accessibility – definitions and reflections

Here are my 1-sentence definitions and notions around accessibility:

How would you define ‘accessibility’?
Access marked by non-barriers in technical, social and navigational terms as well as the absence of dangers, difficulties and fears.

Who do you think is responsible for accessibility?
All stakeholders, including society as a whole; more precisely, the engineers/architects of knowledge (educators/lecturers/researchers), management, designers, administrators, learners, regulators, quality assurance auditors, financing bodies, marketing agencies, publishers.

What do you understand by accessibility in an educational context?
Infrastructure, hardware, software, applications and content that is accessible without barriers due to physical, technical, design-related restrictions or settings which prevent learners from accessing the spaces in question.

What do you understand by accessibility in the context of online learning?
Online Learning spaces that offer access to web-based learning content which also take into account that individual settings and requirements differ and restrictions can be imposed by hardware, software, applications, corporate settings as well as country settings.

Why is accessibility a concern today in your context or country?
Predominantly, due to EU/UK/German legislation and subsequent changes of social practices and discourses, i.e. social, technical, financial as well as legal/policy-related factors changed and developed towards a new attitude.

And some reflections on the application of the concept:
Even though, this course is all about accessibility, I just notice it is actually more restrictive than any other OU courses I have studied so far. It asks me to post material on my blog, i.e. publish material to the public, and hence interfere with my personal notion of what should be published on my blog and what remains private. I am also asked to work according to a schedule that does not allow any flexibility – supposed, I want to gain some marks for online collaboration and wiki-authoring which means I can neither work ahead nor fall behind. Usually, the key advantage of online education is exactly this kind of flexibility in cases of commitments other than studies, such as work load, conferences, travel etc.

On top of this, a limited range of only a few weeks’ study material is accessible in the learning space, making it impossible to skim through all the material and grasp the wider ideas. So it goes, bite by bite – independent learning in an online course? We need to develop this further, I feel, preferably in a collaborative manner between disabled students and non-disabled students, educators, administrators and managing staff – as well as the web designers. However, so far I wasn’t asked to provide any feedback – here, my blog comes in handy and I feel I can give myself a voice.

If accessibility is supposed to be more than ‘just’ a legal obligation, but a lived practice, I would also suggest to make transcripts available in addition to video material to be watched by learners. Not only because some students might be visually impaired but also because non-disabled students may not be equipped with the technological gadgets or run older computers etc. Can assistive technology actually stiffle learners and impose new restrictions due to technological limitations, resulting in new and additional problems, hence, make it actually less accessible than in hardcopy/conventional formats?

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About Britta Bohlinger, CFE

Founder and Director of RisikoKlár in Iceland. Native German, global perspective - previously in London and Berlin.
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