The Guidelines aim to be content and context free, but offer some concrete examples of how they can be applied to different learning situations.
The Guidelines consider different levels of information accessibility, ranging from easy instructions to professional instructions, and include some aspects for ICT and accessibility experts. There are many steps an average IT user can take to achieve a certain degree of accessibility. However, the creation of some materials – such as e-books and interactive learning materials – requires more sophisticated software than the average user may have access to. These Guidelines focus on the steps every practitioner can take to make the learning information they produce as accessible as possible.
These Guidelines are available as a stand-alone document, as well as an OER that supports searching across different types of information and media. The Guidelines as OER are open for users to adapt to their context, as well as to comment on and contribute to.
The Guidelines build on a set of premises:
- The general steps to achieve accessible information are universal. Therefore the Guidelines apply to information in general and to information for learning in particular.
- The Guidelines take an inclusive approach and do not focus on particular disabilities or special educational needs.
- The challenges regarding the accessibility of content vary hugely according to the structural complexity of the content. For example, a typical bestseller book is structurally less complex than educational/scientific material.
- The accessibility of learning materials has specific challenges, for example interactivity between the learner and the content, filling in forms or usage of formulas for which technology does not yet offer easy solutions for non-ICT experts.
- In some cases, providing accessible information is not enough. Many users and learners with disabilities and/or special needs also require access to assistive technologies. The use of assistive devices is not made redundant by the provision of accessible information, but complements it.
- Providers of information in general and information for learning in particular do not have to be accessibility experts in order to achieve a basic level of information accessibility.
- The Guidelines do not encompass every step in the production of accessible information, nor do they replace existing resources. The Guidelines are a carefully considered and validated starting point for producing accessible information that leads to more detailed resources including descriptions, tutorials, recommendations or standards.
- The Guidelines are not a static resource, but are intended to be adapted to varying contexts, technological developments and to grow with usage (for example, adaptations could be made for texts with a right-to-left reading direction).
- The Guidelines can support the creation of new, accessible content, as well as support the review of existing material.
- Currently technology is in a transition phase regarding the production, distribution and reading of accessible information. Software allows users to create most material in an accessible format. However, in newer technologies, such as e-books, games and mobile applications, software for average users to create this is not always available. Therefore there are currently limits to what the average user can create with accessibility in mind.
- Given the limits of producing accessible information with average software, there are actions which can be outsourced to third parties, such as IT specialists or web developers. These Guidelines can support requirements to be mentioned as criteria in the procurement process.
These Guidelines build on two steps for action:
Step 1 describes how to create accessible information via text, images, and audio.
Step 2 considers how media can be made accessible – for example, electronic documents, online sources or printed material.
These two steps build upon each other. By following the Guidelines in Step 1 to make different types of information accessible, Step 2 becomes easier as already accessible information is available to be used within the different media.
For each step, the Guidelines provide recommendations on how different types of information can be made accessible. Each recommendation is accompanied by a list of resources available to support this process. The resources listed in the following sections are categorised into:
- ‘easy’: actions which can be completed with a general knowledge of common software programmes;
- ‘advanced’: actions which can be completed with an in-depth knowledge of common software programmes; and
- ‘professional’ levels: actions which can be completed with a more professional knowledge of software and general knowledge of programming.
Applying the Guidelines by making use of the recommendations and resources will lead to more accessible information for learning.