1.5 Special resources or universal design?
In the field of accessibility (and in particular with relation to eLearning) there exists an ongoing debate about the value of universal design (also known as design-for-all) versus the creation of alternative (or special) resources to meet particular needs. These two concepts are not opposites, and many designers of eLearning will pragmatically lean towards one and then the other as they produce their eLearning materials. Some even argue that a universal design approach can include alternative or special resources and is simply a way of saying ‘we’ve tried to cater for everyone’.
There are some instances of conflict between the needs of disability groups. Bohman (2003) describes the perceived conflict between the needs of people with cognitive disabilities and the needs of visually impaired people. The former group can find textual information challenging and may prefer pictorial representations, whereas the latter group cannot see pictures and require textual information. However, Bohman argues that a website designed for cognitively disabled people can be made accessible to visually impaired people by the provision of text alternatives to the graphics. There are, therefore, some limitations to the concept of ‘one size fits all’ but in most cases the needs of most people can be catered for without causing difficulties for other groups.