Individuals and, in particular, institutions releasing OER need to be aware of relevant accessibility issues, which should be a consideration at the very start of the design process.
Screen readers and other assistive devices can often make alternative resources less necessary – unless, for example, heavy use is made of Adobe Flash – but supplemental material may still be required. This may take the form of a synopsis of a video resource (this being ‘supplemental’ rather than an ‘alternative’ as it does not capture all of the detail of the original material).
A number of free resources are available for institutions to refer to when developing and releasing materials to ensure that they are as inclusive as possible. Many of the resources also act as a useful reference, enabling the end user to customise existing resources and personalise their own learning experience, these include:
- Accessibility essentials: the complete series – four guides designed to provide anyone preparing or using electronic documents with the essential information needed to do so in a more accessible way.
- Creation of learning content – extensive advice and guidance for staff wanting to create effective, engaging and accessible learning materials.
- Xerte Online Toolkit – an Open Source content creation tool that enables non-technical staff to create, publish and share rich, interactive and engaging resources with high levels of accessibility built in.
- AccessApps – Over 50 free and open source Windows applications that can run from a memory stick to provide independent reading, writing and planning support to all learners accessing materials regardless of where they are.
- Web2Access – a toolkit designed to assist users and developers in their understanding of an approach to reviewing the accessibility of web-based applications. A useful source for practitioners and developers to check the accessibility and usability of their own resources.
The accessibility passport is a way of encouraging people who commission or design learning objects or software to take accessibility into account, and to give them feedback on the effectiveness and inclusivity of their materials. It provides feedback from the user and the deliverer to the commissioners and designers to encourage productive interaction.
The passport is an online document, that is available to everyone. The link to it is carried within the learning object or software. Accessibility passports are created by the online Passport generator with the generator guiding the developer in the production of a passport for his or her application.
In addition to technical accessibility OER also need to be pedagogically accessible. This is less of an issue for smaller OER where pedagogical context can be added or made explicit at the point of use or re-use. When OER are developed with a particular audience in mind pedagogical context might be incorporated within the OER or into the presentation of the OER (eg within a clear linear course structure).
This can make OER less accessible to a wider audiences. Presenting OER through different hosting mechanisms can improve accessibility – so OER can be made available through repositories in both smaller chunks or larger packages, or could be offered within a series of structured web pages or even as a part of a course (like in the Open University Labspace).