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Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility


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Slides for a peer-reviewed paper on "Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility"presented by Brian Kelly, UKOLN at the ALT-C 2005 conference in June 2005. …

Slides for a peer-reviewed paper on "Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility"presented by Brian Kelly, UKOLN at the ALT-C 2005 conference in June 2005.


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  • 1. Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility Brian Kelly UKOLN University of Bath Bath Email: [email_address] UKOLN is supported by: TechDis is supported by: Lawrie Phipps JISC TechDis Service York Email: [email_address] Co-author: Caro Howell, University of Bristol Note : Permission is granted to record or broadcast this talk for non-commercial purposes.
  • 2. About This Paper
    • This paper:
      • Summarises the role of W3C WAI and WAI WCAG guidelines in helping to provide universal access to digital resources
      • Describes some of the difficulties experienced in implementing guidelines
      • Describes some of the limitations and dangers with the guidelines
      • Provides a holistic framework for e-learning accessibility
  • 3. About The Speakers
    • Brian Kelly:
      • Works for UKOLN – a national centre of expertise in digital information management
      • Web adviser to the UK higher & further education and cultural heritage communities
      • Funded by JISC and the MLA
    • Lawrie Phipps:
      • Works for TechDis, an educational advisory service, working across UK, in the fields of accessibility and inclusion
      • Senior Advisor for Higher Education
      • Funded by the JISC
    BK This paper is based on the experiences gained by TechDis and UKOLN over several years in advising the HE/FE sector on best practices for Web accessibility
  • 4. W3C WAI and WCAG
    • W3C (World Wide Web Consortium):
      • Body responsible for coordinating development of Web standards
    • WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative):
      • W3C group responsible for developing guidelines which will ensure Web resources are widely accessible
    • WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines):
      • One of three sets of WAI guidelines. WCAG provides advice of accessibility on Web content (e.g. HTML pages)
      • Other two WAI guidelines cover accessible user agents (UAAG) and accessible authoring tools (ATAG)
  • 5. Interpretation of WAI WCAG
    • How do you interpret WAI WCAG (must use ALT tags for images; HTML must be valid; must use style sheets for presentation; …):
      • Mandatory, with following characteristics:
        • Clearly defined rules  Objective
        • Checking mostly objective
        • Penalties for non-compliance
        • Similar to checking that HTML complies with the standard
      • Advisory, with following characteristics:
        • Useful guidelines, to be interpreted in context
        • It's about providing useful, usable resources
        • Checking mostly subjective
        • It's similar to checking that a Web site is well-designed
    BK Which reflects your views most closely?
  • 6. WAI WCAG AA and AAA
    • In order to achieve WAI WCAG AA compliance:
      • Avoid deprecated features (e.g. FONT )
      • Use W3C technologies when available and appropriate (no Flash, MS Word or PowerPoint)
      • .. use the latest versions [of W3C formats]
      • Create documents that validate to published formal grammars (i.e. HTML must be valid)
    • In order to achieve WAI WCAG AAA compliance:
      • "Specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym in a document where it first occurs" (BBC?)
      • Specify document collections with the LINK element and " rel " and " rev "
    BK I think this means the format is appropriate (i.e. HTML for slides) but others argue it means resources, expertise, … available
  • 7. The WAI Model
    • The WAI model for Web accessibility is based on three components:
      • Content
      • Authoring Tools
      • Browsers
    • Get all three right and you'll have universal accessibility
    • But:
      • We have no control over browsers & authoring tools
      • The browsers and authoring tools aren't great
      • The content guidelines are flawed
      • Is universal accessibility really possible?
  • 8. WCAG and E-learning
    • WCAG 2.0 draft (implicitly) acknowledges that accessibility to everyone is not possible:
      • “ Our target is to make things as accessible to as many people as possible given the need to have practical techniques and criteria. ”
    • But there are issues for learning e.g. " Make text content readable and understandable "
    • Issues:
        • How practical are guidelines in e-learning (rather than for informational resources)?
        • How practical are they in the HE context?
        • Contextual issues
        • Backwards compatibility issues
    • "Clearly identify who benefits from accessible content, and who will benefit from each requirement e.g
      • Impairments of intelligence, memory, or thinking
      • The inability to interpret and/or formulate language symbols, learning disabilities "
    BK  LP
  • 9. The e-learning User Experience (in HE) LP Fieldwork Labwork Lectures Peer learning Group work Viva Voce Library Tutorials Web resources CAA E-learning Student
  • 10. Usability
    • Accessibility is not a product
    • Creating a resource that is inclusive is a process
    • The process must involve users
    • The experience of the JISC X4L programme
      • Creating learning materials
      • A tick list for accessibility
  • 11. Usability as a process
      • … of accessibility, objectives and needs
    • You need to consider your context
    • What do your community want or need to access
    • Prioritise those areas – test them with the users
  • 12. The Holistic Approach
    • Accessibility is only important in achieving a user's objective:
      • This objective does not (usually) state “ I want to read Wuthering Heights on a Web site that is XHTML Strict and complies with WCAG AAA ”
      • Create an ALT tag for pathos?
      • You have resources other than the Web
  • 13. Pragmatism and Holism
    • You have limited resources:
      • Prioritise
      • Seek to implement a basic level of accessibility – but test the important resources with users
      • Usability of material is as important as accessibility
      • Be flexible, state that you want to support users and provide a contact
    LP  BK
  • 14. TechDis – UKOLN Approach
      • Focuses on the user
    • and recognises importance of:
      • External pressures e.g. funders, QAA, …
      • Technical infrastructure
      • Resource implications
      • Learning & teaching outcomes
    • and requires quality assurance based on documented policies and systematic checking
    Remember UK legislation expects organisations to take "reasonable measures" BK Holistic framework for e-learning accessibility published in CJLT: Users Needs
  • 15. I-Map – A Case Study
    • Independently of our work Tate Gallery were using a similar approach:
      • Need for an educational resources about Picasso/Matisse
      • Aimed at visually impaired users
      • Recognition that a universal approach was inappropriate
      • Developed a hybrid approach
    i-Map Web site breaks WAI guidelines (e.g. it uses proprietary formats) and took a user-focused and pragmatic (what expertise do we have) approach. Positive comments received from target audience animated/primitive/picasso/nude_arms.htm
  • 16. Further Developments
    • Need to develop a more formal methodology to support holistic approach to IT development programmes
    • JISC-funded QA Focus project developed methodology:
      • Supportive of open standards & best practices
      • Recognises need for diversity (due to immaturity of technologies, richness of usage scenarios, ...)
    • Recommendation that programmes allow for diversity & experimentation:
      • Argues for diversity rather than universality
      • Freedom to experiment on some areas
      • Tolerance of mistakes in some areas
      • Opt-out mechanisms
    This approach is being further developed through joint work with UKOLN, TechDis, AHDS & CETIS
  • 17. Conclusions
    • To conclude:
      • WAI guidelines have been developed for a reason – so seek to understand them and implement them if and where appropriate.
      • Be flexible if implementation is difficult or conflicts with (for example) learning.
      • Think holistically! Students don’t come to HE to only sit in front of a screen.
      • Select guidelines / standards that mean something to the context of the resource.
      • Document your processes.
  • 18. Questions
    • Any questions?
    Acknowledgements : Many thanks to JISC for funding UKOLN and TechDis and the QA Focus project.