How accessible are my OERs?

Last week, I visited the AcessAbility Centre at University of Leicester. It had been suggested to me that it might be good if I found out more about accessibility requirements for learning materials, to see whether the open educational materials (OERs) I am creating for Manufacturing Pasts measure up or fall short for the various kinds of learners who might wish to use them. I felt slightly embarrassed that I had not thought of this myself.

I began by asking about colours. Cream and black are good, I was told. People with dyslexia often benefit from the use of a coloured overlay on printed material, and exactly what colour overlay will vary, so it’s a good idea for the original material to be cream and black. Great, I thought; those happen to be the very colours I have been using so far.

Black and cream is a good initial choice for learning material when considering accessibility; our poster is black-and-white so it’s close!

Next thing to check is how does screenreading software react to the OER? At Leicester we have Read and Write for some needs such as dyslexia, and Jaws for needs such as blindness. The website I am building for our OERs will be very simple, so I expect Read and Write will read it out just fine (I’m not so sure about Jaws).  I was told that Microsoft Word documents generally react very well to both softwares, but that Powerpoint is another matter. Well, none of our OERs are in Word format so far, and we’ve got two major OERs in Powerpoint, so I am not sure what I will find when I test.

 A large percentage of our OERs are short videos and audio clips. Both of these imply the provision of transcripts. Luckily, I found a colleague who has experience loading a transcript text file into YouTube so that Youtube will magically show the correct words as they are being spoken. I’m looking foward to trying that out. Our Manufacturing Pasts OERs are ‘image-led.’ It is good to provide images in a format which allows zooming in and attention to detail. So far, the epub and pdf ebooks I’ve produced allow zooming with no problem. I wonder how the Powerpoints will do?

I was just thinking I could never go through all of our OERs to make them all perfectly accessible, when the advisor suggested I choose some key items and do my best to make these accessible, and then try to keep to the principles as much as possible as I create new items.

But what about issues of access to IT hardware and software and the internet? I have made some Powerpoint OERs —  those who do not own a copy of Powerpoint can’t use them unless I make sure they work with an open-source presenter software, which I hope to do. I am also attempting to make the OERs usable on various mobile devices. I tested a Powerpoint OER on my iPad and had success, but a colleague tried it and it didn’t work. These accessibility issues are fodder for another blog post.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts on  handling accessibility issues related to disabilities which users may have!

Terese Bird,CMALT

Learning Technologist, University of Leicester


2 Responses

  1. Hi Terese, this is a brilliant post and it is great to see OER projects paying attention to accessibility issues! Setting some key principles at the outset is a great idea – this includes providing transcripts, alternative description for images, alternative file formats, enabling users to customise the screen settings (not all people with dyslexia would be happy with cream and black for instance, these preferences might vary) and using true styles for Word documents. You might also be interested in finding out more about the ACTOER – Accessibility Challenges and Techniques for Open Educational Resources (please note this is work in progress and we have only just started!) run by JISCTechDis which explores precisely the issues you mention in your post. I am involved with the project as an accessibility specialist and it would be great to talk to you a bit more about your project.

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