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About the JISC TechDis approach

JISC TechDis logoJISC TechDis was the leading UK advisory service on technology and inclusion.  Unfortunately it was wound down in 2014.  It supported the education, training and skills sectors in achieving greater accessibility by providing expert advice and guidance on disability and technology. JISC TechDis worked with a range of partners to remove barriers to learning and promote a culture of inclusive practice through engagement with senior managers and specialist staff. The Service supported research programmes and the development of sustainable resources, materials and tools, aimed at ensuring an accessible and inclusive experience for everyone, as well as practices and techniques that enhance external engagement.

JISC TechDis adopted a holistic approach to the creation of e-learning materials. It believed that it is inappropriate to solely apply a series of web accessibility guidelines (eg W3C WAI WCAG) to e-learning material without taking other factors into consideration; they should not be regarded as the only set of criteria which developers of teaching and learning materials need to consider. There are additional factors which need to be addressed, some of which may conflict with the W3C WAI Guidelines. Additionally, although the guidelines are a useful starting point, following them does not necessarily ensure that a resource is accessible to its target audience. Within e-learning development, there is a need to place the learner at the centre of the development process.

This approach recognises that an accessible resource for one learner may be an inaccessible resource for another. Therefore, 'inaccessible' e-learning resources may be deployed, provided that disabled learners are still able to demonstrate the required learning outcomes in a way which does not disadvantage them or their non-disabled peers. It also recognises the importance of user-testing; the best way to ensure a resource achieves its objectives and is accessible as possible is to trial it with a number of students.

Guiding principals of the JISC TechDis approach to e-learning

  • Making learning accessible is a responsibility for all.
  • Using technology and delivering materials online can offer many accessibility benefits. The sharing of resources via many of the repositories and resources banks that are now available in UK education can help to support many disabled students if the resources have been designed in sensitive ways.
  • Ultimately, accessibility only matters at the point of delivery, but when we share our materials we have an extended duty to ensure that the maximum number of learners can access the content.
  • JISC TechDis recognises that, in supporting some [specific] disabled learners, resources may be created that are explicitly accessible to some disabled learners, but may exclude students with other types of disabilities.
  • JISC TechDis recognises that a range of issues will impact on how guidelines and support for disabled learners and staff will continually change. These may include the development of standards and specifications, legislation, staff training requirements, regulatory frameworks and technology. JISC TechDis is committed to monitoring and reporting how these issues are impacting on the education sector.