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    Archive for the 'Accessibility' Category

    Accessibility of e-learning – 10 key points from the free OU course

    By Jessica Gramp, on 13 June 2017

    The UK Open University (2006) provide a useful introductory course, called Accessibility of eLearning, that will help you understand how to create accessible e-learning experiences that provide access for all. The course can be completed online, or downloaded in a number of common file formats, including for e-readers and as a PDF.

    I would strongly suggest either completing the course, or reading the course materials, but if you don’t have time I’m going to summarise the key points in this post:

    1. In 2006, disability affected 10-20% of every country’s population, and this number is growing.
    2. In 2006, 15% of the UK population, over 16 years old, self-declared a disability.
    3. A disabled person is one who has a mental or physical disability that has a substantial, long term (12 months or more), adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
    4. Around 1 in 10 men and 1 in 200 women have red-green colour blindness.
    5. UK Universities are legally obligated to make reasonable, anticipatory adjustments to ensure those with disabilities are not discriminated against.
    6. There are two views of disability. The medical model describes the problem of disability as stemming from the person’s physical or mental limitation. The social model sees disability as society restricting those with impairments in the form of prejudice, inaccessible design, policies of exclusion, etc.
    7. Accessibility is about both technical and usable access for people with disabilities. For example, although a table of data may be technically accessible by a blind person using a screen reader, they may not be able to relate the data in each cell to its column or row heading, so the meaning of the data is lost in the process, rendering the table unusable for that person.
    8. Computers enable even severely disabled people to communicate unaided, giving them independence and privacy that is not possible when they need to rely on human assistants.
    9. When communicating online, a disability may not be visible, removing barriers caused by people’s reactions to the disability.
    10. Creating accessible learning environments helps everyone, not just those with disabilities. For example, products that can be used by blind people are also useful for people whose eyes are busy*.

    *This last point reflects my own preference for listening to academic papers while running or walking to work, when I would be otherwise unable to “read” the paper. As a student and full-time employee, being able to use this time to study enables me to manage my time effectively and merge my fitness routine, with study time. This is only possible because my lecturers, and many journals these days too, provide accessible documents that can be read out loud using my mobile smartphone.

    This list brifly summarises the key points I drew from the OU’s Accessibility of eLearning course and demonstrates some of the ways we, as developers of online courses, can make better online learning experiences for all our students, including those with disabilities.

    References

    Open University (2016) Accessibility of E-Learning. [Online]. Available from: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/education/professional-development-education/accessibility-elearning/content-section-0 [Accessed: 13 June 2017].

    Window-Eyes discontinued

    By Michele Farmer, on 8 June 2017

    Please see info below for details:

    Thank you for being a valued member of the GW Micro and Window-Eyes family. We regret to announce that sales of Window-Eyes have ended in the United States and Canada. Users outside of the United States and Canada should contact their local distributor for options. We are committed to our customers and will honor existing product purchases and software maintenance agreements, and we will continue to provide technical support to end users that have purchased Window-Eyes or a support package.

    All users who are currently using Window-Eyes can continue to use the software indefinitely; however, as the Windows(r) operating system and/or applications change over time, Window-Eyes may not function adequately for your needs.

    We understand how important a screen reader is to you and are offering

    • JAWS(r) for Windows 18 as a replacement.  We are committed to providing a smooth transition and will honor existing Window-Eyes product purchases and software maintenance agreements (SMA), as follows.
    • End users that paid for and are current with Window-Eyes 9.x will be converted to JAWS 18 at no charge.
    • If you are using an earlier version of Window-Eyes, you can purchase an upgrade to JAWS 18.
    • If you are using the free version of Window-Eyes you cancontinue to use it. While there is not an upgrade path from the free version, if you are interested in purchasing JAWS, please contact our sales team at 800-444-4443.
    • Existing Window-Eyes SMAs will be rolled into the JAWS SMA program for end users that migrate to JAWS.

    Learn more about the migration options and pricing.

    To make this process as easy as possible, we ask you to complete a simple web form that will go directly to our sales team, who will then contact you with an authorization code for JAWS 18, or request additional information if necessary.

    Requests for upgrades must be submitted using this migration form, or by phone at 800-444-4443 by July 31, 2017.

    Note, the free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version is not part of the conversion program.

    If you have any questions please call us at 800-444-4443 or email us at orders@vfogroup.com.

     

    Addressing ten Moodle accessibility concerns for UCL’s disabled users

    By Jessica Gramp, on 17 May 2017

    UCL staff from Digital Education Advisory and UCL’s Disability Services teams are currently looking at how to improve the accessibility of UCL Moodle for those with disabilities, which will benefit all users. Information from two focus groups, one with students and one with staff, have highlighted a number of concerns, which the Accessible Moodle project aims to address.

    The focus groups identified ten areas of concern (listed in order of priority):

    • Clutter – it is difficult to find what you are looking for amongst irrelevant links and content.
    • Emphasis – understanding what is the most important information is not easy.
    • Layout – page elements are not configurable, there is too much visible at once and the blocks are too wide.
    • Navigation and Orientation – pages are long and disorganised, with links to external services not adequately signposted.
    • Usability – some interfaces, especially for assessments, are particularly difficult to use.
    • Awareness – useful features (skip links) and services (Moodle snapshot) remain unknown to those who would benefit from them.
    • Personalisation – there’s a lack of configurable page elements (blocks, fonts, font sizes and colours) or information about how to do this independently with browser plugins and other assistive technologies.
    • Text – there’s a lot of overly long text that is too small, in a difficult to read font with poor contrast and in difficult formats both in Moodle and the resources it contains.
    • Consistency – there’s inconsistencies between some Moodle courses and conversely some courses not being adequately distinguishable from others.
    • Graphics – there’s heavy reliance of written information that could be expressed more simply with icons and images, with appropriate alternative text for those using screen readers.

    The learning curve of using new interfaces, problems with assessment, and clunky mobile access were also mentioned by the focus group participants.

    These issues will be addressed by a number of initiatives:

    • A new, more accessible UCL Moodle theme for use on desktop and mobile devices.
    • Changes to Moodle configuration.
    • Enhanced Moodle features.
    • Improved training, staff development and support.
    • Proposals to Moodle HQ and iParadigms (who provide Turnitin) to improve interfaces.

    Further updates on this project will follow on the Digital Education blog.

    Creating a Moodle Template based on the UCL E-Learning Baseline 2016

    By Jessica Gramp, on 14 March 2017

    The Digital Education Advisor for BEAMS, Jess Gramp, worked with the E-Learning Champion for Science and Technology Studies (STS), Christina Ogunwumiju, to develop a Moodle course template that meets the UCL E-Learning Baseline 2016.

    Christina then applied this baseline to every Moodle course in the department using the Moodle import feature. This means students now have a more consistent experience across modules. They can now easily find their learning resources and activities because they appear in common sections across their Moodle courses.

    Jess developed a guidance document for staff, to show them how to meet the baseline when using the template. You can view and download this below.

    Download (PDF, 298KB)

     

    If you would like to develop a Moodle template to improve consistency in your own department, please contact Digital Education at digi-ed@ucl.a.uk.

    Introducing the new E-Learning Baseline

    By Jessica Gramp, on 7 June 2016

    UCL E-Learning Baseline 2016The UCL E-Learning Baseline is now available as a printable colour booklet. This can be downloaded from the UCL E-Learning Baseline wiki page: http://bit.ly/UCLELearningBaseline

    The 2016 version is a product of merging the UCL Moodle Baseline with the Student Minimum Entitlement to On-Line Support from the Institute of Education.

    The Digital Education Advisory team will be distributing printed copies to E-Learning Champions and Teaching Administrators for use in departments.

    Please could you also distribute this to your own networks to help us communicate the new guidelines to all staff.

    Support is available to help staff apply this to their Moodle course templates via digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

    We are also working on a number of ideas to help people understand the baseline (via a myth busting quiz) and a way for people to show their courses are Baseline (or Baseline+) compliant by way with a colleague endorsed badge.

    See ‘What’s new?’, to quickly see what has changed since the last 2013 Baseline.

     

    Meet Jess, Jack, Stuart & Heather – realistic voices for free* download

    By Jessica Gramp, on 3 March 2015

    I have recently started listening to my books and papers, rather than reading them. This frees me up to do other things while I listen, such as cook, take a bath or do some tidying up. It also gives my eyes a well needed break from staring at a computer screen or paper.

    As part of an online e-learning course I am helping to develop, I am using the TechDis Jess voice to provide audio files of the commentary, as an alternative to reading. I have had to tweak some of the text – for example, UCL needs to be written with spaces between each letter in order for Jess to pronounce each letter individually and I needed to add a hyphen to CMALT (C-MALT) for it to be pronounced correctly. But for the most part I can leave the text much as it is typed. I then run it through a free, open source software called Balabolka to produce an audio file that participants on the course can download and listen to.

    TechDis Jess and other UK voices (including Scottish and Welsh options) are available from www.heacademy.ac.uk/jisc-techdis-voices.

    Balabolka is available from: www.cross-plus-a.com/balabolka.htm.
    Listen to a sample:

    Listen on SoundCloud…

    *Staff and learners studying at England’s UK and FE institutions can download the voices free of charge and those at Scottish and Welsh institutions can download local voices.