Access & Use presented at the Hagen symposium: New Practices

, by Detlev Fischer

The ed-ICT symposium "New Practices" took place at Fernuniversität Hagen on 16. and 17. October 2018. The two day workshop focused on transition processes between and within educational institutions, looking at significant problems for students having to negotiate the variety of systems and platforms used in education given the varying degree of accessibility of these tools.

ed-ICT stakeholder panel (description below)

The photo shows a panel discussion about the challenges of people with disabilities when entering new institutions (e.g., in higher education) or transitioning to employment. Present were Isabel Zorn (Technical University Cologne), Michael Große-Drenkpohl (LWL), Chetz Colwell (Open University) Steffen Puhl (Gießen Unversity).

An important topic in several discussions and presentations was the role of individual self-advocacy and self-esteem when managing transition processes, compared to the role of institutions to facilitate transitions.

A common concern mentioned throughout the workshop was the growing number of online learning management systems (e.g. Moodle) that offer video or audio streaming, screen-sharing, chats, online tests, or other interactions. Today, students need to be able to engage with these systems when they study, but often, they are not sufficiently accessible. Learning how to use them is difficult enough for students in general, but creates an additional burden for users of assistive technologies.

Several questions surfaced in the lively discussions, often without a definitve answer. Should institutions enforce the use of accessible learning management systems, thereby restricting choice? Who can reliably assess the accessibility of such systems?  What are good ways of creating an awareness of the importance of accessibility in organisations that develop these systems as well as in educational institutions that deploy them? What can be done to make teachers and professors more aware of the problem of inaccessibility of systems they may want to use in their teaching?

On day one of the network meeting, Detlev Fischer presented the COMPARE project, the idea of the COMPARE repository, and the Access & Use learning module. He showed some of the videos of people with different abilities using web components and apps. The presentation was well received, with several participants indicating the value of hands-on examples for demonstrating the impact of inaccessible content to people who have little knowledge or awareness of these issues.

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