TeSLA Project has a strong commitment to consider the accessibility issue. Students with special educational needs and/or disabilities are also included as potential users of the TeSLA system. The commitment follows the EU action to promote inclusive education and lifelong learning for students with disabilities (European Disability Strategy 2010).
At present, there is a strong approval for the interpretation of disability according to the social model of disability, which indicates that disability is located in social practice rather than in an individual body. That means a person may have a particular impairment, but it is the impact of decisions made by society that causes it to be a disability. Therefore, while building up new educational practices it is good to be aware of one’s own role as a potential creator of disability.
Students with disabilities are also a widely divergent group and there is not a one right way to meet the e-learning needs of such a diverse group of people. Disability is activated differently online than in face-to-face meetings. Some impairments may have less impact when using the internet while others may be significantly disabling online. Thus, good design and accessibility for study and assessment modes are important for students with impairments or other special educational needs. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that taking care of those aspects usually means good education and good practices for other students as well. However, this has also been criticized and some suggestions have been made that some adjustments may turn out to be a hindrance to other users.
E-learning can also be seen as an inclusion promoter. The positive impacts of e-learning are for example flexibility and adaptability, access to inclusive and equitable education, access to learning experience, empowerment, independence and freedom. In the TeSLA project the promotion of inclusive education is planned to appear as the good accessibility and usability of the TeSLA system. The system itself will be developed to reduce the current restrictions of time and physical space in teaching and learning and especially in assessment. The system is also expected to improve study opportunities for all people. Even though the exact information of the technical aspects or limits of the system is not yet available, the strength of the TeSLA system is the diversity of alternative identification systems.
All the integrated technology (e.g. web browsers and virtual learning environments) affect the user experience and need to be assessed from the accessibility point of view regularly. In addition, sufficient and accessible instructions and guidelines, as well as guidance, support and services must be provided for all users. Ensuring the accessibility of the TeSLA system means that the system needs to be developed from the very beginning to be accessible for all students. All of the TeSLA pilot groups also include students with disabilities to ensure the relevant data and feedback for accessibility of the system.
University of Jyväskylä, TeSLA Team
FUNDED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION
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