What's new in accessible teaching for 2007-08?

Author/Producer Simon Ball Senior (Advisor TechDis) / ESCalate
Published in ESCalate news
Date Published 23 October 2007
Pages 2


The second in a series of articles written for ESCalate, giving practical advice on how to improve aspects of teaching practice to benefit learners



The mission of TechDis is to support the education sector in achieving greater accessibility and inclusion by stimulating innovation and providing expert advice and guidance on disability and technology. One of the principal ways we do this is by working with the Higher Education Academy Subject Network to identify and explore discipline-specific aspects of accessibility and inclusion, in addition to providing more generic advice and guidance.

The HEAT Scheme

In order to uncover and develop good or innovative inclusive teaching practice in disciplines across HE, TechDis has developed the Higher Education Assistive Technology (HEAT) Scheme. Jointly funded by TechDis and the Higher Education Academy, the scheme is designed to allow members of teaching or support staff to apply for technology that will allow them to explore an aspect of inclusive teaching. The use of the phrase ‘Assistive Technology’ is kept deliberately broad, meaning ‘any technology that broadens the range of learning experiences offered to students’, as TechDis believe that focusing only upon students who have declared a specific disability is less helpful than improving practice that will aid all learners to varying degrees, depending upon their needs and preferred learning styles. Some of the findings from Round 1 of the HEAT Scheme (further details of all projects can be found at www.techdis.ac.uk/getheatscheme) include:

· Adapting Flash-based animations for use with an iPod or Creative Zen MP3 player. Some students reported a benefit from the new mobility of the learning object, others found the lack of functionality of the animation frustrating compared to the original PC-based version (Gkatzidou, Pearson and Bailey, University of Teesside).

· Providing podcasts as a recording of lectures (Gresty, University of Plymouth), a reinforcement of issues students had previously struggled with (Hindley, Nottingham Trent University) or a means to apply current news items to theory introduced in lectures (Leng, Bath Spa University).

· Using video camera technology to allow students to record feedback and reflection from placements, enabling them to record their feelings more ‘freely’ than in text form, and providing a resource for next year’s placement students to prepare them for the experience (Hellawell and Priestley, University of Bradford).

· Improving the basic numeracy of students returning to study after a prolonged break by using Nintendo DS Lites with ‘Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training Software’ in tutorial sessions (Pulman, Bournemouth University).

· Using a Talking Tactile Tablet to create tactile diagrams supported by audio files at key touch-points, thereby providing a rich alternative to an otherwise inherently visual concept (Chevins, Keele University).

· Employing mind mapping tools as an aid to essay planning and writing (Romer, University of York) and adding images to mind maps to provide better recall of content (Brown, University of Newcastle).

· Utilising ScreenRuler (software that highlights and magnifies a strip across the screen) to compare its value to dyslexic and non-dyslexic students. Both groups reported benefits including ‘stops you getting lost’ and making reading from the screen easier (McCready, University of Newcastle).

Round 2 of the HEAT scheme is now underway, and we will bring you some of the findings in later editions of the ESCalate newsletter. Further details of the scheme and the Round 1 projects can be found at www.techdis.ac.uk/getheatscheme.

Accessibility Essentials

TechDis has produced step-by-step guides to making your everyday practice more accessible. A fourth guide on making the most of PDFs is due for publication in the autumn term, but three guides are already available:

  • Accessibility Essentials 1: Making Electronic Documents More Readable
    • Practical step-by-step information, to enable anyone reading material to amend its look and feel into a style which suits them. These hints and tips will not only be of great use to people who read documents on-screen, but also to those presenting material (for example, via a data projector) in different lighting conditions, or those who work in differing levels of light (for example, while working on a train).
  • Accessibility Essentials 2: Writing Accessible Electronic Documents
    • This document is designed to outline the techniques people need to ensure the writing of accessible electronic information. This document concentrates on guidance for Microsoft® Word. When producing electronic information the biggest accessibility gain is ensuring the user can amend the look and feel in a way that suits them. However, there are a number of font and structure techniques that can increase the readability for a larger number of people.
  • Accessibility Essentials 3: Creating Accessible Presentations
    • This document provides information on the creation of accessible presentations, both for projection and wider use (for example, when a presentation is made available online) along with hints and tips on how to present to an audience in an accessible manner. This document concentrates on the use of Microsoft® PowerPoint.
Further InformationTechDis can provide advice and guidance on any aspect of accessibility and technology. See our website at www.techdis.ac.uk or email any questions to our helpdesk at helpdesk@techdis.ac.uk