Review of the Digital Accessibility FutureLearn MOOC

At the end of November 2016 I studied on the FutureLearn’s new MOOC on accessibility; Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society. The course was led by Professor Mike Wald of the ECS Accessibility team at the University of Southampton, and supported by members of the Erasmums+ MOOC Accessibility Partnership. Previously in my role at the University of Southampton, I was lucky enough to call Mike a colleague so was looking forward to engaging in the MOOC.

Unfortunately, due to work pressures, I wasn’t able to start the MOOC until the week after it finished – but completed before it officially ended!

I was incredibly impressed with the MOOC and enjoyed engaging with the learning materials; videos produced showcasing interactions from users with different needs, contributions from academics across Europe and discussion forum contributions from end users with accessibility needs and those who support users.

A good reminder for myself at the start of the course was that digital access is the physical (e.g. interacting with a washing machine), in addition to the UXD of the virtual interaction.

In the introduction video there were a number of ‘voices’ from all the contributors to the MOOC (I really liked this part) and Mike’s message:

“Everybody can think of themselves as only temporarily not having a disability, because at some point in their life as they get older, they will have some sort of disability.”

Professor Mike Wald, University of Southampton

Contributors came also from industry, where organisations have leads for accessibility, who gave great insight into leading on accessibility in an organisation and instigating change:

“You could boil the ocean when you think about accessibility!”

“So responsive design, responsive web is incredibly important, and knowing how mobile technologies use accessibility, if I’m honest, is probably more important than software accessibility.”

David Caldwell, IT Accessibility Manager, Barclays Bank

There was a useful reminder about the differentiation between usability, accessibility and user experience:

  • usability – whether something is usable by a target group, for a specific purpose
  • accessibility – whether all users can access the system
  • user experience – any experience of a user related to technology
Case studies were presented throughout the course, where you were introduced to pen portraits of end users (fab!) and how they engaged with technology during a typical day, and the challenges they encountered. We were then encouraged to consider how the characters would engage with technology – it helped make the learning more real and relevant. The case studies ‘A day in the life of..‘ are available on MOOCAP.
Lars using a tablet

The topics I found of particular interest, and wish to follow up further:

Transcription / captioning

In the case study, the deaf student preferred manually produced captions as there are particular benefits to captioning.

We currently offer transcriptions for video materials, but are considering our approach to this in the future i.e. what would be preferable to the end user and we can manage from a resource perspective.

Accessibility checklist

Good practice is to have an accessibility checklist as part of production, to ensure we are considering (for example) use of tables. We have one, would be beneficial to review.

Accessibility checker tools

I didn’t realise there was an Accessibility Checker tool for Word, Excel and PowerPoint and found it useful to play around with.

User testing

We have been keen to explore user testing (in addition to the user feedback we already gather), but have not yet progressed. Will add this to the road map and ensure it includes consideration around accessibility user testing and conformance testing.

Accessibility kite-mark

I’m keen for us to investigate seeking an accessibility kite mark for UDOL Content, and will investigate further e.g. Daisy.

Accessibility road map

For Content Development I plan to create an accessibility road map planning activity over the next few years.

Staff Development

I will be adding this MOOC to the team’s staff development plan, so they can undertake it during a future running. I will also look at staff completing tutorials on accessibility, such as those offered by W3.org and webaim.

Post the new trimester start, I’m looking forward to sharing my reflections on this with the team.

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