OER Handbook/educator version one/Adapt/Accessibility

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Since adaptation can involve both localization and remixing, accessibility is affected in different ways by adaptation.

Accessibility of content

The de facto standard for the accessibility of web-based content is the W3C WCAG (World Wide Web Consortium Accessibility Guidelines)[1]. However, it is important to note that the standards are not aimed at e-learning per se, so pedagogy and assessment, for example are not covered. Here are some of the basics of accessibility, which will need to be considered:

  1. Accessibility should be considered at the very beginning of a project, because it is harder and more time-consuming to retrofit it.
  2. Any HTML (HyperText Mark-up) code should be accurate and in accordance with the W3C HTML Specification[2]. Code should be marked up correctly otherwise assistive technology, such as screen readers, which rely on the code being accurately written may not work properly. The W3C Markup Validation Service[3] will validate the code for free.
  3. Fonts, colors, and presentation of the content should not be hard-coded - use CSS (Cascading Style sheets) instead (see the W3C CSS Specification[4] and the free automatic W3C CSS Validation Service). If presentational aspects of the content are hard-coded, they cannot be changed or individual style-sheets used.
  4. Ensure images are tagged with "alt" text so that people who cannot access them can determine what they are.
  5. Use common sense. While accessibility validators can determine whether certain elements are missing, they cannot determine whether the values actually make sense. For example, while an accessibility validator can determine whether "alt" text has been included, it cannot tell whether it describes the image accurately or is complete nonsense.
  6. Usability is also important. A webpage which follows all the accessibility guidelines to the letter may actually be unusable for everyone.
  7. Accessibility is not just about making resources accessible to people with disabilities, it is about access for all. Students who are trying to access a video resource in the library may not be able to access sound and may require the video to be captioned, in the same way that a deaf student would also need captions for the video.
  8. Where it is not possible to make a learning resource accessible, an alternative should be available which meets the same learning objectives. For example, a person who cannot use a mouse may be unable to do a drag and drop exercise, therefore, an alternative exercise should be offered.
  9. Use of Flash can be problematic. Advances have been made to make it more accessible (see Best Practices in Accessible Flash Design[5] and work is still ongoing but depending on the complexity of the Flash object, alternatives may need to be offered.
  10. There are e-learning accessibility guidelines and accessibility specifications available from IMS:

Further information is also available from the JISC CETIS (Joint Information Systems Committee Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards) Accessibility website[9].

For more information, see LearningSpaces Accessibility of eLearning course[10].

Localizing and accessibility

Making an OER more accessible is a form of localization. But accessibility is also something to keep in mind as you localize OER for other reasons. For example, if you are translating audio from one language to another, you should make sure you have a transcript available in the translated language for any persons with hearing impairments. Also, make sure any edits you make to a video are made to the transcript. Essentially, you should ask the following questions as you localize:

  1. Have I localized in a way that excludes persons with disabilities from using the OER?
  2. Is there anything I could be doing to make this resource more accessible to persons with disabilities?

In asking these questions, keep in mind the time and resources available to you. In some cases you may not be able to make the OER accessible in a timely manner. For example, a course with over fifty hours of podcasts may make transcript production by yourself impractical. Always use your best judgment in prioritizing your use of resources. Do the best you can.

Remixing and accessibility

As with localization, accessibility should be kept in mind as you remix. The same guidelines that apply to localization accessibility also apply to remix accessibility. Transcripts or closed captioning for mashup videos should be kept consistent. The resulting remix should not be needlessly difficult for persons with visual impairments or any other disability to use. As you look for materials to remix, keep in mind which ones already have accessibility features as they will require less work on your part.

There are also technical accessibility considerations when remixing. For example, Windows Media requires a separate file for closed captioning, while QuickTime allows the file to be embedded within the video file. When remixing, think about the final format and how it will affect accessibility.


  1. http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/
  2. http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/
  3. http://validator.w3.org/
  4. http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/
  5. http://www.macromedia.com/resources/accessibility/best_practices/bp_fp.html
  6. http://www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/index.html#acclip
  7. http://www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/index.html#accmd
  8. http://www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/index.html#accguide
  9. http://wiki.cetis.ac.uk/Resource_List
  10. http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?name=H807_1