Accessibility & Inclusivity

It is a legal requirement that web based educational material is accessible to the disabled.

Inclusivity endeavours to make web based educational material equally accessible to the disabled, the disadvantaged and people without any impediments to learning.

In this section we shall consider aspects of accessibility and inclusivity and provide examples of how to produce web based educational material cost effectively that is both accessible and inclusive.

Contents Comments
A familiar example of accessibility and inclusivity - the ramp Inclusivity naturally includes all people
A technological example of accessibility and inclusivity - information Technological solutions to accessibility problems are effective
Accessibility of web based material for the visually impaired The visually impaired can use the Internet effectively
The inclusive nature of e-learning an distance learning These learning modes can be made accessible for a wide range of disabilities
Electronic Screen Readers Screen readers enable blind people to use the Internet
Accessibility Checkers It is possible to test your website, and others, for accessibility

A familiar example of accessibility and inclusivity - the ramp

People confined to a wheel chair can find it difficult, if not impossible, to gain access to buildings, and to move between different levels within buildings.

The provision of a ramp can alleviate this problem and goes someway to complying with legal requirements for accessibility.

Fig 1 illustrates the inclusive nature of the ramp, it provides accessibly for people with severe mobility problems but it also is very useful for other people.

Figure 1 Accessibility to Buildings for People with Mobility Problems

Figure 1 Accessibility to Buildings for People with Mobility Problems

The person in the wheelchair can use the ramp to gain access to the building - the ramp complies with accessibility requirements

The young mother pushing a baby in a pram with two small children in tow can gain access to the building- the ramp is inclusive

The man pulling a suitcase can use the ramp to make access easier - the ramp is inclusive

The person with no impediments to mobility can use the ramp - the ramp does not exclude anyone

The ramp is not a universal solution and in many instances it is not appropriate or practical to use one.

Inclusivity can make accessibility commercially viable. For example, if the ramp is in an airport thousands of people would use it every day and only a small number of these would be confined to a wheelchair.

Important

Inclusivity can often make measures used to provide accessibility commercially viable.

Inclusivity is meant to include everyone and exclude no one.

Inclusivity includes people that are disabled, disadvantaged, such as the unemployed, and people that are neither disabled or disadvantaged.


An technological example of accessibility and inclusivity - information

The next example we shall consider is making the presentation of information both accessible and inclusive.

A railway company in the UK uses both visual and audible information to inform train travelers of the next station the train is about to arrive at. This is illustrated in Fig 2.

Figure 2 Accessible Information for Train Passengers

Figure 2 Accessible Information for Train Passengers

When a station is approached its name is displayed at both ends of the railway carriage. Its name is also announced using a speaker system.

The caption saying "The next station is Hillside", which is above head height, is displayed at both ends of the railway carriage.

The audible message stating "The next station is Hillside" is clearly pronounced and loud enough to be heard above the hub hub of normal conversation.

The process is repeated every time a station is approached.

The audible message makes the information accessible by the visually disabled, even blind people.

The visual information makes the information accessible for those people that are hard of hearing, even those who are totally deaf.

The information is very useful for people that are not disabled.

People that are not familiar with the route of the train are reassured they will know when to disembark.

People that are familiar with the route will know when to disembark even at night time.

The presentation of the information is highly inclusive and commercially viable - it is useful to a wide range of people.


Accessibility of web based material for the visually impaired

Our main interest is to be able to produce web based educational material that complies with legal accessibility requirements. In addition we should endeavour to make the material inclusive, where practical.

We should be aware that there is a spectrum of visual impairments and different levels of impairment can be addressed with a variety of assistive technologies.

Dyslexia is a form a visual impairment and measures taken to make material accessible, say for the blind, are usually beneficial to dyslexics.

For the partially sighted just making text fonts larger can help, using a zoom function.

Controlling colour schemes for both background and text can make material much more readable for the partially sighted.

A working site that uses these techniques allows for different types of contrast and colour schemes to be applied site wide with just a few mouse clicks.

In the accessibility options displayed choose a colour scheme and then click the submit button.

The colour scheme for the whole site is changed. Navigate around the site to see the change.

The color schemes have not been chosen randomly, they have been chosen to help people with different visual problems.

To change the colour back to normal go back to the home page and click accessibility options. Select standard colour scheme and then submit, to return the site to normal mode.

In the following sections we shall be mainly concerned with making web based material accessible to the seriously visually impaired, including blind people.

Of Interest

Disable people can become remarkably skillful at compensating for their disability. For example deaf people can lip read and use sign language very effectively.

Blind people can become very skillful at using computers and we should not prejudge the effectiveness of measures taken to make material accessible.

Before we consider accessibility for the seriously visually impaired we shall consider the intrinsically inclusive nature of e-learning combined with distance learning for several common disabilities and the disadvantaged.


The inclusive nature of e-learning an distance learning

There is a tendency to focus on accessibility for the visually impaired when preparing material for delivery on the web.

The following list, which is not meant to be exhaustive, indicates the inclusive nature of web based education in distance learning mode for a range of disabilities and disadvantages.

Information

Some educators see making provision for the disabled and disadvantaged as a restriction: in fact it probably increases market size.

About 23% of the population of the UK suffer from some form of disability.


Electronic Screen Readers

The visually impaired use electronic screen readers that convert text to sound.

Important

We shall focus on electronic screen readers because:

The companies that produce screen readers understand accessibility requirements and how to satisfy them. They constantly keep up to date with changes in legislation. In a sense they do a lot of the hard work for us.

When we author material that is to comply with accessibility requirements we are really producing the material so that it can be processed and interpreted by screen readers.

So we need to develop authoring techniques that screen readers can interpret.

There are software applications, some of them free, that allow us to check if the material we have produced complies with accessibility requirements.

We can develop templates and other means such as cascading style sheets, that make complying with accessibility requirements relatively straight forward and consistent.

We can use web authoring applications, such as Dreamweaver, which can assist us to produce compliant material.

Several companies produce screen readers and some of these are referenced in this section.

Overview of a the Operation of a Typical Screen Reader.

We shall start by considering the basic operation of a typical screen reader.

Figure 3 A Typical Screen Reader Configuration

Figure 3 A Typical Screen Reader Configuration

 

Imagine the user enters a website address into the address bar of an Internet browser from the keyboard.

 

The browser loads the web page into the memory of the computer. The web page actually consists of coded information in HTML format.

 

The computer processes this coded information and displays the contents of the web page on the computer display.

 

When a screen reader is being used the HTML code is also sent to the screen reader software programme. This processes the data and linearises the text which is then sent to a hardware text to a speech synthesiser.

 

The output of the speech synthesiser is an audio signal which is converted into sound by the speaker.

 

The whole process can be very fast and the user does not experience any delay (latency) when listening to the spoken text.

 

Screen Reader Operation in a little mode detail

The terms HTML and Linearisation may need further explanation.

We shall use a small fragment of a web page to describe them in a little more detail in relation to accessibility.

The small fragment of a web page is from an online exercise for students studying a project management course.

The site fragment consists of a number of headings and short paragraphs.

HTML, HyperText Markup Language, is used by the browser to control the display of the page.

Hypertext means "more than just text" and refers to hyperlinks, that is web page links used to jump from one web address to another. A link has more attributes than simple text alone.

A Markup Language means "more than just a language". The markup provides the browser with information on how to display the page. Markup provides additional information to the page content.

The fragment of HTML code for the web page is shown below. The markup is shown in red.

 

Note- using colour is likely to cause accessibility test failures

The use of red text in the following code fragment causes contrast failures when checked in an accessibility checker.

Using red text is a benefit to fully sighted people, but it does not assist the visually impaired.

 

The HTML code for the web page fragment


<h2 >Exercises using Microsoft Project Question1</h2>
<h3>Examination of Microsoft Project Task Types </h3>
<p>Open a file called options_03.mpp and set up a simple resource sheet with 2 engineers: eng1 and eng2. Assign the unit cost for each engineer to $20/hour
and the maximum units to 1.00.</p>
<p>Use the MSP standard calendar for all the tasks in the file. Then check the effect of the following:</p>

<h4>a) Effort Driven Scheduling on</h4>
<p>Assigning single and multiple resource units to a fixed unit task, a fixed
duration task and a fixed work task.</p>

 

HTML markup is enclosed in <>, for example <p>signifies the start of a paragraph and </p> signifies the end of a paragraph.<p></p> are examples of HTML tags.

<h2 >Exercises using Microsoft Project Question1</h2> is an example of a heading tag.

There are numerous HTML tags recognised by browsers.

The contents of tags can be styled: the heading 2 tag may be styled to use the aerial font, with a defined fault size and made bold.

The heading 3 tag in the web page fragment is styled same as the heading 2 tag except that the font size is smaller.

The paragraph style is simply aerial: the font size is smaller than the headings and the text is normal (not bold).

The HTML tags inform the browser how the web page should look.

Screen reader software uses the HTML tags to process the HTML code into a form the text to speech synthesiser can interpret. This process is called linearisation

A representative example of how the HTML code for the web page could be linearised is shown below.

 

The Linearised version of the web page fragment


Exercises using Microsoft Project Question1
Examination of Microsoft Project Task Types
Open a file called options_03.mpp and set up a simple resource sheet with
2 engineers: eng1 and eng2. Assign the unit cost for each engineer to $20/hour
and the maximum units to 1.00.
Use the MSP standard calendar for all the tasks in the file. Then check
the effect of the following:
a) Effort Driven Scheduling on
Assigning single and multiple resource units to a fixed unit task, a fixed
duration task and a fixed work task.

Note: this text has been structured to facilitate visual reading. The screen reader would convert the text to a string of sentences and add emphasis and pauses, etc.

The linearised version of the page is sent to the text to speech synthesiser which converts it to audible output.

Actually the information sent to the synthesiser is the binary coded equivalent of the text.

A more complex example of linearisation is a simple table.

A Simple Example of a Data Table
Task Number Task Name Task Type Resource Type
3 Specify Process Fixed Units Human
21 Create Documentation Fixed Units Human
30 Process material Fixed Duration Equipment
42 Inspect material Fixed Work Human and Equipment

 

The screen reader would read from left to right starting at the table caption.

The table column headings have been declared as headings using the <th> tag. The screen reader would identify them as headings.

 

Each row of the table is read and linearised.

The HTML tags that control the table are:

<table> Informs both the browser and the screen reader that a table is being used.

<caption> The name of the table

<th> Declares the contents of a cell as a heading

<tr> Defines a table row

<td> Defines a table data cell

</table> Informs both the browser and the screen reader that a table is has ended.


Accessibility Checkers

It is possible to use free software, on the Internet, that check if your website complies with accessibility standards.

Test normally take less than a minute and provide an "accessibility compliance report".

A popular accessibility checker is Wave : a web page accessibility checker

To get a quick report the accessibility compliance enter the address (url) of the web page you wish to check.

Although the reports are obtained quickly you still need to know how to correct any errors that are detected.


Screen Reader Information

Wikipedia introduction to electronic screen readers

A comprehensive list of screen readers

BBC overview of screen readers

Web publishing accessibility standards and guidelines

The world wide web accessibility initiative

The Equality and Human Rights Commission

BBC accessibility standards and guidelines

Website accessibility standards and the Disability Discrimination Act DDS

Examples of making web based material accessible

Guide to creating accessible tables

Guide to creating accessible tables