Posted by: MandyS | November 17, 2011

Activity 24.1 & 2 – Evaluation

The reading here was quite interesting simply because my first response having constructed my ‘would be’ accessible learning resource was to check it to see if it actually was. I used ‘Cynthia’ from the F12 Developer Tool and Wave from Web aim. Ironically, I was impressed there were few ‘red’ errors but perplexed about how to actually reslove the issues they both raised. I think I more than managed to cover the 4 prolems Seale highlights; judging severity of errors, false sense of security, over-reliance, understanding reports…

As Seale is suggesting, evaluation tools are not the ‘be all and end all’ of evaluating accessibility. If you are going to use the tools, you need to be able to interpret them, and I clearly fell at the first hurdle. I largely agree with Seale, that there has to be an element of human judgment; layout and navigation are just as much key issues as images having alternative text and the HTML being accurate. For those with cognitive disabilities this is perhaps more fundamental and so in assessing whether a site is accessible to dyslexic students, for example, this is a question of human rather than automated appraisal.

 •Which approach could you take in your role?

In preparing tutorial material, there is only me to evaluate what I produce. Knowing what I know now, I would endeavour to produce material which is accessible from the outset e.g. audio for text, text for audio, clear layout, appropriate fonts etc. I think the most technologically advanced this will be is powerpoint, although I do like the idea of a website my own students could access. In that respect, adherence to the guidelines for powerpoint may be all I need in evaluating accessibility and perhaps trying it out with a screen reader. If I continue the website, I think my best recourse would be asking those students with accessibility issues whether it works or not.

•Are there any other approaches that you are familiar with?
 
Having not really considered accessibility as an issue prior to emabarking on this course, I have not given thought to any other approaches. I would be interested to hear what others have to say on this.
 
•Which approaches could you ask someone else in your organisation to do?
 
In some respects, tutors work alone, and, to be honest, I would struggle to know who to ask to do an evaluation. However, I suppose I could ask an ‘expert’ to give the material the once over.
 
•Which approaches would be appropriate for a large virtual learning environment (VLE) such as the one used for this module?
 
I imagine the last three (Testing by accessibility experts, Assessing conformance to checklists/guidelines, including the use of automated checkers, Testing with assistive technologies) would be the main ways in which the OU would conduct its testing. I doubt the OU engages disabled students to ‘test’ accessibility but there will be ‘indirect’ testing on the basis of problems which they may highlight.
 

References:
 
Seale, J. (2006) E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice, Abingdon, Routledge; also available online at http://learn.open.ac.uk/ mod/ resourcepage/ view.php?id=569013&direct=1 (pp. 89 -99) (accessed 17 November 2011) 
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