Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on November 11, 2016.
Web accessibility must ensure that individuals with any type of disability are able to perceive, navigate, interact, learn, communicate, teach, and contribute to the web. Both the Web and any educational initiatives online should be inclusive for everyone and should promote equal opportunities to access the information and manage contents.
There are many technologies that help mitigate limitations in accordance with the type of disability.
Assistive Technology or Support Tool
Screen readers, listening feedback tools, touch interfaces or with Braille system, screen enhancement tools.
Technologies that incorporate visible signals in audio alerts, subtitling, closed captioning, and text-to-speech tools.
Keyboards, voice synthesizers, syntax systems to form phrases, word and phrase prediction systems, etc.
Special keyboards, voice recognition software, ocular movement systems, mouthstick.
Technologies such as alarms and task reminders
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, (WCAG2.0) organized the guidelines and success criteria around four principles to ensure that the contents and platforms are accessible to any person around the world:
- Perceivable: the contents and developed technology should not depend on a single form of perception, i.e. the components and contents must be shown in a way that users can understand them – this is in terms of contents.
- Operable: navigation and interfaces should be operable. This suggests that users should be able to handle tools and should not be tied to only one direction – all actions should be available to all users. This is in terms of tools.
- Understandable: all users should be capable of understanding the contents and how the tools work. This refers to an intuitive and easy-to-use topic, as well as readable and predictive interface.
- Robust: contents should be robust in order to be interpreted, also by assistive technologies. In addition, contents should adapt to the evolution of technologies and continue to be assistive. This refers to the compatibility that a content should have with other types of tools or technologies.
Perspectives for each involved profile
Accessibility and the Institution:
In many countries, accessibility is a government policy and in many educational institutions around the world, accessibility is an internal policy. However, beyond thinking about the policy, it is necessary to think about the Right to Education. Educational institutions should:
- Transform campuses in order for them to become accessible.
- Evaluate how the social environments are proper spaces where everyone can work, teach, and learn.
- Design an action policy that responds to legal and social realities.
- Educate and train the academic community on the importance of accessibility. This requires time, effort, and strategy.
- Raise awareness through general messages saying that everyone can have access to all infrastructures and contents.
- Develop alliances with other campuses and create a community around the adoption of accessibility strategies to share experiences and learn from the efforts of others.
- Be updated on the possibilities of technology and its evolution to improve processes and initiatives.
Accessibility and the teacher: instructors and teachers should undergo training on how accessible technologies work, and how to provide assistance to students with any disability. The inclusion of accessible technologies in the classroom results beneficial to teachers for the following reasons:
- They pose new educational and teaching challenges.
- Diversified groups of students allow teachers to improve the learning experiences of all the students in a classroom.
- They improve the content and structure of courses through the information obtained by the teacher by creating student profiles.
- They increase the quality of the education.
- They create supplementary information.
- Updating on accessible contents can be fast and easy even throughout all the modules of a course.
Accessibility and the student: when technologies are accessible, they become the best allies in leveling the interaction between students with any disability and those without disabilities. Some of the advantages of accessible technologies are:
- Flexibility in learning that can take place regardless of the time and place.
- Equal participation in learning processes and pedagological experiences
- Handling difficult material is avoided thanks to accessible devices.
- The possibilities for professional education and work contribution are increased.
- Better social practices and relationships with other students.
- Experiences and good teaching practices are shared with peers.
- Promotion of inclusion in other social and educational spaces, forums, debates, seminars, etc.
- New possibilities of communication among the entire academic community.
 W3C. Introduction to understanding WCAG 2.0. In: https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/intro.html#introduction-fourprincs-head. Consulted on: September 8, 2016.