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The Growing Challenges for Accessible Distance Learning

This is the web resource page for the 2010 CSUN Conference presentation.

The Challenges?
  • What do students with disabilities want from Distance Learning?  Answer – Equal Access
  • What do universities and colleges want from Distance Learning?  Answer – Revenue
  • Who is the Innovative Professor?  Answer – Early Adopter
  • Accessible or Inclusive Distance Learning?   Answer – Inclusive

Challenges for Accessibility? A-Design, U-Design, Co-Design, Re-Design & No-Design 

Non-Interchangeable Terms?

Another challenge we face is the language we use in describing fully inclusive properties.

The bottom line is that accessible and usable designs can be mutually exclusive and inclusive/universal designs are synonymic approaches to fully inclusive properties.

The Innovative Professor

The “Innovative Professor’s” course development and early adoption of new technologies often creates barriers to accessibility if inclusive strategies are not used in the course development process.

In 2007 innovative professor Paul Fishwick explains why he chose to develop a course in Second Life, “I like the potential for collaboration, immersion, aesthetics, creativity, social interaction,” Fishwick said. “There are a lot of different dimensions I think are valuable to educators.” 

While truly innovative personalities live on the bleeding edge of development and are willing to take risks, the majority of professors who participate in online course development want to get the course developed and online.  However,

  • If a course is developed proactively, then inclusive strategies have been applied and the learning experience is enriched. 
  • If inclusive strategies are not present for the “Innovative Professor” to build on, then we find ourselves in a reactionary position to unwanted barriers created by our desire to use the latest technology.

How do we move from reactive to proactive Inclusive course development?

Developing Relationships

Learn who your resources are and how to communicate in their language to develop an effective team for Inclusive course development --

  • Instructional Technologist -- Develop a Universal Design/Accessibility Checklist for class development
  • Title III coordinator -- faculty development in Universal/Inclusive Design
  • ADA coordinator and University Committee for Persons with Disabilities -- develop policy and promote standards
  • IT Liaison -- develop and migrate to Inclusive IT infrastructures
  • Provost and Deans Council -- integral partners in strategic planning for Universal/Inclusive Design
  • Purchasing -- gate/record keeper to promote purchasing accessible EIT -- VPAT

Strategic Planning for an Inclusive Environment

  • All Challenges are Opportunities
  • With your institutional relationships, develop a strategic plan for an inclusive environment
  • Use Long-term, Mid-term and short-term timelines
  • Identify realistic goals
  • Evaluate and adapt for success

Example strategies and time lines to reach your goals

Long-term goals to be reached in five to seven years:

1. All information from web sites are designed or redesigned to meet at least the minimum accessibility requirement guidelines provided by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)/US Access Board’s 508 guidelines this includes:

  • LMS or other courseware.
  • All official Web offerings.
  • All official databases.

2. Promote marketing the institution as a model providing a fully inclusive Internet and distance-learning environment thereby increasing recruitment and retention of residential and distance-learning students with and without disabilities. 
3. The institutions efforts to promote a Fully Inclusive community have developed a partnership outreach-training program for all parties wishing to migrate to a Universally Designed environment.
Mid term goal to be reached in two to four years:
1. IT and all purchasing managers have migrated to a Universal/Inclusive Design policy,

  • Requiring all vendors you are doing business with to design accessibly
  • All development and modifications of IT products are fully accessible

2. All distance education offerings have adopted Inclusive guidelines for courses                              

Short-Term Goals to be reached in one year:
1. Development of an ad-hoc committee to review how all programs can be designed or redesigned for usability by all persons, including individuals with disabilities

2. Development and adoption of an accessibility checklist for distance education

3. Development of Inclusive/Universal Design faculty training

Evaluate and Adapt Strategic Planning for an Inclusive Environment

UD/WAI/508 standards

The new web can be a frustrating place to be:

Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 ---
MashUps -- the semantic web

Mashups, what it is and how it can be used.  Mashups smash together objects from more than one source into a single integrated web object.  “The most common mashup is the consumer mashup. Consumer mashups combine different forms of media from multiple sources and combine them into a single graphical interface" -- Example of a consumer Mashup site: Flickr. Mapanno

How can it be used? World Explorers and Housing Maps

Accessibility Issues: In 2008 Rich Schwerdtfeger and Peter Parente explained that "Mashups are still in the early stages of addressing accessibility" in their presentation Web2.0MashupAccessibility031208.ppt.  In 2010, Mashups are still predominantly inaccessible.  IBM Mashup Center, Version 2.0

Second Life

Using virtual space for education and the ongoing evolution of technology


  • All Challenges are Opportunities
  • Create Inclusive opportunities with the relationships you develop
  • Have a strategic plan and know your goals
  • Keep It Simple & Create Inclusive Properties
  • Evaluate and adapt
  • It is okay to have fun

 Other Resources: