(Massive Open Online Course). (University of Leeds, 2018). The MOOCS are run in conjunction with FutureLearn, which is the UK’s first online MOOC provider. The benefits of studying a degree online are that, degrees studied by distance learning are generally more affordable and more accessible to a wider range of people. Disabled people will benefit greatly from the increased provision of online degrees as they may find it difficult or impossible to access classes at a physical location due to the nature of their impairments. Online degrees lift some of the barriers they face in accessing higher education.
With the number of students enrolling in online degree-level courses likely to keep increasing over the coming years, it is vital that such courses are accessible to all members of society with all types of needs.
It is important when undertaking course design, that accessibility factors are considered and correctly implemented to ensure all members of the community regardless of their age, location, language barriers, additional needs, etc., can access their sites of choice on an equal basis to their peers and that everyone can use their chosen sites independently.
“when campuses use IT that is not designed to be accessible to people with disabilities, some of these individuals encounter barriers to education and employment. In contrast, when colleges and universities design and employ websites, application software, and other IT that are accessible to all students and employees, they lead the way toward levelling the playing field and supporting full engagement in academic and career activities” (Slatin, J. et al 2008)
Online learning has great appeal to disabled students. If courses are designed to be accessible to all, then disabled students can compete on an equal playing field to their peers. They don’t have to go to a physical class at a designated time. They can log on in the comfort of their own home at any time of day or night and work when they feel most able to do so. The courses are usually very flexible in their nature. Also, disabled people have anonymity behind their computer screens and to their lecturer are “just another student”. This is important as many people don’t want to declare their disability.
HOW CAN WE ENSURE WEB ACCESSIBILITY IS CORRECTLY IMPLEMENTED?
There are many factors to consider when implementing accessibility. These factors need to work together in harmony to ensure an accessible and inclusive web experience is had by all sectors of the community from the disabled user to the non-disabled user. An accessible user-friendly website is of benefit to everyone.
To make the website/course fully accessible both technical considerations and how the user is going to interact with the product both need to be taken into consideration. From a technical point of view, designers and anyone involved in setting up/running courses needs to be aware that there are certain common standards and guidelines that need to be followed. To ensure a common set of standards could be applied across the whole of the world wide web, an international community was set up in 1994 to develop those standards. This community is called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It consists of the internet’s founder Tim Berners-Lee, full-time staff, member organizations and individuals. Branching out of the W3C is the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) which provides guidelines that developers can follow to make their sites accessible. These guidelines are called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WHICH IS THE STANDARD ISO/IEC 40500 (reference? And re-word).
WCAG 1.0 – THE FIRST WEB CONTENT ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES
Gregg Vanderheiden wrote the first web accessibility guidelines WCAG 1.0 in January 1995 (see Appendix A).
WCAG 2.0 – THE 2nd WEB CONTENT ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES
WCAG 2.0 was released in December 2008 (see Appendix B)
The current version of the WCAG is over 10 years old now. WCAG 2.1 has been recommended as of April 2018. (W3.org, 2018)
There are other organisations that have brought out guidelines and provide tools/information to support companies in implementing web accessibility. Once such university is Utah State University who have organization called Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAim). Their aim is to provide resources to anyone who needs to implement universal usability.
“The Web Accessibility Initiative at MIT’s World Wide Web Consortium produces consensus guidelines and tools to help promote web accessibility” (Shneidermann et al, 2014).