The meaning of “open” in education has changed and evolved considerably over decades with the UK’s Open University (and those it inspired in other countries) making available a university education to those unable to study full-time and without the otherwise required existing qualifications; Open Educational Resources attempting to replicate the success of Free and Open Source Software in distributing and allowing the editing of educational material; and MOOCs providing assessed but uncredited access to courses including some offered by amongst the highest ranked research institutions in the world.
This presentation invites widening the concept of “open” to include accessibility.
Accessibility has various meanings, depending on the context. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C, 2005) uses the term Web accessibility to mean “people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web”. Here accessibility denotes equal access to content regardless of a person’s disability. However, this may require in many cases that assistive technologies such as screen-readers to be used. A person with a disability may not be able to get the full multi-sensory experience of materials, but they can access the content in some way (Liyanagunawardena & Hussain, 2017).
Today it should be unthinkable to construct a public place without facilitating universal physical access, but does the same apply when creating digital spaces? Accessibility of digital spaces are as important as physical places given that finding information, banking, shopping, remote working, entertainment and social media have become integral parts of our daily online activities. There are international standards for ensuring the accessibility of ICT products and services, such as ESTI EN 301 549 (European Telecommunications Standards Institute, 2018) to enable an inclusive environment, for example. In the UK, new accessibility legislation for public sector bodies came into force in September 2018 and this requires their websites to adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA standard.
In this presentation we will use fictitious learner personas of Khalid, Sophie, Arun and Chamari, with various disabilities, to identify their problems in accessing open content. We present the case for inclusion and accessibility, highlighting the importance of raising awareness in enabling inclusion.
This presentation is based on our research for the chapter “Open to Inclusion: Exploring openness for people with disabilities” in Open(ing) Education: Theory & Practice.
Audience engagement via Slido will be facilitated to help identify additional problems and solutions. Slides will be available via SlideShare.
European Telecommunications Standards Institute (2018). EN 301 549 v2.1.2 (2018-08) Harmonised European Standard Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services. Available at: https://www.etsi.org/deliver/etsi_en/301500_301599/301549/02.01.02_60/en_301549v020102p.pdf
Liyanagunawardena, T. R. & Hussain, A. (2017). Online Distance Education Materials and Accessibility: Case Study of University College of Estate Management, In G. Vincenti, A., Bucciero, M., Helfert, M., Glowatz (Eds.), E-Learning, E-Education, and Online Training: Third International Conference, eLEOT 2016, Dublin, Ireland, August 31 – September 2, Revised Selected Papers, (pp. 79-86), Switzerland: Springer, doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-49625-2_10
Liyanagunawardena, T.R., Adams, A.A. & Williams, S.A. (2020). Open to Inclusion: Exploring openness for people with disabilities, in Conrad, D. & Prinsloo, P. (eds.) Open(ing) Education: Theory & Practice. Brill (in press).
The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/852/contents/made
W3C. (2005). Introduction to Web Accessibility. Available at: https://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/accessibility.php
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