New paper on planning for professionalism in accessibility

Just published in journal Research in Learning Technology is a paper I am a co-author on entitled:

Adapting online learning resources for all: planning for professionalism in accessibility

This blog post is a bit of shameless self publicity for this paper but is shared because we believe it contains important lessons for those seeking to address accessibility for disabled students especially in Higher Education.  The abstract and link to the full text follow:

Adapting online learning resources for all: planning for professionalism in accessibility

Patrick McAndrew, Robert Farrow and Martyn Cooper

Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

(Received 7 May 2012; final version received 24 October 2012; Published 19 December 2012)


Online resources for education offer opportunities for those with disabilities but also raise challenges on how to best adjust resources to accommodate accessibility. Automated reconfiguration could in principle remove the need for expensive and time-consuming discussions about adaptation. On the other hand, human-based systems provide much needed direct support and can help understand options and individual circumstances. A study was carried out within an EU-funded accessibility project at The Open University (OU) in parallel with studies at three other European universities. The study combined focus groups, user-testing, management consultation and student survey data to help understand ways forward for accessibility. The results reinforce a holistic view of accessibility, based on three factors: positioning the university as a positive provider to disabled students; developing processes, systems and services to give personal help; and planning online materials which include alternatives. The development of a model that helps organisations incorporate professionalism in accessibility is described, though challenges remain. For example, a recurrent difficulty in providing adequate self-description of accessibility needs implies that a completely automated solution may not be attainable. A more beneficial focus, therefore, may be to develop systems that support the information flow required by the human “in the loop.”

Keywords: inclusion; students with disabilities; services; personalisation; evaluation; virtual learning environments; EU4ALL

The full text is freely available under a Creative Commons license at:

Your comments would be most welcome!

Validating/evaluating a framework

Been pondering this for a while now:

In the EU4ALL project we are developing a framework at a service definition level and at a technical infrastructure level that supports that. We are in the process of selecting what are the services we will implement at the two major pilots – one at the OU and the other at UNED in Spain. A key criteria in selecting these services has been what would best support the validation/evaluation work at these pilots. This has surfaced the question – how do we validate/evaluate a framework as distinct from a given instantiation of it.

One partner has suggested implementing a broad range of possible services is key. However I think this is not sufficient because the key point of a framework is that it is valid in a wide range of circumstances. Hence my view is becoming that alongside the detailed review of a wide range of services implemented in the two major pilots we need to construct a methodology that exposes what the issues would be if those services were implemented in a diversity of contexts. It is likely that this will have to be done without implementation in those contexts. However the view of the implementations at the 2 major test sites by key stakeholders at other contexts would be of great value.

Any comments or pointers to literature welcome!