Using multimedia to enhance the accessibility of the learning environment for disabled students: reflections from the Skills for Access project
As educators’ awareness of their responsibilities towards ensuring the accessibility of the learning environment to disabled students increases, significant debate surrounds the implications of accessibility requirements on educational multimedia. There would appear to be widespread concern that the fundamental principles of creating accessible web-based materials seem at odds with the creative and innovative use of multimedia to support learning and teaching, as well as concerns over the time and cost of providing accessibility features that can hold back resource development and application. Yet, effective use of multimedia offers a way of enhancing the accessibility of the learning environment for many groups of disabled students. Using the development of ‘Skills for Access’, a web resource supporting the dual aims of creating optimally accessible multimedia for learning, as an example, the attitudinal, practical and technical challenges facing the effective use of multimedia as an accessibility aid in a learning environment will be explored. Reasons why a holistic approach to accessibility may be the most effective in ensuring that multimedia reaches its full potential in enabling and supporting students in learning, regardless of any disability they may have, will be outlined and discussed.