Let’s face it – the Internet is not very friendly for those surfers out there with disabilities. Web designers can design their sites with accessibility issues in mind – but very few do. It takes extra time, and not mention the fact that they may not get to use all of those really cool, flashy spinning gif headers that are so hip now-a-days.
But with 6.3 million students with disabilities in our schools – we don’t want to keep acting like this is an issue that will resolve itself. Which is kind of the thing that some of us in the Instructional Design field hopes will happen. We just hope that screen reader technology and accessibility options will increase in sophistication to the point that they will overcome all of our bad design techniques.
When ever I am designing a class, and the professor wants a podcast, I always point out that they will have to have something ready for students with any type of hearing issues. Notice I said “have something ready.” Some professors understand, but many just wave it off and say “I’ll throw something together when the issue is at hand.” Yeah – great idea – especially when the issue won’t be at hand until you have 2 days to transcribe 10 hours worth of podcasts!
Sheryl Burgstahler and Lyla Crawford of the University of Washington have recently published a paper titled “Managing an E-Mentoring Community to Support Students with Disabilities: A Case Study.” Basically, students are mentored by other students that come from where they are – but you use technology to connect students that may not be in the same geographic location as others. Brilliant, really. And a little more complex than that – so go read the article.
Now, if we can only classify “digital doofus-ness” as a disability and force people with this condition to get mentors – online education could really take off!