The authors* of this chapter examine how to blend universal design (UD) with e-learning tools used by post-secondary faculty and with information and communication technologies (ICTs) used by students in traditional classroom, hybrid, and online courses. The focus is on how instructors can design and deliver their courses in an accessible way using e-learning. The authors conclude: “Considering UD when selecting and using e-learning materials in traditional, hybrid, and online courses can ensure an accessible learning experience for the diversity of students in today’s colleges and universities. Collaboration between the wide array of stakeholders is needed to design, implement, and support accessibility and usability. This includes the students, instructors, ICT vendors, institutional IT procurement specialists, and campus disability service providers.”
*In S. E. Burgstahler (Ed.), Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice (2nd ed.), pp. 275-284. Boston: Harvard Education Press.
Dowload the chapter here
Blurred lines: Accessibility, disability and definitional limitations.
This paper explores the history and utility of the concept of “accessibility” in relation to the iPhone and similar devices, and the difficulties of differentiating between accessibility for people with disability and usability concerns for the general public. Elizabeth Ellcessor is assistant professor of cinema and media studies, and has an engaging way of writing. She says the case of iOS7 indicates the difficulties of defining both accessibility and disability in the contemporary moment. Increasingly, the lines between accessibility and usability, disability and difference, accommodation and preference are blurring.
The author uses disability theory to argue that access is a complicated phenomenon, and that even given the difficulties in establishing definitions of “accessibility,” the concept is worthwhile because it carries with it reminders of the politics of difference, the difficulties of access, the history of disability rights, and the relationship of media to civil rights and public participation. Download the document.
Note: the webpage is not particularly accessible with on-screen small print.
Creating Alternative Formats. The design of brochures for National Park Service in the USA has evolved into reliance on graphic images of pictures and maps as a means of stimulating interest in visiting. However, this style of brochure does not lend itself well to audio description and other formats. This article traces the detailed research into formulating appropriate designs for alternative formats. Adopting a components-based approach, the intention was to provide clear pathways for cross-modal translation of the printed material into audio-described media, which then, can be efficiently distributed via mobile apps, as an extension of these original components. There is also a link to the Unigrid system that is applied to all NPS brochures.
Rather than using a PowerPoint presentation, an actor with a script written by the researcher, Steve Daunt, communicates the results of his study. The script compares the difficulties older people face with everyday technology such as a mobile phone with the alarm pendant. It highlights how these pendants may not be as effective as the designers might think.
The study uncovered many device design issues that the users struggled with – such as buttons being the same colour as the device casing. Contextual use of the device was found to be an issue for the older users; for example, where reduced mobility and dexterity made it difficult to reach down to and operate a DVD player placed at a low level relative to the ground.
One major finding from the pendant alarm technology was that the older people assessed were mostly unsure or unaware of what steps would occur after they had pressed the alarm button.
Many of the designs that older users struggled with in their “difficult technology” made no allowance for users lack of technical knowledge or exposure. Some of the designs were found to be extremely poor and it is likely that other user groups would also have had difficulty with the technology. For example, some devices lacked labelling or feedback which are violations to basic usability principles.
Initial findings from the study were presented as a “dramatic reading”at the ActivAge 2012 conference. You can access the 15 minute video at the bottom of the webpage.
This article is by Dr Pietro Murano, The Universal Design of ICT Research Group in Oslo, Norway, and Tracey J Lomas, Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Salford, UK.
Abstract: This paper concerns an investigation by the authors into the efficiency and user opinions of menu positioning in web pages. While the idea and use of menus on web pages are not new, the authors feel there is not enough empirical evidence to help designers choose an appropriate menu position. We therefore present the design and results of an empirical experiment, investigating the usability of menu positioning on web pages. A four condition experiment was conducted by the authors. Each condition tested a different menu position. The menu positions tested were left vertical, right vertical, top horizontal and bottom horizontal. The context was a fictitious online store. The results, based on statistical analysis and statistically significant findings, suggest that the top horizontal and left vertical positioned menus incurred fewer errors and fewer mouse clicks. Furthermore, the user satisfaction ratings were in line with the efficiency aspects observed. Download the article here PDF