Hello, I’m Abigail Lee. Many of you know me as an online course developer (OCD) in the Faculty of Technology. I am still an OCD in Technology, but now, also an OCD in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), working part-time in both departments. Yes, it’s crazy and it’s mad. I am mad. Lots of consideration went through my mind before accepting this job: family, health and also being very comfortable with my ‘part-time’ life. However, when I found out that this job is about accessibility, I jumped right in.
I am a dreamer. I believe dreams can come true. Helping students by giving them the best learning experience and the environment we can offer to inspire them; giving them this little extra helping hand for them to grow and, to realise their dreams is my passion. Accessibility is all about that. It is not just a standard. It is a way for us to realise Inclusive Learning, a way to give everyone the same opportunity to chase their dreams and realise them. Everyone means everyone. It doesn’t matter what ability or disability you have, what background you are from, who you are, where you live, how little time you have; everyone. As long as you have the heart to learn, desire to chase your dreams, you can.
I attended the Sticky RoadShow workshop in June 2018. From the workshop, I have a deeper understanding of the kind of challenges our disabled students face every day just to be ‘normal’, just to access information that many have taken for granted. We often overlook their needs and their struggle because they are the ‘minority’. However, according to the new Government data, “there are now 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. That means disabled people now make up 22% of the UK population – more than one in five.” So, in fact, for every five of us, there is at least one who is disabled. In addition, we have hidden disabilities that are often overlooked or ignored and older people with changing abilities due to ageing. We have to acknowledge this issue, remove barriers and help to solve it by making information accessible. Now that the Accessibility Regulation is in force, there is even more reason to do so.
Moreover, in many cases, improving accessibility benefits all students, not only our disabled students. Students who are carers, students who are working full time, students who are geographically restricted, students with English as a second language, even those who just prefer different ways of learning are benefited. The list is endless, as you will see from some of the examples below:
- Example 1: A digital copy of a document instead of a scanned one benefits disabled students by being accessible through screen readers. But, that’s not the only group that is benefited by it. In fact, it has made the resources more usable to all students. It made the document easier to read, students can search through the document, find specific content, copy and paste sections of the document, and so on. All these are useful to any student in their learning.
- Example 2: A good structured document supports screen readers and helps visually impairment students. And, it makes the document more user-friendly to all students. Its additional structure makes it easier to navigate, to work through and process the content. Thus, improve the understanding of the information the document is trying to convey and enhance the learning process.
- Example 3: Video with captioning or transcripts help students with hearing impairments. However, it also benefits all students by allowing them to search through the video and find specific parts for research or revision, to watch video in noisy environments, or to understand difficult jargon or terms etc. This is especially useful for students who are not native speakers.
- Example 4: Images with quality descriptions not only helps students with visual impairments, it helps clarify the content and purpose of the image to all students. It also makes the image searchable.
- Example 5: A fully accessible and responsive website not only helps disabled students navigate around the site and adapt the website to their learning needs, it also benefits any students who just prefer different styles of learning. On top of that, it is mobile-friendly. That means it is easy for all students to consume content anywhere, on any platform – which promotes distance learning and flexible learning. An accessible website also means alternative formats are provided. These alternative formats benefit all students; audio alternative format can be used during a commute or on a run, alternative translated version can help students who are not native speakers and so on.
I can go on forever but I think you’ve got the point.
“ For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier.
For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible. “
This is an old quote but it sums up my work and what I dream to archive in TEL perfectly – using technology to make things better, easier, and possible; to enhance accessibility and benefits all.
It is our University’s vision to become the UK’s TOP Modern University and one of the TOP 100 Young University in the world by 2030. A modern university is an accessible university. A young university should be accessible. This is our dream. I am new to TEL and there is still a lot to learn but hopefully, I can play a small part in contributing to make our dream come true.