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An international peer-reviewed journal

Online Learning: Designing for All Users

Cindy Poore-Pariseau

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 5, Issue 4, August 2010, pp. 147 - 156

Article Contents

Conclusion and Recommendations

As distance education becomes more common, the need arises to recognize that a growing number of those who take advantage of the increased educational opportunities are disabled. In recognizing this development, institutions of higher education must consciously make the decision to proactively incorporate accessibility standards and guidelines into their course rooms, coursework, and course materials so that all have comparable opportunities to contribute effectively to the educational process. If this issue is not successfully addressed, the costs for society may be high; more disabled people, unable to complete their educations, could lead to higher unemployment and more dependence on governmental resources and aid.

In some ways, the issue of online accessibility for people with disabilities is being addressed. For example, this author is a part of a group of higher education professionals from the U.S. and Canada who are partnering with BlackBoard to, among other things, design an online training program for instructors who wish to learn more about accessibility standards and how to incorporate accessibility into their distance learning courses.

As a result of research conducted for this paper and from personal online experience as a designer, teacher, and as a student, this author suggests that such trainings should be mandatory for all professionals who are a part of the process of designing distance education courses. In addition, faculty members and those who support them in regards to creating distance learning opportunities should investigate and utilize support programs such as Project Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI), supported by EDUCOM. (For information about Project EASI, see http://www.sigmasys.com/pub/easi.pdf.)

To conclude, this author echoes the thoughts of Rowland, Burgstahler, Smith, and Coombs (2004) who state three challenges that must be met if disabled students are to succeed and thrive in distance education programs:

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