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Blogs on accessibility

A map of parties to the Convention on the Righ...

A map of parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Parties in dark green, countries which have signed but not ratified in light green, non-members in grey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Disability in business

 

http://disabilityinbusiness.wordpress.com/
Jonathan, who has a degenerative spinal condition which means he uses a wheelchair and has carers to assist him, has first hand experience of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities – especially in the business world. “I used to run multi-million pound companies and I’d go with some of my staff into meetings with corporate bank managers and they’d say to my staff, ‘it’s really good of you to bring a service user along’, and I’d say, ‘hang on, I’m the MD –  it’s my money!’

 

Disability Marketing

 

http://drumbeatconsulting.com/

 

Michael Janger has a passionate interest in products and technologies that enable people with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life, and works with businesses to effectively market and sell these products to the disability market.

 

Think Inclusive

 

http://www.thinkinclusive.us/start-here/
I think there are two basic assumptions that you need in order support inclusion (in any context)

 

  1. All human beings are created equal (you know the American way) and deserve to be treated as such.
  2. All human beings have a desire to belong in a community and live, thrive and have a sense of purpose.

 

The important takeaway…when you assume people want to belong. Then is it our duty as educators, parents, and advocates to figure out how we can make that happen.

 

Institute of Community Inclusion

 

http://www.youtube.com/communityinclusion
For over 40 years, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) has worked to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to dream big, and make their dreams a fully included, integrated, and welcomed reality. ICI strives to create a world where all people with disabilities are welcome and fully included in valued roles wherever they go, whether a school, workplace, volunteer group, home, or any other part of the community. All of ICI’s efforts stem from one core value: that people with disabilities are more of an expert than anyone else. Therefore, people with disabilities should have the same rights and controls and maintain lives based on their individual preferences, choices, and dreams.

 

Cerebral Palsy Career Builders

 

http://www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com/discrimination-definition.html

 

How to deal with the following:

 

  1. Bias
  2. Presumption
  3. Myth
  4. Skepticism
  5. Prejudice
  6. Discrimination

 

 

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How do you use an Activity System to improve accessibility to e-learning by students with disabilities?

Fig.1. A knight and two bishops from the iconic Lewis Chess Set role playing to represent ‘Community’ in an Activity System. After (Engeström, 2008) 

Visualizing actions between people, concepts and things requires more than words – models and metaphors are needed to create meaning. I will visualize connections on sheets of backing paper or a white board, or get out a box of Lego. Here I used Lewis chess pieces (resin replicas naturally) on a model of Engeström’s Activity System that I draw out on a piece of laminated board the size of a door (Engeström, 2008)  in order to get a sense of people working in collaborative teams to a common goal and to understand that an Activity System doesn’t represent an entity so much as a framework or scaffold that is held together by the energy of action.

Why use any model?

A model should be a well-founded visual simplification of an aspect of a complex reality that communicates its concept clearly, is based on thorough research, and is easily shared for feedback and review. Users should find that a model, like an experiment, is repeatable so that in time a body of work including case studies and a critique of the model builds credibility. A conceptual model such as an Activity System is ‘particularly useful when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in the daily practices of workplaces’. Engeström (2008:27)

Conole and Oliver (2011) mention four levels of description:

1. Flat vocabulary
2. More complex vocabulary
3. Classification schemas or models
4. Metaphors

The use of vocabulary is inevitable, though talking this through to an audience would be my preferred approach, so that with engagement response is invited. The models used here, from Vygotsky (1978) and Leon’tev (1978) to Engeström (2008) may appear familiar and set – they are not. There is a group that likes to see everything ‘triangulated’ – diamonds and stars, though evident in the literature on education – maybe akin to complex rather than plain language. From models we move to various metaphors – and you are certain to have your own. While Engeström (2008:19) himself moves on to ideas of how a fungi grows, to ‘knotworking’ and fluid, organic representations.

Fig.2. Scrutiny of Activity Systems. Based on Engeström (2008) 

Do we use models so that we spend more time thinking through the problems related to efforts to achieve what we desire? Or is the model a product of this effort? There’s a point in the social sciences where a model may lose more readers than it converts – the perseverance is worth it.

Why use an Activity System?

Activity Systems derived from a century of analysis of the way people construct meaning (Vygotsky, 1978.  Leon’tev, 1978) that later researchers applied not simply to how people think, but how groups of people act in collaborative ways  (Engeström, 1987).

Fig. 3.   Vygotsky’s model of mediated act

There are two parts to an Activity System – upper and lower. The upper part is the triangle drawn to represent the interaction of Subject, Tools and Object. Engeström (1987) took a current model – that of Vygotsky (1978) and made it his own and has since offered a metaphor to explain it further.

Fig. 4.   Vygotsky’s model of mediated act and (B) is common reformation. Cole and Engeström  (1993)


Fig.5. The structure of a human activity system. Engeström  (1987:78)

Historically this is where Vygotsky began in Moscow in the late 1920s (Fig.3) Engeström and others turned the experssion of Vygotsky’s model the other way up. This split of upper and lower serves another purpose – Yrjö Engeström likens this expression of an activity system to an iceberg where the top triangle – Subject – Tools – Object is what we see, while the other actions, that give the system context – he added when developing Vygostky’s (1978) original model, are beneath the surface. Engeström. (2008:89). (Fig.4) It’s worth remembering that Vygotsky was working on how people create meaning, while later thinkers have adapted this to help scrutinise how communities or groups of people, tools and sets of guidelines create (as Engeström puts it above, ‘sense meaning’ Engeström 1987).

Here the author Jane Seale (2006) takes an Activity System and applies it, as a management consultant might, to a humdinger of a problem. What this reveals is the interdependence of many factors, groups, tools, artifacts and interests on a desired objective.

Fig.6. Application of Engeström’s (1987) systemic model of activity to the accessible e-learning practice of a higher education practitioner. Featured in Seale (2006)

When is the construction of an Activity System useful?

Engeström (2008:27) suggests that it is particularly useful ‘when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in daily practices of workplaces’. Someone needs to think it is necessary to study the status quo – perhaps because there is an awareness that something, somewhere is going wrong, or that there has been an actual downturn in business or collapse in profitability, or a desire simply to look at things in a different way to understand where improvements can be made, a change in policy and law, or a reinvented or renewed.

Fig. 7. Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work.

Engeström (2008:207) suggests that there are five principles in relation to theories of activity systems.

  1. Object Orientation
  2. Mediation by tools and signs
  3. Mutual constitution of actions and activity
  4. Contradictions and deviations as source of change
  5. Historicity

Fig.8. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Object. Based on Engeström (2008) 

1) Object Orientation

The Object is a problem, the purpose, the motivation and opportunity – the modus operandi behind the activity. ‘Object orientation’ (Engeström 2008:222) is a crucial prerequisite of working with an activity system. In the context of accessible e-learning Seale (2006:165) creates an Activity System in which the object(ive) is ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’. As an exercise considering its widest application this object definition suffers because the object is so broad it embraces a myriad of issues and circumstances, each word is open to interpretation – what, for example, is meant by ‘e-learning’, what is meant by ‘accessible’ by ‘disabled’ and by ‘student’. Rather than an object as an opportunity or goal as Seale uses, a fix, the desired outcome, is more likely to be found where, at least in the first instance, we identify a particular context and a tightly defined problem.

Not only that, but to contain the likelihood of ‘ruptures’ across the activity system clarity and agreement is required on the problem that needs to be fixed. In relation to accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities there are multiple problems, many unique to a student with a particular disability or, where feasible and appropriate, a group that can be identified by the nature of their disability, for example, deaf students who are seen as, and many want to see themselves as a ‘minority language’ group. What is more, a disabled student may have several impairments and the degree to which these are a barrier to e-learning is fluid, perhaps ameliorating with treatment, or getting worse, transmogrifying, or simply being intermittent. As these are known issues that would cause problems or clashes within the activity system and prevent its working it seems futile to build an activity system on this basis – knowing that it will fail.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved’. (Charles Kettering)

This may be an aphorism, but it rings true. Problem scoping is necessary but where a problem remains elusive, or is ‘messy’ rather than ‘tame’ (Rittel and Webber’s 1973, Ackoff 1979, Ritchey 2011) a variety of creative problem solving techniques (VanGundy, 1988. Griggs, 1985). Knowing what the problem is enables innovation – identifying the problem and devising a fix, and in communications, where, for example, advertisers prepare a creative brief that begins by clearly identifying the problem.

‘Object orientation’ and in this context, problem definition and refinement, is the first in five principles set out by Engeström (2008:207) for using activity systems. The drive, purpose and motivation for all the actions between the six identified nodes depends on the object ‘that which is acted upon’. A key component of activity theory is the transformation of this object into an outcome i.e. to solve the problem. If solving a problem is the goal, and recognition of a successful enterprise undertaken, then all the more reason to get the definition of the object correct – the process can be repeated for different problems, at different scales and over time. Without absolute clarity over the object you may find that different people in the system have differing interpretations of what it is. Kuutti (1996) found that having more than one object under scrutiny was a reason for an activity system to fail.  An answer where there are two distinct problems may be to treat them as such and attach them to separate activity systems. Whilst for the sake of scrutiny it is necessary to isolate an activity system, they do of course interact – indeed it is by looking at how two activity systems interact that you may reveal how problems are solved or innovations produced. However, if the object is wrong, or ill-defined or ambiguous then the motives may be out of kilter and it would therefore be necessary to transform all of the components of the activity system, especially and including those at the bottom half of the ‘iceberg’. Engeström (2008:87)

Fig.9. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Tools. Based on Engeström (2008) 

2) Mediation by Tools and Signs

Tools might be evaluation and repair tools and assistive technologies, software or legislation, guidelines or staff development. Tools are a mediating factor between the Subject (student, lecturer, facilitator of the desire outcome) and the Object – the purpose of all this activity.

Tools play a significant role in the history of tackling accessibility issues, to undue, out do or transform resources or interpret platforms in a way that communicates their meaning offering some if not all the affordances of the tools as designed for students, who, having gained a place to study a degree  in Higher Education might be thought of as some the most able’, not simply the ‘able’.Tools in this role at the apex of the Activity System and can include guidelines and legislation where they are an applied ‘tool’ rather than a rule or standard. ‘ A functioning tool for the analysis of teams and organisations’. Engeström  (2008:229) Of course the category includes evaluation and repair tools, assistive technologies and software and equipment. Tools ‘mediate’ between the Subject – the facilitator of change through activity and the outcome of the activities – the Object. ‘To build a website that complies to level AAA’ may be achievable whilst ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’ Seale (2006:) sounds like wishful thinking, rather ‘to build an e-learning module that when scrutinised by a representative range of people with dyslexia’ receives a grading of ‘satisfactory’ or above’. This would suggest the involvement therefore of dyslexic students in the testing of a navigation interface for the virtual learning environment as an ‘action’ between subject and object.

There is a particular congregation of ‘contradictions’ stemming from the relationship between Tools and both Subject and Object:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications (Seale, 2006)
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Nardi, 1996)
  3. No rules of practice for use of that tool (Isscroft and Scanlan, 2002 )
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al, 2005)
  5. How do you choose from amongst such a plethora of tools?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)

The use of tools, the choice of kit and even supporting software beyond the virtual learning environment, should be the student’s decision. “Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate”.(JISC, 2009, p.51)

3) Mutual constitution of actions and activity

This is what activity looks like in a group – evidence of several thousand recorded actions within a group of students (as subject), including the group tutor, and course chair; the Open University Virtual Learning Environment, computer, device, software and network link some of the tools; the rules set by the context of postgraduate e-learning with this institution, the community all those who can be reached online the division of labour the roles we all take as students, mentors, teachers and tutors, technical help desk, subject matter expert, novice or guru – the subject specific learning outcomes for each block, for each assignment or the goal of completing the module with a pass or distinction.

Fig.10. The consequences of an activity system – loads of action. Here a tutor group over a period of 27 weeks. ‘Activity’ is represented by messages in a tutor forum. H810 is an Open University postgraduate course in Education. Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

The links between each component – object, tool, subject and so on – should equate to a burst of electricity or perhaps a chemical induced response between a synapse and a neuron – Engeström (2008) goes as far as to liken an activity system to a type of fungi – mycorrhizae like formation  Engeström (1997).

Fig.11. Mycorrhizae – one way Engeström sees an Activity System

An Activity System should be seen not as a concept of a static entity, but rather a living and growing thing. The actions, the double-arrows between each concept, are what gives an activity system structure  – it’s the management  of the disturbances, contradictions and conflicts along these lines of action that disturb effective flow where the role of an activity system comes in – identify then fix these and you move towards achieving the object orientation or outcome. Knorr-Cetina (2003) talks of ‘flow architecture’ and if neither of these concepts ring true for you in relation to activity systems then Zerubavel (1997) talks of ‘a mindscape’ while Cussins (1992) talks of ‘cogntive trails’. There is a caveat when using a metaphor – we tend to look for similarities, rather than see the differences and a choice of metaphor will itself skew our thinking. Morgan (1986/1997).

4) Contradictions and deviations as source of change

I would have opted for Subject as the third issue, but reading Engeström made me think again. Subject, Tools, Object reduces the Activity System to the far simpler upturned triangle Vygotsky devised to explain how people create meaning (Vygotsky, 1978:86)  without further thought to the deeper and wider issues once learning is put in context, that Engeström (1987, 2008, 2011) added by broadening this way of showing how ‘meaning is created’ in the workplace by adding Rules, Community and Division of Labour.

Rather than picking one more of these concepts at the expense of leaving the others out I think that the ‘Actions’ the double arrows that indicate something happening between the elements is of interest. I believe this would be the fourth of Engeström’s five principles – Contradictions and deviations as source of change. This after all is, literally, where all the ‘action’ takes place, what Seale (2006:164) describes as ‘problems, ruptures, breakdowns or clashes’.  (I need to go back and to understand what is meant by Engeström’s third principle – ‘Mutual constitution of actions and activity’) I think this is the principle that the Activity System has to be seen as a complete, self-contained entity, that any break or failure or misunderstanding in the system would call it to fail so you’d be better of starting again from scratch until the scale or context works. Engeström uses the metaphor of a very particular kind of lichen (‘mycorrhizae’, Engeström, 2008:229) to describe Activity Systems – he doesn’t suggest however that you attempt to work with this kind of complexity, rather it is a reminder that an activity system is fluid and changing and depends on activity taking places between the defined nodes.

5) Historicity

Fig. 12. A discontinuous series of Activity Systems … like Toblerone at Christmas.

‘Historicity’ – Engeström’s experssion (2008) is a term referring to ‘the historical actuality of persons and events’,(Wikipedia, 2012) suggests the need to see an Activity System as a snapshot, a sequence and a discontinuous one at that. So take the familiar equilateral triangle of the Activity System model and run a line of them. Seale (2006) suggests there is value to be found by doing some ‘archaelogy’ – I think ‘historical research’ would be an adequate way to think of it, for what this may reveal about how these ‘rupture, conflicts’ Seale (ibid) or ‘contradictions’ and ‘deviations’ as a source or change’ Engeström (2008:223) along the lines of activity. Seale (2006) talks of how an activity system ‘incesstanly reconstructs itself. Engeström (1994) talks of an ideal-typical sequence of epistemic actions in an expansive cycle. To Vygosky (1978), learning is a continual movement from the current intellectual level to a higher level which more closely approximates the learner’s potential. This movement occurs in the so-called “zone of proximal development” as a result of social interaction

Subject

Fig.13. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Subject. Based on Engeström (2008) 

By definition here the ‘non-disabled’, particularly in the cognitive sense though sometimes with athletic promise too. Ironically whilst ‘non-disabled’ is not a favoured term it does at least relate to a homogenous group, while ‘disabled’ does not given the range, scale and potentially shifting nature of impairments to learning from hearing, to visual, cognitive and mobility.

Subject to be of most importance – this is the person, actor or lecturer, indeed a student – anyone who is responsible for facilitating and supporting the student’s learning experience. This may be a practitioner who works with a Higher Education Learning Technologist or the digital media access group if there is such a thing. Engeström (2008:222).

Any of the team members may be a novice, which may be a positive or negative influence for the actions in the system. A novice is inexpert, on the other hand they are free from the habits that may be causing problems and creating barriers. Because of the way a novice learns they are more inclined to innovate as they are not bound or even aware to rules, guidelines and beliefs that may hold them back.

Rules

Fig.14. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Rules. Based on Engeström (2008) 

These can be formal, informal or technical rules. They are institutional and departmental policies and strategies. These are rules of practice, and legislation, as well as strategies and research. They are explicit and implicit norms. These are conventions and social relations. These in the context of accessible e-learning are the various guidelines related to web usability and legislation related to accessibility and equality. Universal Design and User Centred Design are rules too. Rules mediate between the subject and the community. The actions, the ‘doing in order to transform something’ or ‘doing with a purpose’ are the activities that link Rules with Subject, Rules with Object and Rules with Community.

Community

Fig.15. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Community. Based on Engeström (2008) 

These are ‘people who share the same objective’ – their being in this activity system is dependent on their wishing to engage with the object, the opportunity, to strive to achieve the stated outcome. Any ruptures are therefore not a consequence of having the wrong person in this community – this grouping, this loose gathering of like-minded people, is what Engeström has come to describe as a knot and the actions these people take as ‘knotworking’ Engeström (2008:194) – latent, informal, sometimes impromptu gatherings of people who assemble to address a problem or to take an opportunity – what Rheingold (2002) describes as ‘smart mobs’.

Fig.16. Scrutiny of Activity Systems . Division of Labor. Based on Engeström (2008) 

Division of Labor

This concept, or node as an ethereal entity is ‘how people are organized to realise the object’. Not one to represent by a chess piece and one may think that this ought to be the link that joins people together … this is where working with a model as the beat of a heart, not the heart itself, requires acceptance of the way a model is designed to work. Division of labor This is planning and funding, designing and developing, implementing and evaluating, using, specialists vs. the mainstream).

Fig.17. A Wordle using the text from this blog.

Conclusion

Fig. 18. The Water Cycle – imagine this reversionsed to represent a digital ocean and content in the ‘cloud’.

Digitization of assets is akin to the creation of an ocean in which the binary code are the molecules of water – apt then with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and our adopting the use of ‘the Cloud’ and ‘Cloud Computing’ to take this metaphor into a more dynamic form and think of it as a water-cycle. This system is shifting continually horizontally with currents and tides, but also vertically – the exponential growth in computing speeds and memory capacities the energy that drives the system. This global system hasn’t taken adequate account of people with disabilities – as in the real world there are barriers to access caused by visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive impairments – just as these have been addressed in a piecemeal way through legislation, funding, programmes and promotions, by disability groups or holistically, so too with adaptations or changes to the digital world – there is no panacea that will remove all barriers for all people with any disability, of any kind, type or stage of deterioration or amelioration.  Stretching the metaphor further I wonder if at times this digital water-cycle, again like the real one, is polluted, that translucence as well as flotsam and jetsam in this ocean are the barriers – on the one hand the pollutants have to be removed – the barriers taken down – but at the same time, cleaner purer water, in the form a universal design that is simpler and usable would gradually cleanse some of system. Once again, a mirror to the real world responses, specialist schools and associations, say for those with dyslexia are blind or deaf, become an oasis or island in this digital system.

‘Those not engaging with technologies or without access are getting left further and further behind. We need to be mindful that the egalitarian, liberal view of new technologies is a myth; power and dynamics remain, niches develop and evolve. Applications of metaphorical notions of ecology, culture and politics can help us better understand and deal with these complexities’. (Conole. 2011:410)

FURTHER  READING

Cecez-Kecmanovic, Dubravka, and Webb.C (2000) “Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning.”Australian Journal of Educational Technology 16. 73-85. Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning  (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet16/cecez-kecmanovic.html

Hardman, J (2008) Researching pedagogy: an acitivty system approach Journal of Education, No. 45, 2008. PP65-95 (last accessed 20 Dec)  2012 http://joe.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/No_45_Dec_2008/Researching_pedagogy_an_Activity_Theory_approach.sflb.ashx)

Engeström’s (1999) outline of three generations of activity theory (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/liw/resources/Models%20and%20principles%20of%20Activity%20Theory.pdf

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Cole, M. and Engeström, Y. (1993) A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition, in: G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations (New York, Cambridge University Press), 1-46.

Conole, G (2011) Designing for learning in a digital world. Last accessed 18 Dec 2012 http://www.slideshare.net/grainne/conole-keynote-icdesept28

Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) 2007 Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, Themes, Tensions and Impacts on Research. London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Cussins, A. (1992). Content, embodiment and objectivity: The theory of cognitive trails. Mind, 101, 651–688.

Engestrom (2008-04-30). From Teams to Knots (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (p. 238). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Engeström, Y. (1987) Learning by Expanding: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.

Engeström, Y. (1994). The working health center project: Materializing zones of proximal
development in a network of organizational learning. In T. Kauppinen & M. Lahtonen (Eds.) Action research in Finland. Helsinki: Ministry of Labour.

Engeström.Y (1999) Learning by expanding. Ten Years After. http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Griggs, R.E. (1985) ‘A Storm of Ideas’, reported in Training, 22, 66 (November)

Issroff, K. and Scanlon, E. (2002) Using technology in higher education: an Activity Theory perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 1, 77–83

JISC. (2009). Effective Practice in a Digital Age: A guide to technology-enhanced learning and teaching. Retrieved from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2009/effectivedigital-age.aspx

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2003). From pipes to scopes: The flow architecture of financial markets. Distinktion, 7, 7–23.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Leon’tev.A.N. (1978) Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs. NJ. Prentice-Hall.

Moessenger, S (2011) Sylvia’s Study Blog (Last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://sylviamoessinger.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/h809-reading-oliver-et-al-chapter-2-a3-6/

Morgan, G. (1986 2nd 1997) Images of Organisation

Phipps, L., Witt, N. and Kelly, B. (2005) Towards a pragmatic framework for accessible e-learning. Ariadne, 44. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/ issue44/ phipps/> (last accessed 19 Dec 2012).

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems – Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis.Springer.

Rittel.W.J., Webber.M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning Policy Sciences, June 1973, Volume 4, Issue 1,

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Techniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57

Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) Mind in Society. The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge. MA.

Wikipedia (2012) Definition of ‘Historicity’ – (last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity

Zerubavel, E. (1997). Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

BLOGS ON ACCESSIBILITY

Disability in business

Jonathan, who has a degenerative spinal condition which means he uses a wheelchair and has carers to assist him, has first hand experience of the challenges faced by people living with disabilities – especially in the business world. “I used to run multi-million pound companies and I’d go with some of my staff into meetings with corporate bank managers and they’d say to my staff, ‘it’s really good of you to bring a service user along’, and I’d say, ‘hang on, I’m the MD –  it’s my money!’

Disability Marketing

Michael Janger has a passionate interest in products and technologies that enable people with disabilities to enjoy a better quality of life, and works with businesses to effectively market and sell these products to the disability market.

Think Inclusive

I think there are two basic assumptions that you need in order support inclusion (in any context)

  1. All human beings are created equal (you know the American way) and deserve to be treated as such.
  2. All human beings have a desire to belong in a community and live, thrive and have a sense of purpose.

The important takeaway…when you assume people want to belong. Then is it our duty as educators, parents, and advocates to figure out how we can make that happen.

Institute of Community Inclusion

For over 40 years, the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) has worked to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to dream big, and make their dreams a fully included, integrated, and welcomed reality. ICI strives to create a world where all people with disabilities are welcome and fully included in valued roles wherever they go, whether a school, workplace, volunteer group, home, or any other part of the community. All of ICI’s efforts stem from one core value: that people with disabilities are more of an expert than anyone else. Therefore, people with disabilities should have the same rights and controls and maintain lives based on their individual preferences, choices, and dreams.

Cerebral Palsy Career Builders

How to deal with the following:

  1. Bias
  2. Presumption
  3. Myth
  4. Skepticism
  5. Prejudice
  6. Discrimination

“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).

What do you know about assistive technologies?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.
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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.
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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).
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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

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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.
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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.

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