HEA conference, day two

by Paul Maharg on 23/06/2010

Attended session by Sue Watling on 'Gutenberg to Google: access denied'.  Interesting points on disability and access to digital data — she compared access to physical access, lowered kerbs, etc.  One basic point was that the shift to a Windows GUI was a setback to access because of the visual cues it introduced to the interface.  Inclusive practice, for her, should include unknown users, diversity of preference, and avoiding the MEE-model.  She gave an example: a drag & drop activity where the items were one whole graphic, and therefore not available to keystrokes.  Text as graphics was another example: screen readers can't read it.  Exclusive examples included the Govt's own guide to the upcoming Single Equality Act 2010 & other disability legislation… with use of coloured text.  Barriers to access include: fantasy/handwriting fonts, graphical text (eg email sigs), text emphases (caps or colours), audio/video with no text alternative, formats that require plug-ins (Adobe/Flash/Shockwave).  Two reports recommended — Transforming HE through TEL and The Edgeless University.  Sue also recommended Castells etc.  

At questions I raised the issue of a blind student on our course, who commented that the lowered kerbs etc beloved of accessibility designers were actually not much use to her, because she relied on the kerb to let her know via her stick when she was on the road or on the pavement; and her dog was confused by the lack of kerb too.  It was a metaphor, I argued, for us exploring the nature of learning with disability, and with access tools.  Eg how do blind students use braille, screen-readers and other tools?  Sue agreed, and pointed me in the direction of the British Computer Association for the Blind.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 sue watling June 24, 2010 at 08:29

I use the example of ramps to demonstrate a principle of inclusive practice; how a solution designed for one specific group can have un-anticipated benefits for the wider community. Unfortunately, as you say, there is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ solution as the issue of ramps etc for VI makes clear.

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