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H810: Week 16: Activity 35: Seale Chap. 12

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H810: Week 16: Activity 35.1: Seale Chapter 12

Seale identifies six potential areas for conflict or contradiction within an organisation or activity system. What potential contradictions exist in your organisation and why?

I have had problems with this chapter at first as H800 introduced me to third generation activity theory which examines contradictions between systems rather than examining contradictions within one system as in the second generation activity theory described by Seale in chapter 12. For example, In H800 I looked at how Engeström's (2001) third generation activity theory could apply to the Geology department at Keele University with whom I work closely. The reduction in government funding to universities and the need for increased diversity has led to the development of modules delivered completely on-line. I drew the following diagram where two interacting systems produce contradictions which Engeström (2001:137) predicts are the 'sources of change and development'.

Engestroms Third generation activity theory showing contradictions between two systems


I found it useful as a starting point to identify where the contradictions lie and then to proceed to examine them before I went on to design an e-learning module.

I believe that third generation activity theory would be a useful technique to look at institutional response to accessibility (chap 11) but the way Seale has used second generation theory in chapter 12 concerns me as activity theory is designed to illustrate a situated activity and looking at interactions between just two aspects of the activity results in the study of isolated concepts and reduces the effectiveness of a holistic image.

Subject: lecturer
Tools: guidelines, evaluation and repair tools
Rules: institutional and departmental policies and strategies
Community: students, lecturers, technologists, support services developers, managers etc.
Division of labour: planning and funding, designing and developing, implementing and evaluating, using, supporting, advocating
Object: to make e-learning accessible

  • Contradiction between the object and the tools
    Confusion over guidelines - which ones to use
    lack of training / guidance on tools
  • Contradiction between the object and division of labour
    Always someone else's job - affected by workload and belief in complexity of the task.
    For example, rules might dictate that accessible learning activities are designed by technicians who have no idea how to adapt materials to achieve the learning objectives.
  • Contradiction between the community and the division of labour
    'Who does what' arguments similar to above. For example, departments may have different ideas on who has the responsibility to produce accessible learning materials.
  • Contradiction between the community and the rules
    Often the institutional rules and departmental rules conflict. Universities have so much infighting between departments that it makes it difficult to get co-operation and accessibility issues need co-operation!
  • Contradiction between the rules and the subject
    Lecturers having weak or inconsistent guidelines
  • Contradiction between the tools and the subject
    Lecturers having difficulties using tools

According to Searle, "any or all of the contradictions will prevent accessible e-learning practice from developing" (page 153 on my printed version but just before the conclusion to chap.12 anyway!!). This is really not the way I, or any of my H800 tutor group, read activity theory. From reading Engeström I thought that contradictions were a necessary part of expansive learning and that they should be recognised and accepted in contrast to being contained, diverting the energy and losing the impetus for expansive learning.

I commented in the H800 forum that expansive learning presupposes that specific contradictions will give learners the impetus to solve them but that Engeström does not address the fact that the subject may decide to avoid any conflict or stress by remaining with the current situation. In order to retain the impetus for expansive learning, the lecturers should be supported to work through contradictions. They may benefit from support in learning new technologies and policy changes that recognise the extra work involved in creating, developing and running accessible e-modules.


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H810: Week 16: Activity 34: Seale Chap. 11

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H810: Week 15: Activity 34: Seale Chapter 11

Do you think that there are any incentives for your organisation to develop or improve the accessibility of its online resources? If so, what are they?
I believe that I am detecting differences between the three universities and also between departments:

  • One university is a research and teaching university with an emphasis on the research. The emphasis of the website seems to be to produce materials and information that will be attractive to the best students. The legal issue is mentioned as an incentive to make more materials accessible but a greater incentive seems to be the competition between departments. For example, one lecturer applied for research funding which he used to purchase a T3 which produces embossed slides for students with a visual impairment and also to employ a PhD student to prepare slides. He published a paper on the work and attended several conferences. I am certain that his core motive was the interests of his students but the competitive instinct between departments had two others quickly following his example which has resulted in a greater incentive for all three departments to produce accessible materials. Other departments will help out students but rely on them to be proactive in asking for help and discussing issues with the lecturer. One student told me that he liked this approach because he had to enter the 'real world' at some point and needed to be able to do this if he wanted a job. He felt that life had been very easy for him at his specialist school and the approach of this university was a very valuable stepping stone.
  • Another university is mainly a teaching university and the focus is definitely on the student experience. In some ways this is a great approach as the lecturers do their best to ensure the students are participating and get the most from their course. They are generally very approachable and willing to help with accessibility issues but, in my opinion, tend to make life very easy for the students in general. For example, a student with a visual impairment has a few problems accessing the intranet. She can do it but lacks practice. The lecturers bend over backwards to send her all information by email instead and as Word documents rather than pdfs which she does not like. I am beginning to get very concerned that she will end up with a really good degree but be unable to function in employment.
  • The third university is the OU. I feel that the OU is in a very special position here as they have large numbers of students with additional requirements and so the incentive to produce accessible materials is very high. This has led to excellent research in the area and thus an elevated position in the academic community which reinforces the incentive to research and develop accessible materials.

Think back to before you started this course. Are there any assumptions you had then about whether and how to make online resources accessible?

Working in student support, I think that my views were very student centred. I assumed that the lecturers were being obstructive when they did not provide accessible materials and I did not understand the complexities of the issues involved from the lecturer's point of view and all the different aspects of accessibility and how they interrelated.

Have these assumptions or rules changed as a result of studying on the course? If so, why and how?

I have a greater understanding of the complexities involved and much more sympathy with the lecturers who are designing material, especially since I designed my own resource. I do still feel that lecturers need information about good practice and that universal and flexible design should be built in to general materials. They do not need to be referred to the WCAG guidelines! They also need to be told that universal and flexible design is not enough and they may still need to adapt materials or find alternative experiences in some cases.

Thinking about your organisation - can you identify people who make, enforce, advocate or implement 'rules' that apply to accessibility? (You may prefer to refer to roles rather than individuals.)

Students who are proactive and insist on materials being in an accessible format are both rule-makers and rule-enforcers. In some settings they are also asked for their opinions on specific issues.

Lecturers implement the rules but also may be involved in advocating the rules to other departments.

Student services are (or should be!) involved in making, enforcing and advocating rules.

External/Agency support staff are involved in advocating on the behalf of students and may be consulted on rule-making.

Administration, library and information technology staff in all settings can be involved in both implementing and enforcing the rules as they have their own website presence and are often the first resort when students are having difficulties accessing information.

Disability/accessibility consultants advocate on the behalf of students and may be involved in rule-making.

Senior managers enforce rules and may be involved in rule-making.

External organisations may be involved in rule making (government organisations) or enforcing rules (legally/ pressure groups / lobbyists)

In your context, are there any internal politics regarding accessibility? If so, what feeds the political debates:

  • Values/principles?
    Should every course be open to everyone with a disability?
    How can someone gain a geology degree without being able to see and describe rocks and thin sections?
    This debate is fed by the employment objectives of the courses. Figures are published on the number of student's employed once they have graduated with detail on whether their employment is related to their degree course.
  • Costs/resources?
    At one university the majority of resources are focused on research but some lecturers have overcome this by attracting funding into accessibility research
  • Attitudes/beliefs?
    Accessibility is "someone else's problem"
  • Culture/tradition?
    Traditionally it has been the student's job to purchase any extra materials required. Publishers are not happy about releasing digital copies of books to students and so they insist on communicating with universities not individual students. This is a new concept and so there is currently no person responsible. There is a lot of confusion as to whether this should be a library responsibility, a lecturer's responsibility, disability services responsibility or the personal tutor's responsibility.

Do you agree with Seale that 'there is a limit ... to the extent to which the institutional change framework can help us to understand the goals and motivations of institutions and teams'? (Conclusions, p.157)

North's institutional change framework is an example of a conceptual framework.  These frameworks can act like maps that give coherence to empirical inquiry. Because conceptual frameworks are potentially so close to empirical inquiry, they take different forms depending upon the research question or problem (Wikipedia).  North does not describe it as a theory as he says that there are too many gaps in it - these gaps make it possible to include other ideas which make the framework adaptable and so I do not agree with Seale's idea that there is a limit to how far it can assist our understanding. Having studies Engeström's work on contradictions in H800, I think this could be included into the framework to expand our understanding. I am also studying Rassool's framework to understand literacy as part of E801 and I can see the similarities. She includes social, cultural and ideological aspects of literacy in the analytical framework and I could see that including these in the study of accessibility regulation and change would help to understand this complex field. For example, I am currently working with a student from a Muslim background and I am having problems encouraging her independence as her cultural background effects her personal views. This is causing great contradictions as she wants to aim for independence and employment but her cultural background is that she should rely on her brothers for assistance.


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H810: Activity 33.4: Mathematics and music

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H810: Activity 33.4: Mathematics and music

Last year, I worked at a traditional university with a maths student who had only a little sight. There seem to be so many challenges to overcome:

  • The first one was lectures - we had about 15 notetakers available but I was the only one who could manage to notetake at that level.
  • The lecturer would stand at the front and illustrate the maths on the white board. I would sit next to the student and write it again in large format on A3 paper. Unfortunately by the time I had redrawn it, the lecturer was explaining the next concept so the student struggled.
  • Notetaking was done manually as it was difficult to do electronic notetaking at the speed required using the Mathtype program which is screen reader accessible. The notes were then sent to a typist but she had problems using Mathtype and understanding the maths so eventually I ended up typing as well.
  • The student could not access the notes for at least 24 hours as he had to wait for them to be typed so sometimes tutorials were difficult as he did not have the notes.

I have also worked with an Open Univeristy student who was studying maths. He used a screen reader and had no problem accessing the online material although parts of the summer school were a challenge. The online format provided by OU seemed much more accessible than traditional lectures. During the summer school there was a lot of discussion about the difficulties of typing maths formulae and drawing diagrams. This was much more of a problem for the OU students than it was for the ones at the traditional university who had a dedicated computer lab with demonstrators available all day and tutorials to teach them how to use the computers and maths programs.




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H810: Week 15: Activity 33.3: Mobile Devices

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H810: Week 15: Activity 33.3: Accessibility of Mobile Devices

I wear contact lenses and now, as my optician tells me, I am getting old, I either need to have multifocal contact lenses or wear glasses on top of my distance lenses. This can be a real problem with text messages.

I have an iphone and I really like the fact that a magnified letter appears when you hit the key so you know you have hit the correct one!

AFB AccessWorld Editor's Page (Leventhal, 2007)

I think this article is a little old to be of use. In 2007 there were phones that had screen readers and other accessible features but they cost around £700 to buy. I remember this well as one of the students I was working with was asked to beta test the new Dolphin speech program for phones and he was given a phone to try it on and he was thrilled because he could not have afforded it otherwise.

The same lad has an iphone now which he uses to navigate between bus stops in London and he says that he really could not manage without it. He is very impressed with all the accessibility features.

Nuance Mobile Devices (Nuance, 2010)

Very impressed with Dragon Dictation - looks as if it could be really useful. The iphone users that I know are computing students and just use the touch screen to type but this may be easier to get used to for those who are not so dextrous or determined as these two lads!

The iPad could be the best mobile accessibility device on the market (iPadLot, 2010)

Major praise indeed - and searching finds even more improvements:


On 22nd November 2010. Apple released iOS4.2.1 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It makes iOS4.x available on the iPad for the first time, and introduces several accessibility improvements in the process.

The free update to 4.2.1 means you can now control VoiceOver using a wireless keyboard. Support for more than 30 bluetooth refreshable braille displays is also available, along with support for over 25 languages.

Accessing the iPad: Mouthsticks and Styluses (Natsch, 2010)

Amazing post - with great links to others


"new cell phones that run on WP7 will not include any significant built-in accessibility for people with vision loss, and it is not compatible with any third-party screen-access solutions"


Review of accessible GPS for the iPhone

Forum Post:

More of this in my blog but a few points here that I found interesting:

Last month Microsoft were forced to grovel to accessibility groups when they had to announce that their new operating system for phones (WP7) had less accessibility features than the previous version and that it would not have any built in accessibility features for people with vision loss and it was not compatible with any third-party screen-access solutions. Best quote ever from Microsoft: "We were incompetent" Andy Lees.

However, I do remember that Apple had to grovel to the same pressure groups when they first released the iPhone and now the RNIB are saying that "the iPad could be the best accessibility device on the market" It has become even better since November 2010 as Apple released iOS4.2.1 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. This introduces several accessibility improvements including support for more than 30 bluetooth refreshable braille displays.

The force of public pressure seems to be doing its work on Apple - let's hope it works for Microsoft too.

On a personal note, my daughter has fibromyalgia and has found that using a stylus on her iPhone and touchpad for her Apple laptop means that she can continue to work even when she is in pain. In this way she is on track for completing her MSc dissertation.


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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.4

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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.4: Opportunities and Challenges

m-Learning and Accessibility (JISC TechDis, undated)

"Learning with mobile devices can bring many inclusion benefits, enabling learners to access content wherever and whenever they choose, and using a device they know they can operate."

"...it is neither ethical nor sensible to work on a "value subtracted" approach where resources are banned unless all can access them equally. More effective by far is a value added model where the tutor's repertoire of tools and techniques is used to add value to different learners in different ways."

My favourite quote:

"Good practice in accessible learning is not primarily about the technology, technical standards, or course design; nor even (necessarily) the learning resource. It is primarily about each learner's ability to engage with the learning experience. A good learning experience is the result of many factors ranging from the nature of the resources to the quality of the pedagogy and even the personality of the teacher or lecturer. The best predictor of accessible learning is a skilled teacher coupled with quality resources, providing the means to enthuse learners and adapt to their needs. Such skill typically includes a willingness to innovate and a readiness to reflect."

I think that it would be easy to underestimate the confidence engendered by the use of a student's own device. I work with many students with disabilities and a high percentage have visual impairments. Often they come to university and use their own laptops and screen reader software in lectures but when they are in the library and in some workshops/classes they have to use a strange computer with ports in different places and a different screen reader as well as getting used to the teaching material. This makes sessions very stressful and often it is impossible to tell whether the teaching material has accessibility problems or whether the student is just struggling with so many new experiences at once.

The use of their own mobile device, whether that be phone, laptop or ipad, allows the student to relax a little and just concentrate on the learning material as they are already familiar with the equipment and assistive software.


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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.3

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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.3: Accessible Rich Internet Applications

WAI-ARIA Overview (W3C, 2009)

Focus on the issues that are identified and the strategy of the proposal.

Aspects of traditional Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) make accessible support of dynamic content difficult:

1.   Accessibility of dynamic content relies on abstracting semantics from both content and presentational information. Extracting semantic cues from current HTML content is typically unreliable as the cues are limited to tag elements names.

2.   While HTML allows content to be repurposed for presentational formatting, it lacks the ability to attach meaningful metadata about document structure and to convey semantic information. A common example of this is content formatted with tables rather than style sheets.

3.   When combined with script and cascading style sheets (CSS), HTML can be repurposed to create dynamic custom components without providing a means to convey semantic information to native accessibility architectures designed to support dynamic graphical user interface (GUI) content.

4.   Custom components built from common HTML elements often are not keyboard accessible.

JavaScript needs an accessibility architecture to write to such that a solution can be mapped to the accessibility frameworks on the native platform by the user agent.

WAI-ARIA allows web pages (or portions of pages) to declare themselves as applications rather than as static documents, by adding role, property, and state information to dynamic web applications. ARIA is intended for use by developers of web applications, web browsers, assistive technologies, and accessibility evaluation tools.

WAI-ARIA describes how to add semantics and other metadata to HTML content in order to make user interface controls and dynamic content more accessible. For example, with WAI-ARIA it is possible to identify a list of links as a navigation menu and to state whether it is expanded or collapsed. Although originally developed to address accessibility issues in HTML, the use of WAI-ARIA is not limited to HTML: in principle, it can also be used in other markup languages such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).

Fluid. Designing software that works - for everyone (Fluid Project, 2009)

Fluid is a worldwide collaborative project to help improve the usability and accessibility of community open source projects with a focus on academic software for universities.

Carry out an internet search to see which web browsers support WAI-ARIA. The following all support WAI-ARIA to some extent:

Firefox 1.5 onwards

Internet Explorer 5 onwards




"Mozilla leads the pack and Microsoft is doing good work (some may think  suprisingly), all browser vendors are making an effort to support WAI ARIA and in the process improving the general accessibility of their browsers and web content to Assistive Technology."
WAI-ARIA role support - How the MAC browsers stack up

Posted by Steve Faulkner on March 17, 2009;


What do think might be the difficulties of achieving widespread adoption of accessible Web 2.0?

Hmm! Did some research and discovered a big fight between WAI-ARIA supporters and WHAT-WG who deals with the HTML5, although I did find out that this is outmoded now and they just talk about new developments in HTML. I did not understand all the technical detail but the more rational participants in the heated debates were saying that there were small things that needed sorting out but it was possible to implement both systems. Several on the WHAT-WG seemed annoyed that they could not directly address the WAI-ARIA team and sort out problems but just submit their ideas to the team with no responses.



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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.2: Positive Aspects of Web2.0

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Online Conferencing Tools

We used Elluminate Live! a lot during H800 and I hated it! There was far too much multitasking for my slow-moving cognitive skills to keep up with!! It is also very difficult for deaf people and screen readers do not manage it too well either as there are too many windows used (despite the company's assurances that it is fine!). However, I have really missed it on H810, not only because of the contact with the tutor and other members of the course but because it is so much easier to discuss group activities. I get some contact with other course members on Twitter which has really helped me and it is even better when the tutors join in discussions. I miss the contact with my tutor to ask pre-TMA questions that seem too trivial to email about or post on the forum. I feel that the group activities via the Wiki have not really worked for our group. People post things and may visit once to check what else is there but it is not interactive.

I feel that the lack Elluminate on this course has been a loss for me. Accessibility is an issue in many ways: time zones; family/work clashes; technology issues; being unable to multitask (me!); unable to access audio; unable to access video. If it is handled correctly with an accurate reporting of the session on the forum then everyone can gain from the session whether they can attend or not. Our tutor on H800 modelled good practice by posting reports of our initial sessions on the forum and we followed this model when we held our own independent sessions. Comments on these reports, from people who could not attend for various reasons, were very positive. I believe that the group discussion that occurred actually helped the whole of the tutor group whether or not they attended the session as the immediacy of the contact allowed us to discuss, clarify and resolve problems we were all experiencing and the report back on the forum made it accessible for all. Not an ideal solution for those that could not access the session but better than not holding a session at all.

RSS Feeds

I posted a blog link on Twitter a couple of days ago on 'More Notes to Web Developers: How NOT to do RSS' http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/12/10/more-notes-to-web-developers-how-not-to-do-rss/

I had no idea at the time that this exercise was here!

I love Google Reader, I have it embedded on my iGoogle home page and scan it every day. I had not considered it from the view of accessibility and this was quite an eye opener for me.

I was interested in the fact that truncation of feeds was a problem - I hate this too because I prefer to read straight from iGoogle but I had not realised how annoying it would be for screen reader users.




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H810: Week 15: Activity 31.1: What are the accessibility issues?

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Web 2.0 & Accessibility for Disabled Users (Moonan, 2007)

This is a summary of issues as they were in 2007.

  • Inaccessible login boxes or security tests with no alternatives such as audio.
  • Inaccessible WYSIWYG editors that are not compatible with assistive technologies or only work with a mouse or pointing device instead of just the keyboard which makes it impossible for some users to create or edit text
  • Inaccessible interfaces which are dependent on drag and drop (interaction with a mouse or pointing device) with no alternative keyboard option.
  • Screen reader users are not alerted when content has changed dynamically without the page refreshing (specifically Ajax)
  • Inaccessible content users have created, such as:
    • Content is created without semantic code - which gives non visual information about the content, which is especially useful for screen reader users
    • Images are included without alt text
    • Styles and designs are selected which are difficult or impossible to read
    • Rich media is included without captions or alternatives
  • Inaccessible controls on audio or video players that are not compatible with assistive technologies or are reliant on using a mouse or pointing device
  • Users not being alerted to accessibility issues when inputting content

I did not understand all the technical information about Ajax but it did make me very aware that we need to include messages at the top of the page to identify the fact we are using JavaScript and that the page updates dynamically. I have seen this much more frequently on websites lately so I am hoping that the situation has improved since 2007.

Social networking sites lock out disabled users (AbilityNet, 2008)

This is a review of the current state, which highlights the lack of progress in making Web 2.0 accessible.

Surprised by this as my friends who are blind all use Facebook. Some prefer to use the mobile version as it cuts out some of the games etc that are too visual but others use the full site. I think that the move to mobile technologies has really given the accessibility movement a big shove forwards!!!

I found the accessibility page in the help centre was interesting reading as they do seem to be taking the issues seriously and welcoming comments. They also recognise that audio captcha may be a problem and offer individual help.

Blinding Technology of Online Learning (Kolowich, 2010)

"Advocacy groups do not believe online classrooms should deploy such materials [dynamic content] until they can be made accessible to blind students."

I don't agree. I feel that an alternative should be offered such as the 'HTML only' or 'No Javascript' versions offered by Facebook.

"It should also be noted that less than a third of Blackboard clients have upgraded to the more accessible version,"

This is a problem I have discovered at both universities where I work. Students using screen readers have a real problem accessing the older versions of Blackboard and WebCT and often need to book and pay for a support worker to sit next to them to read the page to them.

"Online education keep innovating, push forward and assistive technology keep up!" Comment posted by Kevin Chao at Bossier Parish Community College on August 23, 2010 at 2:15pm EDT (uses JAWS)


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H810: Week 14: Activity 29.1: Seale Chap. 10

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Week 14: Activity 28.1: Seale Chapter 10 / Policy Documents

1. Does the organisation where you work have an accessibility (or similar) policy? Use your alternative context, or think about the questions in general terms, if you don't work for a relevant organisation.

Having searched I have found that Staffordshire University have several accessibility policies that are written in with the various sections to which they apply.  They seem to be written by specialists in the area with help of the Student Enabling Centre.
I cannot find evidence of any monitoring polices.

2. How might you improve on accessibility-related policies that exist in your organisation?

The documents appear well considered and well written. I like the fact that they are written as part of the policies to which they refer rather than as a separate document. I do think that there should be some route to report any accessibility issues and I cannot find this. I tend to think that no monitoring is set up.

3. Who are the key people who have a role in managing accessibility in your organisation?

I cannot determine this from the information that I can find.

I intend to make some enquiries when I am next at university in order to see if I can find out the existence of responsible staff or a monitoring system.


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H810: Week 14: Activity 28.1: Seale Chap. 9

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Week 14: Activity 28.1: Seale Chapter 9 / Training

What was effective or ineffective about the staff training event/resource?

I have attended training events with three different organisations. The best courses were flexible, modular and led by experts who were trained in the field and very experienced.

The best training I experienced was one with an agency working with students who had hearing or visual impairments or Asperger Syndrome. The training covered lectures and practical sessions but was then followed by a short presentation by a notetaker and three students who used the agency's services. The students talked about the things that had helped them and the things that they especially liked or disliked. They were happy to answer questions at the end and very open about  their disabilities. The course participants were very enthusiastic about the benefits of the session and said that it really brought to life all the information that they had learnt in the previous sessions.

To what extent did the following factors influence the effectiveness of the experience for you: content or focus; structure or presentation; role or expertise of the leaders/developers?

One was an official training with the aim of taking notetaking qualifications at the end of the course. The qualifications were aimed at notetaking for deaf people but the job role was working with people who had hearing or visual impairments so the training consisted in lectures for both subjects where we were assisted to notetake correctly. In this way we practiced the skill whilst learning about both impairments. Practical exercises were also included.

Time and cost had an effect on the training. One training was held an hours drive from me and I was expected to attend for 5 days with no pay. This was difficult at the time. The Open University training was held over two days with a choice of week or weekend. There was a small payment plus travel expenses and accommodation. This made life much easier!

Some of the best leaders were people who had worked for years in the area or people with personal experience of the impairments.

Use your reflections and answers to Question 1 to develop a conceptualisation of what you think makes or defines an effective accessibility-related training event/resource and an effective trainer or staff developer.

I like the Open University training for support workers with a compulsory two day workshop-style training every two years with an online detailed training for specific impairments and situations. Experienced trainers are essential and the opportunity to discuss general support needs with students has been welcomed in all the situations I have experienced.

Should accessibility-related staff development be made compulsory for all those who work in post-16 education?

What are the reasons behind your answers?

I would like to see training as outlined above with a mixture of compulsory and voluntary modules with the compulsory modules being aligned to the staff role. For example a lecturer may have compulsory sessions in general disability training; designing accessible materials for the university learning environment; but also be encouraged to build up a portfolio of knowledge with more specific trainings such as accessibility needs for particular impairments; evaluation tools etc.

What do you think are the pros and cons of making accessibility-related staff development compulsory?


  • Staff can feel more confident about their approach to producing materials that will be accessible by their students
  • Students are empowered because the material is generally accessible and they only have to ask for one or two adjustments.
  • Students are aware that they are asking staff who are already knowledgeable about the area and do not have to start with the basics
  • The university can be confident that all staff are trained


  • Busy staff can resent additional training and this resentment can be transferred to the students that they see causing this extra work.
  • Discussing disability in isolation makes it seem like an additional problem - not part of the spectrum of students.


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Week 14: Activity 27.4

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Week 14: Activity 27.4

First of all I had to find out what was meant by Alt Format - it seems to mean any alternative format used by users.

Challenge 1: How does the provision of Alt Format fit into other emerging models for data management and delivery?
In my current context the most pertinent example concerns the University learning system. It has its own website and portal with a link into all the other systems the students use. This produces a very complex system and one student I am working with has a severe visual impairment; another has severe dyslexia. Both have found it very difficult to remember the sequences to access the information that they require

Challenge 2: How do we build systemic capacity to meet the projected needs for Alt Format and Accessible Curricular Materials?
Currently many of the resources required by a student have to be adapted by their support workers or they are paid for using their DSA. This results in duplicative work and it is time consuming and expensive. Publishers are also issuing digital copies of books to individual students and insisting they sign a copyright agreement. This results in the effort of obtaining these textbooks being duplicated each time a student needs the book.

Challenge 3: How do we align the divergent Alt Format efforts occurring on an international bases so that they minimize redundancies and duplicative efforts?
I would love to see a cooperative effort between Staffordshire University and Keele University Law Schools at least - a small start but it could really help.

Challenge 4: How do we move beyond the current focus on Blind and Visual disabilities to a more holistic model of access for the gamut of print disabilities?
Working at university, there is a high premium on academic prowess and often the amount of rhetoric clouds the issue. Students do need to learn to interpret this rhetoric but they do not need to do so on general web pages and in assignment instructions. Having a university standard for the reading level of a general text and using a readability tool as part of accessibility testing would be an improvement. The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (England and Wales) uses an adapted version of the Simple Measure of Gobbledegook (SMOG) calculator to produce a readability level (NIACE, 2009).

National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (England and Wales) (NIACE, 2009) Readability: how to produce clear written materials for a range of readers. Available from:  http://shop.niace.org.uk/media/catalog/product/R/e/Readability.pdf [Accessed 20th November 2010]

Challenge 5: How do we develop the level of technological literacy in students with print disabilities that will be necessary for them to benefit from the technological evolutions that are occurring in curricular access?

Dr. Ian Rowlands reported that Florida State University gave their incoming students an information skills test. There was a strong positive correlation with initial IT skills and the best final grades. Both the top and bottom quartile of students thought they had done well on the assessments. This indicates that it is not enough to trust a student's verbal self-evaluation when assessing their IT skills.


I am currently working with a student who refuses to accept any training as she feels it will be a waste of time when she is already so proficient at using technology. Working closely with her, it is clear that she needs a great deal of help with word processing as well as with her assistive technology.

Challenge 6: How do we involve all of the curricular decision makers in the process of providing fully accessible materials?

I have mentioned this before. Pedagogy first and so it is lecturers who need to be involved in adapting materials - they are the only ones who know what is required as learning objectives.


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Week 14: Activity 27.3: Library Resources

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Week 14: Activity 27.3

Schmetzke, A. (2007) Leadership at the American Library Association and Accessibility: a Critical View


"no one, people with disabilities included, should find himself or herself in a position where they have to fight battles"

So true, and when you have a tutorial to prepare for that requires 5 hours work and you have to book an academic support worker to help you access the material, your support worker is employed 9-5 Monday to Friday; you have to explain what you want to them before you start and then it takes about 3X as long to do the work because you have to direct their reading. Let's forget fighting to get your software to work on the computer and access the online databases you need. Where does all this time come from? Let alone the time needed to fight the battles.

Yesterday I was working with a blind student. I asked if she wanted to check her emails and she replied that she knew that she needed to but we only had two hours left and it would take that long to take notes from the chapter she needed for her assignment - the book was not available electronically so she could not access it herself.

Kerscher, G. (2007) The Essential Role of Libraries Serving Persons Who Are Blind and Print Disabled in the Information Age



Accessibility in the context of Staffordshire University's Law Library

The library is easily accessible for manual and electronic wheelchairs and there are two desks which have an adjustable height and the possibility for two people to work together. Due to this, the computers are popular with other students but they have notices to indicate that priority is to be given to disabled students.

The library has five computers with some speech and magnification programs and two with a large screen to assist those magnifying the text. It can be noisy at times and difficult to work together. It can also be a problem reading to a student as other people are working quietly.

The library had a good selection of law books and journals in paper format which student with visual impairment cannot access without academic support. Last year a specialist member of the library staff was responsible for obtaining key textbooks in an accessible format. Unfortunately this member of staff has changed jobs and individual lecturers were asked to ensure that material was available. This did not work and so a single tutor is trying to obtain the text books. This is difficult as he is teaching and not in his office to constantly chase one publisher that is being very resistant.

The two databases that are required to research law are Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. Westlaw is difficult to use but achievable using a screen reader. Lexis-Nexis is inaccessible as it is written in frames. This restricts the ability of visually impaired students to research independently.

The online journal access can prove problematical as the up-to-date copies are not available online. I am uncertain whether this is due to publishers' policy or due to a cheaper licence being purchased.

The library supplies no scanning and OCR service and individual students need to pay for this to be done by their academic support service using their disabled students' allowance.

Printing and photocopying services are paid for using the student's account which can be topped up online or by using cash at machines in the library. However, this machine is placed too high to be used by a user in a wheelchair and has a touch screen function with no speech function. The printers also have a touch screen with no speech function and are therefore inaccessible for users with a severe visual impairment. Many students print out information for their support workers as it is difficult to provide support when the student has the only copy of the information on the screen and it is magnified so the support worker cannot read it.


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Week 14: Activity 27.1: Seale Chapter 8

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Week 14: Activity 27.1: Seale Chapter 8

1. How helpful do you think it is to have 'specialised' rooms or areas in an educational institution, which only disabled learners can use to access technology/online learning material?
Bristol UWE: specialised rooms - entered by student card key. Students have personalised cards, for example students can have their cards modified to allow them to use the Islamic centre, to use the specialist computer labs for science students, to use the accessible entrance to the library etc. A student told me that they really liked the system as the numbers using the room were small and they did not have to fight other students for access. She has Asperger syndrome and struggles in crowded spaces.

Staffordshire University: many computers available in the library with 4 specifically labelled saying that they have to be vacated if a disabled student requires them. These computers have large screens for magnification, adjustable desks and a selection of programmes (Zoom text, Jaws etc.). I have been working with a blind student and she always seemed very confident when asking another student if you could have the computer but last week she told me that she hated doing it as she was always worried about interrupting other students' work. We discussed a separate room and she said that she would love it.

Keele University: many computers available all over site. One in the library has a large screen and Jaws installed. This is on an adjustable height desk and labelled for use by disabled students only. A site licence for Supernova has been purchased and so it can be used on any networked computer on site. Study rooms with a networked computer can be booked for support work for a maximum of a two hour slot or individual study cabins with can be booked for whole days with a £10 deposit for a key. Wireless networks extend over the whole library building and many other buildings on site so students can use their own computers with specialist software in many places on campus. It is possible to connect these to electrical sockets in many places. Study rooms are available for all students so they need to be booked in advance which causes some frustrations to disabled students. In my opinion it is a great compromise as it allows students to book rooms and does not create the impression of an unfair advantage for disabled students. I would imagine that it is very frustrating to see spare computers in a room which you cannot enter when you are desperate to print out an assignment/lecture notes and cannot find a free computer anywhere else!

2. Do you think student support services need to employ accessibility or disability experts? If so, how might the role of these 'experts' complement or work against the role of other staff working within student support services?
I believe that disability/accessibility experts are required and should be available for consultation by both staff and students. They should also coordinate the personal support available for students, have equipment that is available on loan and I would really like to see the university have its own ACCESS centre for DSA assessments.

3. How are student support services organised or structured in your institution? In what ways do you think this organisation influences the way in which disabled learners are supported to use or access technology?
Staffordshire University have a 'Student Enabling Centre' for students with disabilities. ACCESS assessments are carried out here and organisation for academic support. It is a friendly and comfortable environment. In Stafford it is located in the main building and easily accessible; in Stoke it is located at one of the campuses and not easily accessible from the other but emails get a rapid response.

Keele University have CLASS - the Centre for Learning And Student Support. It is in the centre of campus and easily accessible but one office deals with all student support and it can be crowded. It can also be difficult to get an appointment with the only disability-trained adviser. A few private rooms are available for training but these are difficult to book. ACCESS assessments and dyslexia assessments can be carried out on site by visiting professionals but need to be booked quite a long time in advance. The students coming to the centre have a variety of support needs and often end up discussing their needs over the counter with untrained secretaries in order to justify why they need an appointment. This is often in front of a crowd of other students, and support workers waiting for other students.

4.   What would you change about the way in which students are supported in your institution and why? (You might find your notes from Topics 8 and 9 relevant to this question.)
I am currently working at Staffordshire University most of the time. I have been very impressed with the support they offer to both students and staff but I would like to see a bookable support room and more memory space on the computer to enable my student's pendrive version of Supernova to operate correctly. I would also like to see a specialist librarian in control of ordering accessible versions of ebooks for visually impaired students. Currently a very busy lecturer is tearing his hair out trying to sort them! Some of these seem small problems to sort out but most of the student's time is taken up by frantically trying to play catch up with the work load. She is a great student and a high achiever and so it takes a long time to access all the material she requires and complete tutorial work and assignments.



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H810: Week 13 : Activity 26.3

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Week 13: Activity 26.3: Universal Design

Universal Design of Instruction (Burgstahler, undated)

'The field of universal design can provide a starting point for developing an appropriate teaching model.'

I like this - universal design is a great start but we have to go on from here to help individual students access the curriculum

I like the fact it is proactive and disabled students are not left 'playing catch-up' in order to try to keep up with rest of the students

Flexibility is key in my opinion. There are too many contrasting needs to make a truly universal design. For example the blind student who assessed my resource would have liked black print on a white background whilst the student with dyslexia preferred the blue on white. Buttons on the site to change colour, font etc. really enable designers to come close to universal design.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidelines - Version 1.0 (CAST, 2007)

UDL has three primary principles that provide the structure for these Guidelines:

  • Principle I: Provide Multiple Means of Representation (the "what" of learning). Students differ in the ways they perceive and comprehend the information presented to them.

    I am currently working with a student who has a severe visual impairment. She lost most of her sight at the age of 16 years by which time she had already discovered that her preferred learning style was visual. She still has enough sight to revise by drawing out large diagrams but it is not easy for her.
  • Principle II: Provide Multiple Means of Expression (the "how" of learning). Students differ in the ways they are able to navigate a learning environment and express what they know.

    I have experienced the following adjustments in the universities where I work: allowing speech impaired people to plan and design PowerPoint presentations using the inbuilt speech features; allowing a student with ME to verbally present the information rather than spend all evening writing a report on a field course;
  • Principle III: Provide Multiple Means of Engagement (the "why" of learning). Students differ markedly in the ways they can be engaged or motivated to learn.

    One third year module at Keele University is Inspirational Landscapes in Geography. Assessment is 20% test and 80% project. Previous student projects have included:
    • Impact of the Malvern Hills on Elgar's music
    • Video diary of a walk in Wordsworth's footsteps
    • Photomontage of the experience of Dovedale
    • Influences of Indian landscape on fashion design
    • Johnny Depp: face, costume and landscape
    • Landscapes of Lord of The Rings
    • Thomas Hardy and the "Wessex" landscape
    • Landscape design for computer games

The module sounds fascinating and I know several students who really enjoyed it. http://www.esci.keele.ac.uk/people/pgk/geg-30014/handbook.html




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H810: Week 13 : Activity 26.2

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Week 13: Activity 26.2: Creating Special Resources

JISC TechDis: Text-only web sites: accessibility savour or a waste of time?



Quick and easy method

Segregation of disabled people

Good for transcripts

Solution for blind people not others


Conversion also has barriers


Complex to maintain two sites


Which appears on search?


Difficult for people with reading disabilities


The Speechlet Project (Mullier, 2003)

Allows blind students of Java programming to use existing course material.

Really close to home this one as I have spent hours trying to describe computer screens to students desperately trying to write graphics programs.



Allows visualisation of graphics

Students learning material they may never use

Easier for lecturers than rewriting course for one student


Allows student to cover same material as other students


Students learn to use graphical elements that may be needed i workplace


Student can work without booking support workers




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H810: Week 13 : Activity 25.4

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Week 13: Activity 25.4: Learning Styles and Dyslexia

  • What approach to dyslexia is used in your context?
    In student support we are encouraged to work with students in a social context. By this I mean that a student's literacy difficulties may be genetic in origin but they exist in a social setting which is the academic field of the university. We help the students form strategies to address the literacy difficulties that they are finding in their current situation.
  • To what extent do you think that current practice in supporting dyslexic students is based on a wide range of research findings?
    This is based on the New Literacy Studies approach which recognises that literacy difficulties are situated in social situations and heavily influenced by them. This socio-cultural approach means that practitioners change their focus from a medical approach that concentrates on a remedy for the individual to one looking at the social setting of the academic environment and how we can make that more suitable for learners with reading difficulties, whatever their origin.
  • To what extent do you think that the approach taken by Amesbury et al. is useful for supporting students with dyslexia?
    I can understand the reasoning behind this approach but it strikes me as isolationist and medical model in nature. I would be concerned that lecturers would think that students with dyslexia could be 'cured' by attending this course and that they need make no efforts to make their curriculum open to all learners.


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H810: Week 13 : Activity 26.1

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Week 13: Activity 26.1

1. There is a debate surrounding who is responsible (or most responsible) for accessibility. How helpful is this debate in ensuring that people working in post-16 education change their practices?

I feel that the debate is harming the situation. Too many people are sitting back and waiting for someone else to decide who is responsible, comfortable in their assumption that it will not be them!

If those with technical skills, such as learning technologists, are not ultimately or solely responsible for ensuring accessibility, what responsibilities do you think they should have and why?

I think that they should be responsible for training academic staff on the technical aspects of ensuring accessibility; the technical side of evaluation procedures with the associated interpretation of reports and code adjustments.

2. On pages 82-83, Seale uses an archaeology metaphor to try to encourage learning technologists to dig deeper beneath the surface of accessibility guidelines and standards. This is intended to develop a greater understanding of approaches to accessible design. How helpful do you think this metaphor is?

I really do not think this is a useful metaphor. Relicts of archaeology spread on the surface that give a hint to what happened in the past compared to digging deeper and finding relicts of the same age grouped together to give more information. I can see a vague link to guidelines and standards being grouped together to produce a clearer picture.

Can you think of an alternative metaphor, image, analogy or visualisation that could be used to help develop learning technologists' thinking in this area?

I am thinking along the lines of a family tree structure with the WCAG at the top as a global standard and then other groups of guidelines coming from these. It helps me understand that that they are all related and aiming for the same result but there are different methods of getting there. It also rationalises them to group them together. A set of references under these headings would be really useful for academic designers to quickly determine where to find the information they required and know what the focus/angle of the guidelines.

Family tree-type diagram showing groupings of guidelines

1. On page 98 Seale discusses the tensions regarding the use of technical tools versus human judgement to evaluate the accessibility of learning resources. What is your position concerning this issue?

Can we trust human judgement? If so, whose judgement should we trust - learning technologists working within educational organisations or external experts?

I followed an evaluation schedule that started with human judgement; proceeded to use two automated tools for a general assessment; used some tools for a specific purpose (e.g. colour contrast, readability analysis); went back to human judgement to check the results of the automated tools; and then went to beta testing and comments from specific users. I feel that this made a good testing schedule but ideally I would add in an easily accessible route to make comments about the resource that were recorded and gained a response from senior management. Nothing like a little pressure to improve human judgement wink

I would prefer to work with a learning technology team from within the organisation as they have superior knowledge of the aims and methods used within the organisation; they are easy to contact; and they have an incentive to get it right.


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H810: Week 13 : Activity 25.3

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Week 13: Activity 25.3: Online Assessment

These are similar to some of the guidelines that you looked at in Block 2, but they also include much more discussion of teaching and learning.

  • How far do the points made in these guidelines match the points discussed in the previous activity?
    They mention 'high-stakes' testing where accessibility provisions may have an effect on validity - equates to 'professional body' point in previous exercise.
  • Which staff role do you think these guidelines would be most useful for in your context?
    Really not keen on these guidelines as they are long winded, full of waffle and do not keep to the point. Much preferred the last exercise. Sections 9.3 and 9.4 do not seem to be complete.
  • Which guidelines that you looked at in Block 2 would be helpful for a web developer in addition to these?
    The JISC e-assessment training program:

Really do not agree that 'low stakes' assessment are 'not a serious issue'. Formative assessments set up expectations of a student's performance in a lecturer's mind and effect later marking. They also have a big effect on a student's learning and motivation.



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H810: Week 13 : Activity 25.2

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Week 13: Activity 25.2

Make notes on the three important points which are noted in the Introduction:

  • whether particular assessments or examinations are core to the course

I have been working with a student with no usable sight studying for a computing degree. One of the modules covers coding for graphics. The university are happy to make reasonable adjustments but these generally involve working with a support worker which reduces his independence. He is very frustrated and suggested that the department let him study an alternative module but they will not do this as it is a core module and they have no time to write a module from scratch for him.

  • what adjustments are permissible within particular assessments or examinations without compromise to academic, or other prescribed, standards, such as competences required by professional bodies

I work with a blind student studying law and they have several exams coming up in May where they answer three questions in three hours. Last year the department organised her 100% extra time and rest breaks and she took the exams but was completely exhausted at the end of an 8 hour stretch and she had to postpone one exam and sit it in August as a first attempt. This week the department approached her and suggested that she answered one question in the exam and the other two as an assignment. In this way she will not be too exhausted to do her best work.

Another university has found problems on physiotherapy and medical courses as the professional body will not allow notetakers for dyslexic students. This one is a current dispute between the university and the NHS!

  • whether the successful achievement of the highest grades and awards, based on performance in examinations and other assessments, is equally attainable by disabled students.

Another university has a student who uses notetakers on field trips for geology. After discussion, it has been decided, that the notetaker should take notes in the assessed notebook but to label each section with the name of the person speaking i.e. the student who is dictating notes or one of the lecturers. In this way the student is only marked on their work rather than that of the notetaker's ability to record the lecturer's words. This would seem to be a reasonable approach but actually it works to the student's detriment as the other students mingle their thoughts with that of the lecturer's comments and get marked on their good ideas which may actually have come from the lecturer.

Would you have emphasised the same three points?

I think that these points are important but I also think that the perception of the other students needs to be considered. In the case of the law student, her friends and colleagues think she is being assessed just as stringently as they are being assessed. In the case of the notetaker on field trips, one student I worked with went to great lengths to explain to the other course members the way her assessment worked and the fact that her DSA paid her notetaker on several occassions. She informed me that there had been very rude comments from other students about the fact that she was marked on a professional notetaker's work and that the others had to pay for it too!

Are there any positive or negative aspects of online assessment for disabled students?

Online assessment can work well but too many institutions consider online assessment to mean multiple choice tests with a time limit so that students do not have an opportunity to research the questions. This can disadvantage many disabled students. For example, in the last few weeks one student, who has Asperger syndrome and is severely dyslexic, has had mid-term tests in his first year at university. The two modules he has found most difficult had straight tests and he achieved first class honours in both. The two modules he has no problems with, used multiple choice tests and he has failed both. Researchers put the problem down to problems with working memory and poor eye coordination.


Creating Accessible Examinations and Assessments for Disabled Students

Evaluating Practice

  • Staff are consciously aware of, and in agreement about, what aspects of student attainment or performance they are trying to assess.
    This seems to vary between the three universities where I am employed and also between departments. I know that the OU have course team meetings to try to ensure that this happens but I have personally been penalised for following guidelines issued by one tutor which my tutor did not agree with.
  • Students are aware of the aspects of attainment or performance which are the subject of assessment.
    Not always
  • The nature of marking criteria are kept under regular review: such matters as the importance of spelling, grammar, the ability to calculate, and the ability to remember dates and constants are collectively evaluated by the staff including part-time staff and teaching assistants.
    There is a lot of disagreement on this one. Some lecturers place great emphasis on grammar and spelling in examination conditions and penalise heavily. Lack of knowledge, and in some cases, disbelief concerning dyslexia leads to a response that is less than helpful. This summer I was assisting a student on a field course that involves spot tests in the field. I know all the students well and several were upset as they could not immediately recall the information. These were students with dyslexia and I spoke to the lecturer who was very concerned that he had disadvantaged those students. He had no idea that short term memory problems were an issue.
  • Policies concerning electronic aids to spelling, grammar and calculation in examinations are kept under regular review.
    A real annoyance of mine! One university insists that they will not allow electronic spelling aids in examinations despite the student's access report stating that they need one. They supply dictionaries for students with dyslexia, which the majority cannot use!
  • Where a student is unable by reason of an impairment to show evidence of relevant attainment or performance in the standard way, alternative arrangements are put in place if it is possible to do so.
    Yes, at all three universities
  • The flexibility referred to above is available in terms of deadlines and timetabling of assessments.

Yes, but this varies between universities. Two universities require an extenuating circumstances form to be completed; the third states that extenuating circumstances are for unexpected occurrences and extensions required due to disability are just to be granted with consultation between student, tutor and lecturer.

  • Alternative assessment arrangements as referred to above are well controlled to ensure consistency and fairness, vis-à- vis both the students taking them and other students.
    No, at one university everyone who is assessed with dyslexia gets 25% extra time; everyone who needs rest breaks is allowed 15 minutes despite disability or length of exam.
  • Assessment feedback to students is accessible to all our students, both in terms of content and format.
    No, some departments put handwritten reports on a printed version of an assessment. This results in a student with reading difficulties or visual impairment having to ask a support worker or friend to read this private material to them.
  • Those responsible for our examinations and assessment appeals are well versed in the ways in which procedures may need to be adjusted in acknowledgement of the needs of some disabled students.
    Definitely not!




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H810: Week 13 : Activity 25.1: Seale (2006) Chapter 6

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Week 13 : Activity 25.1: Seale (2006) Chapter 6

1.   On page 70, it is suggested that accessibility is frequently framed as a technical issue rather than a pedagogical (learning and teaching) one.

Bit confused here as the page numbers seem very different from the version I printed out!

I can understand that lecturers find accessibility a difficult and complex area to deal with. They are experts in their field and many are also very experienced with pedagogy and have a good knowledge of technology. On top of this they are then asked to become experts in the field of accessible design. Witt and McDermott (cited by Seale, 2006, p.57) report that many accessibility and technology experts find the guidelines hard to interpret and it is no wonder that lecturers can feel the helplessness, embarrassment and defensiveness suggested by Sloan and Stratford (cited by Seale, 2006, p.68) when attempting to cope with all the accessibility and legal issues surrounding their work. It is no wonder that they prefer to design learning resources and then pass them onto technology/accessibility teams to sort out any issues. However, it is the lecturer who can understand the underlying educational objectives and thus make the adaptations needed to the material without losing the overall aim of the work. This places the work firmly in the grounds of a pedagogical issue. An example from my work setting is in neuroscience where it is the lecturer who knows the point of showing a video and whether the same objective can be achieved by providing d-links or whether it would be better to provide models for a blind student to examine.

2.   Some of the key principles that underpin different design approaches include: inclusivity, equity, holism, proactivity and flexibility.

  • Inclusivity - designing materials with the aim to include all students from the outset.
  • Equity - Useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities
  • Holism - Starting with pedagogy first (Schenker & Scadden, cited in Seale, 2006, p. 60)
    Providing accessible learning resources that may not necessarily be online (Kelly et al., cited in Seale, 2006, p. 60)
  • Proactive - Thinking about the needs of students at the beginning of the design or refit
  • Flexible - Thinking of ways to offer equivalent and alternative access to the curriculum that achieves the same learning objectives.

Are they sufficiently clear and consistent so that lecturers can apply them to their own practice?

They are certainly clear when they are discussed in isolation but they are usually discussed in combination with the plethora of guidelines for design, guidelines for evaluation and automatic tools available and so the whole situation gets confused.




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Week 11: Activity 24.5

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I was working with a student who is blind on Friday and I asked if I could look at my resource using her copy of Supernova. She was happy to let me and I was thrilled to find that it was easily accessible. She asked to have a look at it too and gave me her comments which were very useful.

She uses both text-to-speech and magnification. She was very happy with the navigation of the site and the speech function and she liked the font I had chosen, Arial, as it was clear when magnified. She especially commented on my use of headings so that she could jump directly to the section in which she was interested. She also liked the clear alt text for images and the long description of the more complex image.

She did not like the blue text on the main pages and the text font on the left hand menu. I cannot see any way to control the menu font as it is built in to the Google Sites program but it was a deliberate choice to have a blue font as a high contrast such as black on white can be difficult to read for people with dyslexia although a high contrast can be more easily accessible for people with a visual impairment. The resource is designed for support workers at OU Summer Schools and so I made the decision that it is more likely that support workers would have dyslexia than a severe visual impairment.

It raises the point that universal design can be problematic when impairments require conflicting accommodations.


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Week 11: Activity 24.4: Evaluating online learning

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Edited by Lynn Hunt, Saturday, 13 Nov 2010, 20:02

Week 11: Activity 24.4: Evaluating online learning

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidance

Preliminary review of websites for accessibility: http://www.w3.org/WAI/eval/preliminary.html

Select a representative page sample

From the Web site to be reviewed, select a representative sampling of pages that match the following criteria:

Note: there are special considerations for web sites with database driven dynamically generated web content.

Examine pages using graphical browsers

Use a graphical user interface (GUI) browser (such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Opera, Safari, or others) and examine the selection of pages while adjusting some settings in your browser or operating system as follows (some of these manual checks may require additional software):
Some pages do not display correctly or at all on Mac browsers

  • Turn off images, and check whether appropriate alternative text for the images is available.
    Alt text on home page of KLE but not updated - Image contains text saying 'Keele Learning Environment' alt text still says 'Blackboard Learning systems logo'
    No alt text on images on home page which results in it being unusable as many of the text instructions are in image format
    Format changes with images removed from some pages and words printed on top of others.

1. Turn off the sound, and check whether audio content is still available through text equivalents.
Transcripts available for video but no captions - a deaf person could not watch the video at the same time as reading the transcript as it is written underneath.

2. Use browser controls to vary font-size: verify that the font size changes on the screen accordingly; and that the page is still usable at larger font sizes.
Yes fine

3. Test with different screen resolution, and/or by resizing the application window to less than maximum, to verify that horizontal scrolling is not required (caution: test with different browsers, or examine code for absolute sizing, to ensure that it is a content problem not a browser problem).
yes, fine

4. Change the display color to gray scale (or print out page in gray scale or black and white) and observe whether the color contrast is adequate.
yes, fine

5. Without using the mouse, use the keyboard to navigate through the links and form controls on a page (for example, using the "Tab" key), making sure that you can access all links and form controls, and that the links clearly indicate what they lead to.
Some of the links are also images and no alt text to describe where they go
Some are labelled but with names that make no sense to general user

Examine pages using specialized browsers

Use a voice browser (such as Home Page Reader) or a text browser (such as Lynx) and examine the selection of pages while answering these questions:

1. Is equivalent information available through the voice or text browser as is available through the GUI browser?
Not always e.g. no directions available - just map

2. Is the information presented in a meaningful order if read serially?
Not always - headers used in various orders e.g. H3 before H1

Use automated Web accessibility evaluation tools

Use at least two automated Web accessibility evaluation tools to analyze the selection of pages and note any problems indicated by the tools. Note: these tools will only check the accessibility aspects that can be tested automatically, the results from these tools should not be used to determine a conformance level without further manual testing.

I had intended to use two of the automated tools mentioned in Seale: Bobby and APrompt. IBM has taken over Watchfire and no longer provides a free version of Bobby, it is part of IBM's Rational Policy Tester Accessibility Edition. APrompt was discontinued in 2007 and a new version, Achecker is now available. I used this and also the  WebAIM tool: WAVE.

As the KLE requires a log-in, I was only able to test the log in page which was reported to have no errors using WAVE (Web accessibility evaluation tool) from WebAIM http://wave.webaim.org/

I continued to check the website pages I had manually checked. The Geoscience intro page had 3 errors in images and headers and the second page also contains 3 errors in heading order and empty headings

I thought that it was quite difficult to identify the errors as they are marked on the page and I had to go through each one to detect where the problem was located. I would then have had to go through the code to find the section to correct.

The second automated test I used was Achecker (formerly A prompt which was discontinued in 2007) which uses WCAG2.0 (level AA) guidelines. http://achecker.ca/checker/index.php

This tool not only provided much more information but did so in list format with the section of HTML highlighted. This was moving towards a conformance evaluation rather than a simple accessibility check.

For the KLE log in page which has very little content, it detected 3 known problems which WAVE had not detected. It also identified 9 likely problems in link text and 87 potential problems.

For the first Keele page, it brought up 4 known problems(the same as WAVE), 56 likely problems (most of which I had detected on the manual test) and 152 potential problems (many of which I had detected manually and others which proved to be a problem when I rechecked)

For the second Keele page, it brought up 3 known problems (the same as WAVE) but also highlighted 42 lightly problems that I had noticed in my manual check and 120 potential problems, some of which I had noticed in my manual check and most of which were problems when I checked them.


Summarize obtained results

Summarize results obtained from previous four tasks:

1. Summarize the types of problems encountered, as well as positive aspects that should be continued or expanded on the site.

2. Indicate the method by which problems were identified, and clearly state that this was not a full conformance evaluation.

3. Recommend follow-up steps, including full conformance evaluation which includes validation of markup and other tests, and ways to address any problems identified.


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Week 11: Activity 24.2

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My main check so far has been to ensure I comply to the guidelines. In my role I can access screen readers (JAWS, Supernova and Zoom text) and I am also able to consult with students with dyslexia, Asperger syndrome and those who are D/deaf, blind or visually impaired. However these are all busy people and I do not want to impose on their time, so I tend to restrict this form of testing to essentials. I have also had a good response from my PLN on Twitter as three people tested and commented on my resource. This enabled me to check accessibility on other Windows' browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera; and also on Mac OSX 10.6, Firefox and Safari version5.

I am reluctant to totally rely on accessibility tools although I intend to try out one or two to see if they concur with manual methods of assessment.

For a large VLE system I would consider that the most efficient way to test it would be to supply guidelines to everyone adding material to the VLE and then appointing one person per department to assess conformance to these guidelines, either manually or by automated checker. I would also like to see a quick, easy and accessible (!) method to report any problems to a manager so that the student does not have to contact each lecturer individually in order to ensure they can access the material. In this way the student does not have to personally complain to the person who was marking their work and it is shown that senior management take the issue seriously.



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H810: Week 11: Activity 23: Reflection

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Week 11: Activity 23: Reflection

Trying to choose subject matter was difficult as I am not currently teaching. I decided to use some personal experiences and develop these into learning material to assist other support workers in an OU summer school.

I had worked through all the week 9 activities on guidelines and I work closely with students with various impairments so I found that I did not have to refer to the guidelines again.

As this was an exercise in accessibility I did not concentrate too closely on pedagogy although I was aware that I wanted learners to draw on their own experiences before looking at the points I had provided for them to consider. This was the reasoning behind using Survey Monkey with the facility to move from page to page. I intended that the answers would be private so learners could be confident in exploring their own views and not concerned with 'getting the answer wrong'. I think that I should have clarified this within the material.

Survey Monkey advertises that it complies with Section 508 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act but I have not yet tested it with any screen reader so I also included a transcript of the scenarios. Another reason for using this format was that it people with one or more of the neurodiversity disorders (Asperger syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia or Tourette syndrome) report that they prefer short paragraphs of information without distraction.

The audience for this material varies from people who have very few qualifications to those with PhDs. I kept the language at a level accessible by all and this also had an effect on the way the material was presented. As people move through the educational system they improve at accessing material in a variety of formats. At lower levels they find it easier to digest material in their preferred learning style. The animated video gave an alternative format and also illustrated a pattern that could be adapted to suit various situations. I added captions to the animation for learners who were hearing impaired or those who may find it more difficult to access the speech pattern of animated characters e.g. those for whom English is a foreign language.

I did have problems with the technology as it was the first time I had used Xtranormal or CaptionTube; the first time I had uploaded videos to  YouTube; and the first time I had embedded gadgets into websites. I ended up having to write my own gadget to embed Survey Monkey and also had to edit the HTML to add alt tags to the images. It was a great learning experience for me but I am not sure that it would be possible for a busy teacher designing a course with no technological knowledge. I have enough experience with programming and web design to cope with the demands of learning the techniques and I am very interested in new technologies so I was willing to persevere but it took me over 20 hours to design a half hour learning experience!


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H810: Week 10: Activity 22.1: Resource

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Edited by Lynn Hunt, Monday, 8 Nov 2010, 18:59



Wow! This one exercise has taken me about 20 hours to do and it still needs work but I am running out of time this week. I will try to get back to it later and adjust the length of the subtitles on the animated video. They could be on the screen for a little longer but this involves an awful lot of work. I am sure I could get faster with practice but I am still feeling my way around at the moment.

I have published it on Google Sites which they report to be screen reader accessible but I will find out on Thursday when I have access to Supernova. I may also be able to test it with Jaws but cannot get access to WindowEyes at the moment. If anyone else is going to try Google sites they should be aware that you need some coding knowledge. I had to edit the HTML just to add alt tags!

Survey Monkey reports it is easily accessible by screen readers but I don't trust these things so I have included a transcription of the information as well! The reason for including the Survey Monkey format was because some of the students I work with, including those with dyslexia and Asperger syndrome, prefer to see a few lines of text at a time and this is an easy way to assist them to do this with the most important part of the learning exercise.

I also included a transcript of the YouTube Xtranormal animation as the subtitles are in beta and generally come up but I have heard reports that they don't always! The subtitles were done using CaptionTube which was fairly easy to use but fiddly.

I really wanted an accessibility bar at the top of the screen to change font and background colour but I could not find any code that I could use to design a Google gadget and I think it may be a bit beyond my minimal programming skills anyway. I just added a link to the new RSC Scotland "My Study Bar".

This resource is designed to encourage those people supporting students on Open University summer schools to start considering the ethical decisions that they may have to make. These people come from a variety of academic and non-academic backgrounds and so I have kept the language to a sensible level!

Currently the Open University insist that student support workers attend one training weekend every two years and also complete an online training program. In the eight years I have worked in student support, I have come across many situations that were difficult to deal with and the ethics course I was offered as part of my other job has helped me a great deal. I have not been offered this sort of training by The Open University and I think that it would be best offered at the weekend training where there is the possibility of students considering scenarios in small groups but an online resource would also be useful.

I hope that this screed helps anyone who wants to analyse this work for their TMA02. I will add information about its accessibility to the various screenreaders once I test it. Currently I have only tested it by removing the images to see the alt tags.


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