|Image credit: Phil Roeder (CC)|
Accessibility is the removal of barriers. Barriers can relate to physics and mental disabilities, but also to geography, culture, ethnicity and gender. In an educational context it means providing equitable access to educational opportunities to all.
Accessibility is a responsibility of all of us. In an (online) educational context there is a shared responsibility of administrators, course developers & designers, teaching staff and co-learners to ensure that everyone has access to an equivalent (not necessarily equal) learning experience.
Online learning has potential to remove barriers for disabled learners. Online learning doesn’t require transportation to campuses and lecture halls. Learners have more control over what and how much they disclose to whom. Various tools enable learners to overcome all kinds of impairments and engage in online communication with fellow learners. Online learners may enable disabled learners to be real peer learners and engage more easily in a reciprocal, ‘give and take’ relationship. However, online learning may also increase barriers, due to badly designed software and learning materials, or due to a lack of personal support.
In developing countries 90% of children with disabilities do not attend school (UNICEF data). In Cambodia there are both political, economic and cultural reasons for the lack of accessibility to education in my opinion. Ensuring accessibility is not a matter for a small minority of the population. An estimated 20% of the population in Australia and New-Zealand have a disability. Lifelong learning means that more learners are elderly people, with various kinds of impairments. Impairments may be temporary such as a broken arm. Accessible learning materials are also flexible learning materials, catering for various styles and contexts, thereby benefiting all learners.