New book chapter: Accessible online learning

Posted on Thursday, 6 July 2017 by David Sloan

Many months ago, Mary Ziegler (Program Manager for Online Accessibility at MIT) and I started work on a chapter on Accessible Online Learning for a new book, Disability, Human Rights and Information Technology, published by University of Pennsylvania press. Last week I finally got my hands on a physical copy of the book, and from a first glance, it looks terrific. This short post outlines our chapter and the rest of the book’s content.

Book cover of Disability, Human Rights, and Information Technology

Accessible online learning is a great example of how well-designed technology can empower people with disabilities to gain knowledge and skills, qualifications and connections, and enter employment, without having to deal with the barriers presented by physical environments. Technology can reduce or overcome the effect of inaccessible classrooms, educational materials, and teaching methods. So online learning that contains accessibility barriers is a particularly retrograde step towards supporting the rights of all humans to education.

In our chapter, we provide a review of legislation and standards relevant to education, technology, and disability. We discuss the many stakeholders who have a responsibility and role to play in the delivery of accessible online learning, including:

  • developers, providers and vendors of educational technology and digital resources,
  • IT, disability and other central services at education providers,
  • teachers, instructors, faculty, and others delivering online learning experiences,
  • researchers in educational technology,
  • creators of standards, policy and legislation, and
  • learners with disabilities

We talk about the barriers and challenges present that inhibit progress towards accessible online learning, and outline the responsibilities of each stakeholder group to address these challenges and remove barriers.

The intersection of disability, technology and legislation is such a rapidly changing space that it might seem pointless to try to document the current state in a book, and no doubt by the time you read it, something will be out of date! But the editors Jonathan Lazar and Michael Ashley Stein have done a great job, and this book looks like it’ll provide a valuable reference that will stay useful over time. Using the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) as its common thread, the book starts with chapters setting the legal scene connecting disability, human rights and technology. It then explores more specific topics such as captioning, gaming, privacy and security. There’s also a welcome section dedicated to developments in the Global South, something those of us who work in the West can always learn more about.

The book is available to buy from the usual online locations.

About David Sloan

David Sloan is User Experience Research Lead with The Paciello Group. He joined TPG in May 2013, after nearly 14 years researching, teaching and providing consultancy on accessibility and inclusive design at the University of Dundee in Scotland. He is an active participant in a number of W3C accessibility-focused groups, and is a Steering Committee member of the annual W4A Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility.

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