Home » voice » Access to e-learning and the Olympic Orbit for students with disabilities

Access to e-learning and the Olympic Orbit for students with disabilities

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Fig.1. Arcelor-Mittal Orbit

‘Social psychology – responsibility for accessible e-learning is mentally disseminated in a crowd and individuals don’t feel responsible’ (Fellow H810 Student)

When it comes to improving accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities I wonder if it is the same problem of failure to take responsibility even when one person is given a task that ought to be something that everyone considers important.

Let’s say it is declared that everyone should take responsibility for writing clear messages to each other and students – and to do this correct use of upper and lower case is vital. One person cannot ‘police this’ … now say, as you may see with OU content, a low contrast colour background is used in all copy, great for some with dyslexia, makes no difference to the rest of us  … again, it has to be everyone’s responsibility to do this. The better solution to have a tab to alter not only text size, but contrast choices too.

In relation to designers – the programming, coding, web design type, it is the case that many want to be ‘at the cutting edge’ doing stuff no one else has done before in relation to interactivity, sliding fluid frames, and use of video frames and so on. They need to listen to the designer who has had a background in problem solving, thinking of it more as an visualizing, even and engineering problem, rather than a coding, decoding one.

Rather than hiring prima donnas,  the creators of e-learning need to understand that much of e-learning is like civil engineering – we’re not building an iconic swimming venue for the Olympics, or a visitor ‘attraction’ such as the Arcelor-Mittal Orbit either.  The reality is more mundane  – basic compliance with regards to e-learning is more akin to a box of well-considered leaflets or a 16 page magazine. So don’t hire people with expectations of winning a BAFTA.

I have seen too often amazing ‘stuff’ win a contract, everyone is happy and then someone puts up their hand as launch becomes imminent and asks ‘what about access for students with disabilities?’

‘We haven’t thought about that yet’ comes the sometimes honest, though sheepish reply.

Is this like designing the Concord to get people to New York in 3 hours 30 minutes only to find that a) they won’t let you land and b) 10% of passengers are scared of flying and would prefer to go by ocean liner. Using an analogy we are familiar with, what if the Arcelor-Mital Orbit at the London Olympics – without thinking about access had stairs then after construction they were asked about wheelchair access? Do designers perform the equivalent of trying to put in a lift after the event? If a skin or dashboard will do the job that is fine, and in some cases I think this is where assistive software and technology can work … but only if you’ve thought about it from the outset.

The argument and appeal to designers is to aim for ‘universal design’ that goal of combining function and form to produce something so clear and simple that works for everyone … or at least broadens what some author calls ‘reachability’.

Fig.1. Arcelor-Mittal Orbit

‘Social psychology – responsibility for accessible e-learning is mentally disseminated in a crowd and individuals don’t feel responsible’ (Fellow H810 Student)

When it comes to improving accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities I wonder if it is the same problem of failure to take responsibility even when one person is given a task that ought to be something that everyone considers important.

Let’s say it is declared that everyone should take responsibility for writing clear messages to each other and students – and to do this correct use of upper and lower case is vital. One person cannot ‘police this’ … now say, as you may see with OU content, a low contrast colour background is used in all copy, great for some with dyslexia, makes no difference to the rest of us  … again, it has to be everyone’s responsibility to do this. The better solution to have a tab to alter not only text size, but contrast choices too.

In relation to designers – the programming, coding, web design type, it is the case that many want to be ‘at the cutting edge’ doing stuff no one else has done before in relation to interactivity, sliding fluid frames, and use of video frames and so on. They need to listen to the designer who has had a background in problem solving, thinking of it more as an visualizing, even and engineering problem, rather than a coding, decoding one.

Rather than hiring primadonnas,  the creators of e-learning need to understand that much of e-learning is like civil engineering – we’re not building an iconic swimming venue for the Olympics, or a visitor ‘attraction’ such as the Arcelor-Mittal Orbit either.  The reality is more mundane  – basic compliance with regards to e-learning is more akin to a box of well-considered leaflets or a 16 page magazine. So don’t hire people with expectations of winning a BAFTA.

I have seen too often amazing ‘stuff’ win a contract, everyone is happy and then someone puts up their hand as launch becomes imminent and asks ‘what about access for students with disabilities?’

‘We haven’t thought about that yet’ comes the sometimes honest, though sheepish reply.

Is this like designing the Concord to get people to New York in 3 hours 30 minutes only to find that a) they won’t let you land and b) 10% of passengers are scared of flying and would prefer to go by ocean liner. Using an analogy we are familiar with, what if the Arcelor-Mital Orbit at the London Olympics – without thinking about access had stairs then after construction they were asked about wheelchair access? Do designers perform the equivalent of trying to put in a lift after the event? If a skin or dashboard will do the job that is fine, and in some cases I think this is where assistive software and technology can work … but only if you’ve thought about it from the outset.

The argument and appeal to designers is to aim for ‘universal design’ that goal of combining function and form to produce something so clear and simple that works for everyone … or at least broadens what some author calls ‘reachability’.

 

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