accessed: 18 Feb 2003).
- Doyle C. Accessibility and Online Learning. University of Wales Institute Cardiff, 2002. [Web Page: http://www.uwic.ac.uk/ltsu/accessibility/page2legislation.htm] (accessed: 10 Jan 2003).
- Doyle CA, Robson K. Accessible Curricula: Good Practice for All. UWIC Press, 2002. [PDF: http://www.uwic.ac.uk/ltsu/accessible.pdf] (accessed: 18 Feb 2003).
- Doyle C. Making your module accessible in Blackboard 5.5. 2001. [Web Page: http://www.uwic.ac.uk/ltsu/5min_guide_module_accessible.htm] (accessed: 18 Feb 2003).
- Phipps L, Sutherland A, (Eds) JS. Access All Areas: disability, technology and learning. Association for Learning Technology; JISC; TechDis, [PDF file: http://www.techdis.ac.uk/accessallareas/AAA.pdf] (accessed: 6 March 2003).
- Welcome to Bobby Worldwide. Watchfire, [Web Page: http://bobby.watchfire.com/bobby/html/en/index.jsp] (accessed: 18 Feb 2003).
What's interesting on the ascilite website?ascilite Community Mentoring Program (ACMP)
ascilite recognises the importance of fostering and developing new members to become part of the learning community. The Community Mentoring Program is developed to support new members to become contributing members of ascilite and to recognise the expertise of current members. It will provide 10 awards each year of $500 each to five mentors and five mentees.
It targets all ascilite members and aims to provide mentoring opportunities across a number of fields including technical, academic development, learning development, faculty academics, graphic designers, and programmers. The program requires setting one achievable goal to be completed in six months, for example developing a new technical skill, producing a journal article or conference paper, or developing a process of work using skills from another institution. A person looking for skills and support in one area will be matched with a person with expertise in a specific area, outside of their own workplace.
Applications are invited from people interested in being mentored or in being mentors. The applicants, assisted by the ACMP Team, can also nominate mentors. Please update your profile in the members' area of the ascilite http://ascilite.org.au website if you are interested in mentoring.
Further details about the ascilite Community Mentoring Program, including guidelines and application forms can be obtained from the Mentoring page.
The outcomes will be reported at the Annual Conference in Adelaide in December.
Applications close 20th May 2003.
Gerry Lefoe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair, ascilite Community Mentoring Program Management Team
What's interesting elsewhere?
- The Educational Development and Technology Centre at UNSW has developed an excellent Accessibility Support Site , which covers a range of support including design guidelines, assistive technology and links to tools which can assess your site.
- International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE 2003) "The Second Wave of ICT in Education: from Facilitating Teaching and Learning to Engendering Education Reform" 2 - 5 December 2003, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
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