Accessibility is concerned with the provision of content and services in a manner most suitable to the user, irrespective of any specific abilities or disabilities, in order to secure full participation. By appropriate design, based on awareness of both user needs and provider responsibilities, the delivery of materials should not present any significant barriers to the user. Accessibility is absolutely vital for any project aiming to produce truly ‘open’ educational resources. As we have seen above, full participation and the ethos of ‘openness’ depends to a large extent on accessibility. Openness should be applied in the widest social sense, in order to be truly inclusive. If open resources do not meet appropriate accessibility requirements then they have failed to be open in the first place.
A guiding philosophy in the OER movement is to maximise opportunities for engagement – not only as recipients but also as potential contributors (see Bruns, 2008). For a resource to be adopted (i.e. used ‘as is’) or adapted (i.e. enhanced, disaggregated or integrated into other resources) in another institution, it must be attractive in terms of its content and the standards it follows. However accessibility does not have to be onerous or restrictive; a lowest common denominator: ‘It merely needs to be carefully considered to avoid creating accidental barriers and provide alternative routes or enhancements.’ (McAndrew 2012)
Some key issues in accessibility include:
- The responsibility for the provision of accessible OERs should not solely reside with resource creators. While it is vital to increase awareness of teaching professionals of OER-related accessibility issues, at the same time, there is a need to provide adequate support in terms of technical resources, relevant institutional policies as well as guidance from learning technologists and accessibility specialists as and when needed.
- There are a number of relatively simple strategies that could greatly enhance the accessibility of OERs, such as using of accessibility features embedded within software packages or addressing accessibility considerations within resource description and so resource creators should be encouraged to take advantage of these simple ‘fixes’
- The key accessibility features include the provision of transcript for any audio/video material and ensuring that the resource is an easily customisable format
- There is a need to provide OER-related accessibility resources which address discipline specific issues alongside more generic resources which address the needs of teaching professionals who work in cross-disciplinary contexts
- There is a need to address accessibility features of platforms where OERs are deposited, and education repositories should be designed with accessibility in mind
- Accessibility issues are complex and should not be discussed in isolation from other OER-related issues such as copyright or academic practices related to sharing resources
- Finally, accessibility issues should be explicitly addressed within OER projects, such as UKOER programme; ideally, project managers should be encouraged to address accessibility issues within project documents and work packages.
For References see 2.6.6 References / Links to Further Resources