Tag Archive | stakeholders

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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California State Budget – Schwarzenegger’s crowdsourcing

Do you want to get your hands on some serious budget work? Shift a few millions here, half a billion of Dollars there? California’s State Budget is available online, i.e. the Interactive Budget Planner, with a $24 billion deficit is waiting to be tackled. The dilemmas start when you look into the proposed cuts – which social group deserves to keep their funds, who could live with less? So, are you going to slash grants for developmentally disabled people or raise the tax on alcohol?

Governor Schwarzenegger does the right thing by resorting to harness the power of millions of citizens (and non-citizens in- and outside the state’s boundaries) in this attempt source all crowds imaginable. It is a way not only to tap mass intellectual and creative power but also to educate at the same time. The pop-up windows linked to each key category such as law enforcement, health, human services etc deliver further information and figures that inform the decision-making, give a sense of the wider picture. It’s certainly a way to also make everyone feel a bit more responsible and in charge, a bit more part of the nation. When does Europe begin to learn from such participatory approach?

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Social media, corporations and changing markets

Applying for a job in Barack Obama’s new team forced every applicant to dig deep in their own past: those who aim at high-ranking roles faced a questionnaire including 63 questions. Among many personal questions the links to blogs and Facebook pages were required. You may think this is taking things way too far. Such an intrusive approach may be detrimental to a fruitful collaboration. A German friend working in Human Resources argued similarly: they would not google applicants for “we trust people”. And of course, you will need the resources to conduct such research: personnel who are skilled and know what to look for.

It does seem many organisations are not taking social media very seriously. My friend pointed towards the age of corporate decision-makers. This might be one aspect, others may be related to power, hierarchical structures and a lack of understanding communication as a 2-way process rather than the still widespread top-down trickle. Not to forget cultural practices – some of them unconsciously practices and reproduced.

Using social media in times of financial markets in turmoil, drastic policy changes, lay offs and plenty of rumours does not seem to loom large on companies’ to-do lists. Micro-/blogging is frowned upon in circles which have not even arrived at websites that offer more than carefully choreographed content and a simple contact form: banking is certainly among the least transparent and progressive industries in this regard. Information is money, has to be money – and profit has to be quantifiable. Or?

Whistleblower Cityboy managed to shake up things a little by breaking the Code of Silence strictly enforced in London’s financial district. His blogging activites in Fear and Loathing in the City provide great entertainment, raised eyebrows and a few voices – but he did not manage to bring about change to the long established culture of scarce flows of information.

Now in the era of bailing out banks – as if they were hostages – one may think things could change and transparency would be imposed by help of governmental bodies – and the public who paid a high price for a slice of all those toxic assets. But no, this is illusionary, as some of the stakeholders may well have changed now but the corporate culture remained the same. In this context, “YES, I CAN!” is not the banker’s mantra.

Net presence and staff activism, corporate blogging in a proactive attempt to manage and control change, shape opinion-making and bring about change in a way remotely echoing Obama’s extensive use of platforms and channels in the sphere of social media is something the banking sector is not even ready to think about. Dismissing social media as lacking a sound business model seems to be right if taking the short-term perspective.

On the long run though, social media offers opportunities to manage relationships with customers as well as staff which may well pay off: the worst in times of financial crises is to leave image and status management to traditional PR campaigns and the local papers. Generation Digital Native is mobile and targeted by those who don’t sleep, they might also be much less loyal to parties, corporations and brands than widely assumed. I can hear their “yes, we can”…

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