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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.


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Implementing A Holistic Approach To E-Learning Accessibility

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