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.
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lack of mobility, due to illness or accidents. Clearly the availability of course material in their own home is a real benefit to these people.
Deafness: people suffering from deafness, even total deafness, may find accessing web based material preferable to attending traditional lectures. Videos that use audio may require subtitles.
Visual impaired: these people, even the blind, may be able to study effectively using web based material, for example by using electronic screen readers.
People living in remote locations that have access to the internet can benefit from studying on the web. This applies to people in the UK and world wide.
People working full time that wish to change their career direction (CPD) and cannot undertake traditional studies without incurring loss of income find distance learning web based courses a real benefit.
The unemployed, who are probably looking for a job and must respond to opportunities quickly when they arise, find the flexibility of web based distance learning courses attractive. It may be that they can improve their skill sets and improve their employment prospects whilst searching for that important job.
The visually impaired use electronic screen readers that convert text to sound.
Several companies produce screen readers and some of these are referenced in this section.
We shall start by considering the basic operation of a typical screen reader.
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.
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 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.
|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.
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.