Some questions and answers about my own story based on” E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education” (Seale, 2006)
I don’t have a personal perspective of having a disability or impairment, and during my time as a trainer I didn’t have any learners who where identified to me as having any impairment. However I have always tried to ensure resources are accessible for all.
Events, people or objects that have influenced my current perspective regarding accessibility
My knowledge and understanding with regards to accessibility issues is primarily based on my own research, as part of my PGCE and information I have acquired while working for JISC. My friend and colleague is an elearning advisor for accessibility and inclusion. She has helped me understand what resources are available, and the accessible benefits of non-specialized software and hardware.
Consciousness of accessibility issues
Some of these issues are now second nature, such as what font I use, and it’s implications. This is partly down to my colleagues constant reminding. Other features I am less aware of.
Cost benefit analysis of being on this course.
The only significant cost I can see at the moment, is time, and the commitment of time. In contrast the main benefits include knowledge, interest, experience as an online learner, being part of a community of learners and the hope that this will lead to a qualification.
My last significant course was a PGCE which I completed part time over 2 year via face to face lecturer. These lectures were one evening a week. As people had come straight from work, with no time to eat, many people where tired, hungry and grumpy. This did not make for a good learning environment. For this reason wanted my next major course to be completely online.
Imagery of accessibility.
I would use the metaphor of designing a building. You could design a beautiful building and then make it accessible by adding on features such as accessible ramps and doors. These could be expensive and ugly add ons. The alternative is to ensure that the from the start, accessible feature, that everyone can use, are incorporated into the overall design.
Expectations of a conference about accessibility in online learning.
I would like to hear the views of disabled learners, to find out what features of online learning they find challenging and why. I would also like to have a discussion with accessibly experts such as TechDis, commercial content creation companies and educational technologists about how technology can be used to benefit online learning for disabled learners.
Declaration of disabilities.
Learners may not want to declare a disability because they might not think it’s relevant, they may not consider themselves to be disabled or they might not want to be labeled as being different.
There are reasons for and against a learning provider knowing knowing the exact number of
disabled students registered on its courses and the exact nature of their learning needs. I don’t think there is any reason for a learning provider to know of any impairment that has no impact on their learning or experience with the learning provider.
It could be argued that a learning provider should not be required to know exact details about disabled learners because all courses should include such a range of accessible materials, that a specific learning need should be met without request. However if a course only uses materials that are accessible to everyone, this rules out the use of features which are of great benefit to some but not to others, such as discussion forums and synchronous chat rooms.
Disclosure of information
When you meet someone face to face people assume aspects of your identity from your appearance and accent, such as gender, visible impairments, race, age and where you are from. This is not the case when you interact with people online. In addition to this you may want to disclose information you are comfortable in sharing as it comes up in conversation such as name, job role, limited information on your home life and experiences. There are also personal details you may not want to share until you know the person better, if at all. These include physical/mental impairment, sexuality, religion, financial status, personal history. The information someone is happy to disclose varies between individuals. I am not going to disclose information that I want to keep private.