Posted by: MandyS | December 20, 2011

Activity 34.1(a) – Institutional perspectives

1. Do you think that there are any incentives for your organisation to develop or improve the accessibility of its online resources? If so, what are they?

The mission of the OU is to be ‘open to people, places, methods and ideas.’ Essentially its driving force is its ethos, which has ‘accessibility’ for all embedded within it. The incentive for the OU is probably maintaining its unique position within the HE community.


Rather embarrassingly, I gave little thought to issues of accessibility prior to embarking on this course. I suppose the main assumption I made was that the OU had already taken care of accessibility issues that there may be and that all I was doing was making myself aware of ‘additional requirements’ students may have and how to deal with them if and when I needed to. I was not really aware that there were any ‘rules’ to follow other than referring students having difficulties; whether disabled or not.

(b) Have these assumptions or rules changed as a result of studying on the module? If so, why and how?

What I have learned from the module is that the ‘rules’ apply to me personally rather than on an institution-wide basis. I am just as responsible for making ‘reasonable adjustments’ by making my own learning materials accessible as the course team are and, for that matter, the OU. From experience, though, this is easier said than done; the rules may be straightforward to follow, but not so in their application e.g. providing alternative formats which work for everyone.

3. Thinking about your organisation – can you identify people who make, enforce, advocate or implement ‘rules’ that apply to accessibility?

Diversity and Equality appear to make the policy of the OU which is implemented by the course teams etc. As far as enforcement and advocacy is concerned, I would imagine that this is the role also for Diversity and Equality in conjunction with the Course Teams.

4. In your context, are there any internal politics regarding accessibility? If so, what feeds the political debates:

  • Values/principles?
  • Costs/resources?
  • Attitudes/beliefs?
  • Culture/tradition?

This is difficult. As an OU tutor, I operate at a distance both from the OU and the Course Team and for that reason, I don’t get the opportunity to associate with any ‘internal politics’ that there may be regarding accessibility. I am sure there will be some and I imagine that they are fuelled by the underlying ethos of the OU, resources, the attitude of tutors not up-to-speed with accessibility issues and, ultimately, cost.

5. Do you agree with Seale that ‘there is a limit … to the extent to which the institutional change framework can help us to understand the goals and motivations of institutions and teams’?

North’s framework is based on the fact that ‘choice is subject to constraints’ (p.142). I think this is a fairly valid point; whether I choose to go out depends on whether I have money, transport etc. Identifying the constraints should identify why choices are made in the way that they are. In the chapter Seale identifies some of the conflicts and tensions that exist in terms of accessibility. However, what Seale appears to be saying is that despite the rules, accessibility remains an issue and the framework does not assist in offering an explanation. As Seale says (p. 157) ‘the ‘rule enforcers’ appear reluctant or unable to impose significant changes and neither North’s nor Konur’s work helps us understand why’. On that basis, Seale would appear to be right. There is a distinct lack of enforcement of the rules and nothing appears to be being done to resolve the situation, in particular, the ‘third party’ enforcement envisaged by North. 



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