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Simplicity of communication in TV graphics

If this looks like a distraction – it is! I only got up to crack on with H810: Accessible Online Learning. Supporting disabled students – to work on a report and delete images of family and friends from blogs or accessible online galleries.

There is cross-over.

1) The screen-grab above demonstrates some kind of excellence in relation to presenting data in a visual form – for anyone.

There is no conflict or ‘overload’ between the language and visual centres of the brain. You listen to the commentary, and see the supporting graphics. The images are blunt, bold and big – compare this to that PowerPoint presentation with chunks of text, long list, irrelevant photo art grabs and such … and silly wipes between screens.

2) The report knocks an End of Module Examination (EMA) into the rough – this is the real thing – a spec to set up e-learning for the next 3-5 years.

This must get precedence. Ahead of blogging, which needs also to retreat to a place to reflect on the MAODE and H810 … after, not before or during the activity sad

3) It is time for me to edit, lock or delete some blog posts from a decade ago

I don’t even trust ‘Locking’ pages as once leaked stuff is easily cut, pasted and re-released.

We’ve had the editor of Newsnight resign because something he said in a blog was inaccurate – you see a blog really is just electronic paper, it can be nonsense, or it can be used against you. Over a decade ago no one took the blogger seriously – we’d might as well have been writing on bog-roll.

Then I caught a piece about ‘Creep Shots’ on BBC Radio 4. The pernicious side of this is posting shots of people, say commuting into work – the viscous end of this being the ‘up the skirt’ antics that ought to lead to criminal prosecution – and does where it can be proved. The ‘innocent’ side of this is posting shots of people picked out from a crowd – what do the hundreds of photographers do with the tens of thousands of photographs they took at the Lewes Bonfire Night marches? To save the embarrassment of family and friends I’ve removed or locked images of them. That is because through association they can be identified. Why should anyone link to and have a laugh at their expense. But what about total strangers? I’m not going to restrict myself to mid and distance shots. Do any of the people who had too much to drink want to find them pasted into a blog or featuring on the pages of a local paper? It’ll only get worse – a headcam can snap or record almost everything you see. Where might that content go? Or will we become blind to the exposure?

As a child we posed in our swimming teams in our trunks – such shots, certainly online, tend to be swimmers wearing a club T shirt or trackie.

We follow Sports UK Child Protection Guidelines.

An example of where you need to be sensitive however came where I was advised that an adopted child should not feature as it would be inappropriate should blood relatives of that child see it. In relation to H810 Accessible Online Learning: supporting disabled students. It is of course as appropriate to seek permission, even ask them to sign a release form, before a disabled student … indeed any student is featured online, whether or not they are identified. In the case of minors they should not.

Take this post – ‘visible to all Open University users’ a few clicks and anyone can cut, paste and put it on a more public platform.

Trust and common sense?

The same whether online or off?

That and with millions of pages uploaded every hour (or is that every minute), the chances are anything and everything you do will fall on deaf ears anyway.

Advertisement

“All education is about empowerment, whomsoever the learner might be”.

“All education is about empowerment, whomsoever the learner might be”. Tennant (2009:154)

I find myself looking for a single sentence, phrase or word to sum up what is required to improve access to higher education for disabled students – a good deal is applicable to all students (I was researching Stephen Hawking’s career out of interest).

It is the value of the personal touch, one human being, the knowledgeable educator reaching out to another who has a genuine desire to learn – tutors who are natural educators, in the vocational sense – not watching the time or doing it for the money while their heart is in research. i.e. one person can make a difference.

Who in other words is the inspiration to the student?

I too found I was building up a long list of ‘true to all students’ which I found refreshing and touching, especially the desire to belong, to make friends, even to find love – while dressing up and getting drunk.

And to be independent of parents – or in one delightfully intriguing case from their twin!

The division between able-bodied and disabled, between the Olympics and Paralympics, is a compromise. How far and in how many ways can a cohort of students be split?

Mature students form a different group.

By subject, by gender, by socio-economic background, by UK resident or foreign student? By exam grades, by type and degree of disability? By the football team they support, the college or residential hall they stay in? And when you get down to the person how are they and their many moods and responses categorised?

The point made repeatedly on the platform of the LibDem Conference on disability and access – people want to be treated like people, that’s all.

People are messy, none of us want to be a label. There can be a culture of doing things by the book, institutionally, by department or because of the jobsworth mentality of an individual. Hopefully social networks and the ease of reporting frankly on conditions will increasingly allow people to make choices about where they apply to study, and how – not mentioned as the case studies are not current (2004), e-learning and blended learning can increase flexibility and aid accommodation of people with a plethora of barriers before them.

Delays in funding are unforgiveable – more stories need to be brought to public notice so that politicians, departments and people are named and shamed. And not mentioned, but those families with the money can, as well as applying for funding, cover shortfalls, give additional allowances, fund a car or a flat.

How do you train staff in relation to disabled students?

Why do ‘teachers’ in Tertiary education think they don’t need a qualification to teach? This would cover some of the ground. In sport we are taught to coach what a person can do – taking the time to find out what a person is capable of takes … time, which is money, which anyone with an eye on payment by the hour the hours they have in a week is unlikely to give. It can ultimately only be done on a one to one basis. This comes down to the nature of the tutor, lecturer or ‘educator’ and their motivations – do they want to be thought of in their lifetime as the one who made a difference, who inspired a young person to achieve or do x or y, or think about things in a certain way?

Time is an interesting consideration – the goal and how it is achieved rather than the time required needs to be the consideration.

If more time helps get a person through or beyond a barrier, then time, more of it, or making more of it, is the answer. As above, time lost can now be recovered with e-learning or blended learning. Even a commute can, for some, be a chance to catch up on reading … even to take part in an asynchronous forum such as this.

To accommodate training and competition schedules young athletes such as Tom Daily take three years to study for their A’ Levels rather than two.

Might anyone, for a variety of reasons, take four or five years to complete an undergraduate degree – and benefit, as they mature, from having more time to get their heads around it. Life is disruptive in varying amounts for everyone.

CONCLUSION

It is a compromise, but there is a reason why the Paralympics are run separately, indeed, if this part of the Olympic Movement grows even more it may perhaps have to be split again simply to better accommodate to variety and range of disabilities. By bringing, for example, wheelchair users together you are better able to provide for them – the specially commissioned multiple wheelchair access train from Paris to Stratford International has to be an example. An entire university, built as if on an Olympic Village format, deigned above all else to give access to people overcoming a variety of disabilities would, like the Olympics themselves, probably have to draw on students from an international, even a global pool. How about, in collegiate universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Durham, a college is financed to meet specific, or a set range of impairments? Are there not economies of scale, could services across the board not be better, or are we once again segregating people with disabilities rather than making efforts to bring down barriers of access to the mainstream?

Life is an obstacle course.

It isn’t even the case that the person over the line first wins. If access adjusts as many of the obstacles to a height or level of challenge that is equal to all would we not have everyone crossing the line at the same time. In educational terms, certainly at tertiary level, if only those with similar levels of attainment, and this includes people with a variety of disabilities, then the test has been an intellectual one. Playing devil’s advocate might it not be equally valid to put barriers in the way of the able bodied? Examination papers in a tiny font, a power-cut so all papers have to be read and written up in the dark, the dominant arm tied behind the back … alternatively, an assessment system that is designed to elucidate what the student knows, however they can express this, so more viva voces, more applied and modular assignments as part of the submission …

FURTHER LINKS

Thoughts on access from the conference floor – Liberal Democrats 2012

From where I sit videos

“I learned JAWS, the screen reading program that I use. I learned to communicate with my professors to advocate for my own self, talking about what I need when they use the three bad words, which are: “this, there and that”. For example, if they’re talking about a bell curve “it goes up like this in the middle and then it goes down like that”. That doesn’t help me”.

Sounds like a CPD on writing and presenting for Radio would go down well.

Cal – deaf – assistive technology in a US School.

So for the lack of an available interpreter or several interpreters, instead I use Assistive Technology. There is a person off-site who uses a headset and the teacher has a lapel microphone and when the teacher speaks, the person off-site can hear the teacher’s voice through their headset and type into their off-site computer. And that information goes through an Internet connection to my laptop in the classroom. And I read the captions on the laptop while the teacher is lecturing in real time.

Stephen Hawking has a motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition that has progressed over the years since diagnosis in his early 20s. He is now almost entirely paralysed and communicates through a speech generating device.

The important influence of teachers and parents.

Stephen Hawking has named his secondary school mathematics teacher Dikran Tahta as an inspiration,[5] and originally wanted to study the subject at university. However, Hawking’s father wanted him to apply to University College, Oxford, which his father had attended. As University College did not have a mathematics fellow at that time, they did not accept applications from students who wished to study that discipline. Therefore, Hawking applied to study natural sciences with an emphasis in physics. University College accepted Hawking, and he gained a scholarship.

Christine – Juvenile Chronic Arthritis

Slow to take up DDA, delay in getting kit. Mature student. Kit only does so much, no transcription software for digital recordings of lectures.

Dave Extreme stress and abxiety disorder

GeoffreyMaths PhD Student with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a condition that impairs the functioning of nerve cells gradually over time. It eventually leads to a loss of ability to move, though the brain is unaffected –

John – Cerebral Palsy

John identifies the support of his parents and professional assistants as having been vital in his success. He credits his parents for encouraging him to become as independent as possible, and instilling a pro-active attitude to life.

SKILL – student experiences

Laura – Brain Tumour age Five

The shift from living at home to semi-independence away from home in a hall of residence, or greater independence in a student digs, requires considerable adjustment. Far better if the transition from school and home to university is a gradual, or at least a stepwise progression – something those who attend sixth form college find marginally easier, but for those who have been at boarding school find easier still. Otherwise, some kind of compromise needs to be accommodated, or recommended, the simplest one to live at home at first – or, which some can do, home comes to the campus.

Simon – Cerebral Palsy

Courage, self-belief and compromise. Like all of us? Common to all students completing a degree and seeking employment.

Kirsten – Blind

Who are we to advise on the suitability of a course? Significant distances to placements with no compromises.

Acceptance for what I am rather than prejudiced with the label ‘blind’.

Inadequate testing – CRB forms not available in Braille, assessments couldn’t be read by the Screen Reader.

Emmanuel – Dyslexia

Sense of independence at Sixth Form College

Stuart – Wheelchair user after neurological illness

Adaptable with regard to my disability – working with what he could do, rather than trying to overcome a barrier unnecessarily. Disabilities and life experience a lesson to young students.

Laura – Profoundly Deaf

DSA for note taker Friends, travel opportunities, lip-reading different languages.

DIARY 1

  • Space requirements according to the disability or use of a wheelchair.
  • Socialising, nightclubs, flashing lights, layout and signage.
  • Feeling left out – the asthmatic and cigarette smoke.
  • A week can seem like a really long time sometimes, especially if in that particular week existence as you have known it for the past 19 years changes as completely as is humanly possible.

DIARY 2

  • Expectations about splints and stories of injury rather than genetic disorder – humans looking for things in common.
  • Embarrassment and disappointment when trying to initiate a social get together.
  • A learning process on both sides when it comes to lectures – is that good enough?
  • Tiresome visits to the GP for simple things
  • A Dictaphone serves many purposes – for lecture notes, but also recording other stuff and having a laugh. Yes, like all people, a disabled person has a sense of fun and mischief too.
  • A wheelchair user having to climb onto a washing machine to read the instructions.

DIARY 3

  • Making friends. ‘It’s nice to know that people are ready to help when my usual attempts at total independence fail’. Texting to meet up if she gets lost. Sarah Butler.
  • Just ask
  • Three weeks in and adjustments still being made to bed, bathroom and bathroom door to create easier access.
  • Don’t be patronising -lectures who need training or to gain some emotional intelligence in how they behave with other people.

DIARY 4

  • Week 4 and no note taker in place for a tutorial so a fellow student stepped in.
  • This reminds me a bit of pushing my four year-old brother in his pram. Said one student to her.
  • It would, both needed to have a laugh about it.
  • Personal assistants aren’t around all the time so friends need to help. This in relation to moving into a student home.
  • I was so nervous but it turns out I really had nothing to worry about. Academically it’s going fine and socially it’s just going even better. Visual Impaired Student, Sarah Butler.

DIARY 5

  • Bored with a lecture – like any student. Lumping herself in with the 70% who are likely to fail, hasn’t found a suitable way to revise as writing and typing are out – so understands the need to work with the content but hasn’t received help with ideas on what she might do instead.
  • Makes too much socializing the excuse for possibly doing not so well in an exam rather than the disability.
  • Required a friend to take the initiative to ask about the risks to an asthmatic of smoke machines at a choir concert.
  • Some people just thought I’d come as Superman and then I had to go and explain the subtle difference between coming as Superman and coming as Christopher Reeve, to which some people again just laughed hysterically and some people just looked shocked and didn’t know what to say and went quiet. But I thought it was a great idea and very funny and I had a good laugh.

OUCH

CHARLOTTE’S DIARY

A quadriplegic with three full-time carers, one in her flat, the other two next door – them depending on her for further training after the initial inductions with her mother in the first two weeks.

  • Straight out to a fancy dress party – then to the shops.
  • Not used to having to remain alert for such long periods
  • Being young and wanting to fit in as much as possible
  • I feel I’ve been an outsider for quite long enough and it’s time for a change.
  • Thinking about … men.
  • Getting up at 6.45 to be ready for the first lecture of three at 9.30.

Introduced to scan and read technology – rather than during the second week of a course couldn’t this be done ahead of the new term?

Catering for every kind of student includes the selection of music played

I don’t know how much help tutors/lecturers are supposed ro give – this in relation to quantities of new terms in sociology.

Aware of the challenges, the risk to her health, even to her personality – but feels the degree will get her out of a more dull future otherwise.

  • Falling in love
  • Forthright advice applicable to anyone.

Baillrigg Lancaster University

  • Personal flaws quite distinct from the disability such as expecting too much from a situation.
  • Wants idependence, but my need parental involvement.
  • I want people who don’t have such problems to be less intimidated by people like me and learn to appreciate them as normal.

ASPERGERS STUDENT

Lee’s Diary

  • Importance of catering for different needs and interests – not everyone is a drinker.
  • Important I would have thought to have a very large and diverse incoming cohort, or good mixing between year groups, and a way for students with similar interests and outlooks to find each other.
  • A frenetic desire to get stuck into sll kinds of things, not just course work, but sports, activities and church groups.
  • Aspergers and Tourrettes – so he wants to learn BSL and Mandarin of course.
  • I did my first load of washing today which was a success, but the dryers were rubbish so I have wet clothes hanging on shelves and doors in my room.
  • Got laptop, scanner, dictaphone.
  • Ranges within Aspergers, in terms of response to emotions, or not. ability to communicate, or not.
  • Cross correlation insight between need for facial expressions in BSL and meanings of the four tones in Mandarin.
  • We do not suffer, which implies pain – fed up of media talking about people who ‘suffer’ from Aspergers or Tourettes.

I don’t wanna be an inpsiration.

Interesting insight into ignorant, well meaning churchgoers who blamed Jesus for giving him a cold and would pray to make him hearing if he had been deaf. Shows who responses are so strongly influenced by context and experience.

Seeking independence from parents and finding ample respect from fellow students.

VISUALLY IMPAIRED – ANDREA

A 1.5 hour trip from Coventry to Warwick Uni, two buses and a guide dog. Youngest person ever to get a guide dog at 15.

DSA and assessments in August for a late September start. Netbook, scanner, JAWS, dictaphone. Also a helper as well as a request for a GPS device. NONE of the kit turned up in time, still none a week later. Nor her maintenance allowance, although everyone else has theirs. Still nothing by the end of October. End up being leant a zuni laptop that was too heavy to take into lectures or transport.

  • Very helpful with introductions, 3rd Year Student Support and lecturer support. Given advice about the dog too.
  • Don’t assume she requires lecture notes on PPT enlarged, actually reduced as she has tunnel vision. In 12pt can only see two or three words at a time.
  • Note takers and helpers funded by DSA. Three in all.
  • Individual induction to the library.

TWINS – CONGENITAL MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY

  • Wanting to be independent of each other!

INDEPENDENT LIVING AND A PA 24/7

What DSA does or does not cover. Does not cover the PA costs. Inadequacy of being handed a mobile phone and told to call a nurse across campus should he require to go to the toilet – but he can’t even use a mobile phone that easily.

  • Several agencies to approach.
  • Package must include becoming an active participant at university.

Key problems:

Attitudes, finance and poor or inadequate advice. Cara an excellent ice-breaker for someone living at home not on ca

DSA includes ink cartridges and a taxi if it is raining or to get home later.

The irony is that potentially the most support and understanding of the issues will come from a parent – but like all young people growing up, they want Independence and are prepared to make sacrifices. However, their ability to manage their needs, costs, people, access, work load, mobility, socialising, kit and so on, is, as for anyone, in part down to that person’s personality and resilience – can they manage people, are they thick skinned, do they have a sense of humour …

Washington

The Paralympic Categories

Paralympics categories explained

What do categories mean?

Guardian on the classifications

Channel 4’s LEXI System

REFERENCE

California State University (CSU) (undated) ‘From Where I Sit’ Video Series [online], http://teachingcommons.cdl.edu/access/materials/fwis.shtml (last accessed 23 September 2012).

BBC Radio 4 (2004) Disabled Student Diaries [online], http://www.bbc.co.uk/ radio4/ youandyours/ transcripts_studentdiaries.shtml (last accessed 23 May 2012).

Tennant, M (2009) chapter 10 in Contemporary Theories of Learning – Lifelong learning as a technology of self.

Ouch (2009) Disabled Student Diaries 2009 [online], http://www.bbc.co.uk/ ouch/ fact/ disabled_student_diaries_2009.shtml (last accessed 23 May 2012).

Ouch (2010a) Disabled Student Diaries update: Charlotte [online] http://www.bbc.co.uk/ ouch/ features/ charlotte_s_diary_update_2010.shtml (last accessed 23 May 2012).

Ouch (2010b) Disabled Student Diaries update: Lee [online] http://www.bbc.co.uk/ ouch/ features/ lee_s_student_diary_update_2010.shtml (last accessed 23 May 2012).

Ouch (2010c) Disabled Student Diaries update: Andrea [online] http://www.bbc.co.uk/ ouch/ features/ andrea_s_student_diary_update_2010.shtml (last accessed 23 May 2012).

How do assistive technologies improve access to e-learning for disabled people?

20121022-102631.jpg

Fig.1 Assitive technologies to improve access to e-learning

There are a myriad of hardware and software tools that alongside other assistive technologies a disabled person may use to improve access to learning. As part of the MA in Open and Distance Educaiton (MAODE) module H810 Accessible Online Learning : Supporting Disabled Students we are reviewing the widest range of circumstances and tools – and MBA like applying these to our own contexts.

When I started this course I did wonder if it couldn’t be covered in a weekend residential – boy am I mistaken.

So much so that I think it should be a 60 pointer over several more months.

If we can remember back to the Paralympics just think of the vast scale and variety of access issues these athletes had, then add cognitive impairments for which the Olympics are unable to cater – then think of any impairment as a position on a spectrum that includes us – our vision, our hearing, our mobility and cognitive skills are on here somewhere too. Indeed, there are tools that come out of assistive technology that have value to all of us, from automatic captioning, tagging and transcription of video, to screens over which we have greater control. Here area few I picked out:

HEAD POINTERS

20121022-100855.jpg

Head pointers need to suit the precise needs, wishes and expectations of the user and may be used in conjunction with other tools and software. A sophisticated package such as TrackerPro costs £1,288 and includes head, visor and shoulder kit, a tracking webcame and software. At this level it can be used to engage with computer games, as well as to use packages designed to suit the users other needs in relation to visual and audio impairment. These packages are supported by assessors.

KEYBOARDS

20121022-102029.jpg

Keyboards come in a plethora of shapes, sizes, textures and colours, with various overlays and supporting software for single hand or head pointer use too.

Integrated with screens, wheelchair, hardware and software a market leader for people with considerable mobile impairment, voice and sight impairment such as DynaVox Vmax will cost £9,000. There is considerable online support, with videos too. Setting up and support from an assessor is provided.

Beyond the tools provided with the operating system or browsers which will magnify images to a reasonable degree, there are software bundles such iZoom (PC) £321 and VisioVoice (MAC) £232 with a far greater level of sophistication and adjustment to suit users with sight impairments, dyslexia and mobility requirements. Working with a variety of inputting devices this allows the user to make many kinds of adjustments to the way information is displayed.

What do you know about assistive technologies?

20121022-095757.jpg

Fig.1 Assitive technologies to improve access to e-learning
There are a myriad of hardware and software tools that alongside other assistive technologies a disabled person may use to improve access to learning. As part of the five month long Master’s module H810 Accessible Online Learning : Supporting Disabled Students you review the widest range of circumstances and tools – applying these to your own context.

COLOUR OVERLAYS

20121022-102643.jpg
These acetate overlays alter the contrast between the text and the background paper on which the text is printed. For some students who have difficulty with reading due to visual perceptual difficulties such as Dupyslexia this low technology modification enhances their ability to decode the words.
Sheets cost around £3.00 each or £1.75 each in a packs of ten. Another solution is a translucent ruler for £2.65. Onscreen various software packages for PC or MAC permit a wide range of sophisticated changes to screen and text – basic packages free under an accessibility tool, packages that greatly magnify text and offer tools to change point colour, shape and size from £77 to £321. Depdning on the solution varying degrees of support is given.

HEAD POINTERS OR TRACKERS

20121022-100844.jpg

20121022-100855.jpg
Head pointers need to suit the precise needs, wishes and expectations of the user and may be used in conjunction with other tools and software. A sophisticated package such as TrackerPro costs £1,288 and includes head, visor and shoulder kit, a tracking webcame and software. At this level it can be used to engage with computer games, as well as to use packages designed to suit the users other needs in relation to visual and audio impairment. These packages are supported by assessors.

WORDPREDICTORS

20121022-101847.jpg
Wordprediction devices aren’t limited to use infront of a computer, indeed a portable device may be more versatile for the user and costs between £141 and £200.

KEYBOARDS

20121022-102029.jpg
Keyboards come in a plethora of shapes, sizes, textures and colours, with various overlays and supporting software for single hand or head pointer use too.
20121022-102631.jpg
Integrated with screens, wheelchair, hardware and software a market leader for people with considerable mobile impairment, voice and sight impairment such as DynaVox Vmax will cost £9,000. There is considerable online support, with videos too. Setting up and support from an assessor is provided.
20121022-102046.jpg
Across the spectrum of alternative keyboards, with larger keys, start at £96 for a Kinderboard to BigKeys for £135, to Textboards at £334 and the smart Intellikeys with its wide variety of overlays at £315 (with set–up and maintenance support and bundled with software and overlays at £656).
20121022-102056.jpg
While Braille users are catered for with some of the devices, hardware and offer kit mentioned above, as well as specialist keyboards and audio readers the IntelliKeys product takes a Braille overlay that costs £6.44 whereas a complete product bundle may cost between £315 and £656.

LARGE FREESTANDING TOUCHSCREENS

20121022-103957.jpg
Screen enlargement … or a large screen offer answers to people with varying degrees of visual impairment and other needs. At an institutional level huge touchscreens from 55” to 65” are available for £2,573 to £3,862. Large screens or multiple screens are a simple solution to someone with some sight impairment. These can be supported by an HD to enlarge text and put it on the screen, for example ZoomText Cameras range from £77 to £199.
20121022-104132.jpg
20121022-104143.jpg
Beyond the tools provided with the operating system or browsers which will magnify images to a reasonable degree, there are software bundles such iZoom (PC) £321 and VisioVoice (MAC) £232 with a far greater level of sophistication and adjustment to suit users with nsight impairments, dyslexia and mobility reuirements. Working with a variety of inputting devices this allows the user to make many kinds of adjustments to the way inforamtion is displayed.

Assistive technology to create access to education and work

20121021-091633.jpg
Fig.1 Assistive technology for people with no vision

I am familiar with all of many assistive tools and use them regularly though I am not dyselxic, rather I have found them to be assistive tools for everything I do as a writer, from scanning in printed content, creating mindmaps, recording, uploading and transcribing interviews and notes, as well as reading back what I have written.

Similarly, all the low option assistive technologies I have and still use, from a digital recorder and a PDA that become a PSION or handheld ‘palm top’ wordprocess to the iPad and Smartphone I have today. Working with colleagues with Dyselxia I started to produce documents for them on coloured sheets.

Trackballs, footpedals and head pointers take me into a new area, though I do use a footpedal to control the playback of interviews as it makes transcription or analysis far easier. Trackballs and tablets I have used in video edit suites as alterantive and better ways to interface with the various digital asasets you are juggling. Headpointers and joysticks in this context are quite new to me, though I will be familiar with reports and documentaries on their use.

Some of the virtual screen tools are also unfamiliar, though word prediction in some sense is something many of us will have experienced with predictive text.

Speech input I have used, but clearly my context and that for a disabled user are going to be very different – my use an indulgence or supra-human tools that enhances what I can naturally acheive, whereas for a disabled person it creates access at a basic level.

Alternate keyboards like any prosphsis, unless tailored to the user, will be a compromise – it depends on the person, their needs, circumstances and resources as to whether a large keyboard for one hand keyboard will be a benefit to them.

Clearly as we start to consider tools for people with no vision or no hearing the level of sophistication and specialisation of the device increases.

Reflections on accessibility of e-learning to disabled people

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Fig.1 Access to work – MicroLink Access to Work Video

Any of us could or will stumble the first time we are faced with a new tool or piece of software – I’d like to see any of us tested using a tool such as Delicious or ScoopIt and see how we get on, or trying to use a Microwriter, programme the washing machine or even turn on someone else’s Microwave.

All experiences become familiar in time if we give them a go or get some useful tips. The same implies whether or not you have a disability or combination of disabilities or not.

To make sense of the plethora of accessibility tools, software and built-in ‘assists’ – and the equally enormous combinations and varieties of people who may benefit from using them I am having to get into my minds eye four people, or ‘personas’ who have quite different needs and imagine them, in context, wanting to and trying to use tools that ought to improve access for them. Some intriguingly are likely to suit all users if they offer a short cut or a different way into the information – I prefer a transcript over lectures. I like to use narrator in the car or when busy with some other task like painting the shed – the book is read to me as I can’t do what I am doing and look at the screen at the same time. I call this the ‘Montesori Effect’ – how meeting a learning challenge for one community of learners you gain insights and create tools that benefit everyone.

As for any of us, when it comes to learning, context is important whether we have the space, time, kit and inclination. There is a big difference between giving something a go and having to use it with a set goal in mind. Anyone remember the first time they had to create something using PowerPoint, or Word come to think of it? Or writing a blog – let alone embedding images, video or audio.

Some of this reminds me of my first computer – an Amstrad. All green text and no mouse. My father got himself a Microwriter and mastered it. Bizarre. Confined to a wheelchair (badly broken leg from skiing) for some months in my early teens I ought to have been able to keep up with school work – but somehow a box of books didn’t do it for me.

When I get stuck I can now turn to a son, daughter or my wife who may or may not be able to help. We also pick up the phone to ‘The Lewes Computer Guy’ for technical fixes. Had I a disability how likely is it that I can turn to someone with the very same set of challenges that I face for tips and advice? On some context a blind person will and can turn to a supportive community, but this might not be so easy if you are, or feel like, the only person with Dyslexia or Cerebral Palsy at your schoolor university.

Access to learning for students with disabilities


Whilst accommodation must be made pre-emptively to reduce barriers to access to education over a range of types of disability – and degrees of these disability impacts to the person in relation to learning along a spectrum of these disabilities – it can only be once the specific challenges and needs of a student are known in relation to their subject – and how the student will study it: campus, e-learning or blended, full or part-time – that a more tailored or an alternative response can be offered.

DISCUSS

Francesca Martinez in the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show ‘The News Quiz’

Check out this video on YouTube:

I was introduced to Francesca Martinez performing on the stand-up comedy circuit by my Open University tutor as we are currently doing a module on accessibility to e-learning. Francesca has cerebral palsy – she doesn’t let that get in her way. Her brand of sit-down stand-up comedy is infecticious, revealing and timely.

Catch the Saturday 6th September edition of ‘The News Quiz’.

Knowing a number of young people with cerebral palsy I know to be more attentive – just because, to varying degrees, they may struggle to get their words out, does not mean they don’t have something to say. The other lesson is to be open, to be frank – you have to ask openly with them what they can or cannot do, or would like to do or overcome. Even if I had some professional knowledge of a range of disabilities it will still be necessary to discuss with the individual where they stand – something that may shift week on week, in their favour after operations or against if the disease is degenerative. The difference here compared to the general population is accommodation rather than indulgence – it puts into sharp perspective the young person or parent of a young person who pushes and stretches the bounds of indulgence forgetting that life of necessity includes compromise, and give as well as take.

The barriers to this are time, numbers and comprehension – as well as any inherent risks in relation to the learning environment. As a ‘lead educator’ – a teacher or coach, you have to respond to the current situation as it unfolds. It helps to have some sense of who the people are, to know where their individual strengths and weaknesses lie.

If time is one issue, then make more time as a result if preparation, even arrange to meet some students earlier if this is possible so that you can fit in a quick word with them.

If numbers are an issue then be slick with registarations, insist on people turning up in good time and if necessary stagger the start – in some situations an assistant or parent should help out, to guide one person or to pick up on some tasks (the issue here is where a young person is very concsciously trying to be more independent).

If comprehension and communication are an issue, then do the above – give it more time and find ways to cope with the numbers, then be open and accommodating, use common sense to find or be told the best way to communicate – ideally therefore have some kind of hand-over where you can be introduced to the best way forward.

Returning to Francesca Martinez – she held her own and deserved to be on the show – she is funy and spontaneous, blunt and entertaining. She can only be judged on these qualities in this context – access means removing or alleviating barriers to get onto such a stage, it does not mean changing the height if the bar, just as an undergraduate with a disabilitiy starting in higher education having got to this level has to be judged by how they perform, assessed or judged at the same level as other undergraduates. In relation to e-learning this means creating access where there is a barrier, while maintaining standards when it comes to assessment and awarding qualifications.

In relation to gaining an insight into access to work for people with disabilities this is essential viewing

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Take 3 – video excellence

http://bit.ly/RE1jAT

Notes on a history of England’s first school for the blind

This is part of the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE)  module H810 (Access to online learning for students with a disability) Activity 12.1 History

Braille provided a way to read material that could be reused by blind people and reduced the pressure on readers.

Worcester College

The attitude to blindness pioneered by those who founded Worcester College is, I think, best exemplified by Samuel Forster when he asserted that ‘the blind boy of healthy body and sound brain is, to all intents and purposes, nothing more than a seeing boy, whose lot is cast in the dark…blind boys are boys first, then boys in the dark…’, an attitude which much later became embodied in the school’s motto, “Possunt quia posse videntur”, They can, because they think they can.

Is preparedness for employment of greater value than an ‘education’?

  • The debate rumbles on in relation to all secondary and tertiary education, whether ‘academic’ or vocational.
  • Thomas Anderson, manager of the Edinburgh Asylum before he went to York, was a great advocate of the utilitarian approach, and censured the English organisations for concentrating on schooling rather than employment.
  • Why educate the blind student if they have no gainful employment or means of supporting themselves afterwards? What indeed is the point in education if nothing follows for anyone? In developing the frustration takes young people onto the streets to protest.

As Ritchie says, ‘education was the attainment of a certain degree of factual awareness and the acquisition of a quantum of information—the names of the kings of Israel, the lengths of the chief rivers of the globe and several other categories of facts all equally unconnected with the growing and developing nature of the young’.

Of what use is this to the young blind student? Or should it be in addition to the practicalities of living beyond their school?

  • The prevalent view a century ago was that knowing stuff equated to intelligence. In 1918 on applying to join the fledgling RAF my late grandfather told me how he was asked to name the six most northern counties of England.
  • A challenge the blind could do without and that was met most readily by those families with the means.

Higher education for blind children was confined to those fortunate enough to be born into families with the means and the will to provide this privately.

  • Something that across provision for disabled students hasn’t changed, for example, the specialist Northease School charges annual fees of £25,000 p.a. which, usually after a tribunal, local authorities may pay – while of course the well off have no such hoops to go through.
  • Inspiration from those who make it:

Blind Jack of Knaresborough, the road-builder, Nicholas Saunderson, the Cambridge mathematician, Thomas Blacklock, writer, teacher and philosopher,
James Gale, inventor, and Elizabeth Gilbert, a major figure in nineteenth-century blind welfare.

It would be wrong to suppose that blindness, like other handicaps, necessarily acts as a stimulating challenge.

Blindness may act as a challenge, but only under favourable circumstances. The exceptions emphasize how grim were the prospects of blind children before education for the blind became an accepted fact of life: conditions were too bad for the handicap to stimulate.

Discriminatory:

They were (says its 1872 report) ‘to bestow a sound and liberal education upon persons of the male sex afflicted with total or partial blindness, and belonging, by birth or kinship, to the upper, the professional, or the middle classes of society.

These unctuous and somewhat naive sentiments were, fortunately for his pupils, not characteristic of Forster. His attitude towards the education of the blind was unusually realistic and forward-looking. In 1883 he read a paper at the York Conference entitled “A plea for the higher culture of the blind”.

‘The blind boy of healthy body and sound brain is, to all intents and purposes, nothing more than a seeing boy, whose lot is cast in the dark. The mysterious effects of this constant living in the dark have always exercised the imagination and sentiment of tender-hearted persons; but teachers of the blind prefer to disregard it, and come in time to forget it. To them blind boys are boys first, then boys in the dark…. needing the special aids and ingenious contrivances required by the circumstances.’

Presume nothing, ask the end user:

  • Forster wisely consulted some of his older pupils, and they advised adapting braille for the purpose.
  • Flexible, adaptable, accommodating and building on past experience and successes – so motivational and supportive rather than prescriptive.
  • Since braille was the only system which could feasibly be written, the boys learnt to write braille.

‘Teaching to write with a pen and pencil is now generally abandoned as a waste of time’: but those boys who could write before they went blind were encouraged to keep it up. Forster admitted that much teaching was still oral, but not to the extent it was ten years before.

Can’t start young enough, so perhaps schools can introduce tools and software.

Forster was very keen to get his pupils at as early an age as possible, preferably seven or eight, for no kindergarten was then in existence, and the later the pupils arrived, the harder it was to teach them.

Ingenious and inventive:

Mr Marston has been ingeniously endeavouring to apply these games to the use of “our” boys, by means of the principle of localisation of sound.

The difficulties of those boys (roughly one in five) who went on to university are worth elaborating. The student’s main need was for an intelligent sighted reader, for he had few textbooks with which to follow lectures.

‘Daily shewing how the same visitation is robbed of its severity, and overruled to practical good.’

Vincent work station:

The software which accompanies the workstation makes it a versatile aid, but its uses might be grouped roughly into three main areas. First, and most obvious, it is a method of communication with non-braillists. Second, it is a valuable teaching aid. Third – it’s fun!

(Bignall and Brown, 1985)

Bell, D. (ed.) (1967) The History of Worcester College for the Blind 1866–1966, London, Hutchinson & Co.
Bignall, R. and Brown, E. (1985) ‘Vincent Workstation’, The British Journal of Visual Impairment, vol. 3, pp. 17–19.

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