Accessibility of eLearning
Accessibility of eLearning

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Accessibility of eLearning

1.4 Usability and accessibility

Described image
Figure 5 Smiley face

In general terms, and business terms, it is good practice to make a product available to as wide a market as possible. A design that incorporates the requirements for disabled students is likely to be more accessible and useful for non-disabled students than a design without such consideration. To design something (eLearning materials, for example) with the needs of disabled people in mind is termed ‘accessibility’. To design something to make it as easy to use as possible by all potential users, regardless of what impairments they may have or what assistive technologies they may use, is termed ‘usability’.

In practice, when designing eLearning materials, the goals of both are broadly similar. But consider one rather silly example to highlight the difference: a page of white text upon a white background could be ‘accessible’ to blind users, because their screen-reading technology will recognise the text. However it is hardly ‘usable’ by most people (and inaccessible to other groups of disabled people too). So in that case the person creating the white-text-on-white-background material could be accused of ignoring usability in favour of one very narrow aspect of accessibility. Similarly McNaught, Evans and Ball (2010) found, when testing ebook delivery platforms for accessibility with a range of disabled users, that certain tasks (such as finding and opening a particular ebook title) could sometimes technically be achieved by vision-impaired students using screen reading technology (so one could argue the process was accessible) but that in some cases it took over 150 key presses to get there (and so one could argue the process was not usable in any practical sense – particularly when a sighted person could get there with less than a dozen mouse clicks).

Mike Wald from the University of Southampton gives a few more examples of accessibility vs usability in this short video clip [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

H807_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus