Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Web accessibility for online education

Greetings from the Canberra Institute of Technology, where I am attending the one day workshop "What web accessibility and implementing WCAG 2.0 mean for you" by Kristena Gladman and Felicity Hanrahan.The National VET E-learning strategy has a set of materials design to help with accessibility for vocational education:
These are intended to help not only with the design of courses delivered online, but also materials such as books and Apps, used in face-to-face classes. I became involved with web accessibility in 1999, when asked to be an expert witness in the case of Maguire V Sydney Organizing Committee for the 2000 Olympic Games. This was using WGAC Version 1.0.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 2.0 are now an international standard: ISO/IEC 40500:2012. In my view it is not of value to explain the details of the standards and the legal requirements for web accessibility. In my view a better approach is to explain to teachers simple ways to implement accessibility techniques and how these can save them time and effort, while providing better learning materials for their students. That will then motivate them to act.

Part of accessibility can be to empower content developers, including teachers,  to make their materials simpler and therefore more readable for everyone. As an example, rather than have to work out how to highlight a label "Read this first" half way down a page of course notes, the designer can instead place it first, so it is read first. This makes the document more readable for everyone. It would be possible to then use CSS styles to mark part of text "read this first" and move it lower down the page, for aesthetic reasons, but readability perhaps should come first.

For most content developers, including educators, accessibility is mostly about what not to do, not what to do. The content will normally be used within an existing system, such as a Learning management System. The content creator should therefore not be specifying fonts, colours and the like for their course materials, for example. They should use the defaults, so that the styles set for their corporate web site will be automatically applied. If they do use their own fonts and styles, this will like result in more work by someone else who as to go through and remove this, so it is better not to put it in the first place.

As an example,  rather then use PDF, I use the HTML editor built into Moodle to prepare course notes. I avoid fancy formatting, just having one column of text and using default fonts. As a result the notes are very quick to download and display on a wide range of mobile and other devices.

Also the notes can be run through a web translator into other languages. I also use HTML for presentations, in place of Powerpoint, gaining the same advantages. This takes me a little more time to set up initially, but is much easier to maintain. As an example, my notes for a talk in Indonesia last week, could be translated from English to Indonesian. I have offered the Indonesian university I visited my ICT Sustainability Course Notes in Indonesian.

What web accessibility and implementing WCAG 2.0

Kristena Gladman and Felicity Hanrahan

The National VET E-learning strategy


In late 2009 the Online and Communications Council, a subcommittee of COAG, endorsed the implementation of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). These are a set of standards that make web content accessible to a wide range of users. WCAG 2.0 requires all federal, state and territory websites to conform to the guidelines.

Many people assume 'accessibility' only applies to online content, but it's not just about websites. Web accessibility also applies to all web content formats – that is all file formats and information that can be delivered on the web.

This one day workshop is intended to help participants understand what WCAG 2.0 means for them and will be delivered as a series of sessions, beginning with a session that provides an overview of:
10:00am - 12:30pm: Overview
  • the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0)
  • the legal status of WCAG 2.0
  • the government’s Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (NTS)
  • the application of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
  • how people with disabilities access the web
1:30 - 4:30pm: Streams (the overview will be followed by sessions split into streams based on the roles and responsibilities of the participants)
Stream 1: policy, management and project management:
This session will be focused on ensuring that policy makers, managers and project managers are in a position to manage risk and maximise the benefits of addressing accessibility through giving the participants a better understanding of the requirements for WCAG 2.0 conformance. The session will help them to determine what level of accessibility understanding they need in order to scope and resource projects, and identify what questions they should ask of the design and development team before publishing.

Stream 2: design and content:
This session will be focused on design solutions with the intention of giving participants a better understanding of how the WCAG 2 Success Criteria impact upon the design, creation and editing of content, what they need to provide to the technical implementers and how to avoid common pitfalls and reworking designs. For further information visit: https://actnationalvetelearning.wikispaces.com

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