Agony aunt

October 26, 2001

Q How can I be sure that my partially sighted student can participate when so much discussion and course material is online?

A It is lucky that the materials are online, otherwise it might be harder to help support that student.

The student should be aware of how easily those materials can be accessed with software such as screen readers and magnifiers.

What you must do now is get your learning technology staff and your institution's webmaster to ensure that the material is compliant with good practice, such as the guidelines issued by the World Wide Web Consortium's web accessibility initiative (www.w3c. org/WAI/).

Following the guidelines may also help you support other students with disabilities. Those with dyslexia often have their computers set up to use special style sheets to make the material easy to access. But unless the guidelines are followed, neither the screen readers nor the style sheets will work properly.

To support institutions with these issues, the Joint Information Systems Committee has set up a service called TechDis, the Jisc Technologies for Disabilities Information Service (www. techdis.ac.uk).

Lawrie Phipps TechDis manager Joint Information Systems Committee

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