Ron McCallum was born blind. Regardless, he managed to fall in love with reading soon after. In this funny and heartfelt talk, he tours the history of reading gear for the blind and shows how each new design has impacted his life.
Professor Ron McCallum AO is one of Australia’s most respected industrial and discrimination lawyers and a prominent human rights advocate. With a long and successful career as a legal academic and teacher, in 1993 he became the first totally blind person appointed to a full professorship at any Australian university when he became Professor in Industrial Law at the University of Sydney.
He served as Dean of the University of Sydney Law School for 5 years and is now an Emeritus Professor. Ron is a leading light in the disabled community, working for equality among all Australians. He is also Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2011, Ron was named Senior Australian of the Year. His interests include reading, listening to music and meditation.
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Today I came across an article from the Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind. The article, Making Online Courses Accessible for All by John Christie, was brief but included several key points which are of interest to those working to make online courses accessible.
One is that faculty members who teach online have to make their materials accessible to all.
Online courses should be accessible from the beginning. Professors should not wait until a disabled student self identifies.
There is a short paragraph about a recent suit at the University of Montana. For more details on the suit see the separate article entitled Disabled UM students file complaint over inaccessible online courses (from the Montana paper Missoulian).
The specific allegations listed:
• Inaccessible class assignments and materials on the learning management system, Moodle.
• Inaccessible live chat and discussion board functions in the learning management system, Moodle.
• Inaccessible documents that are scanned images on webpages and websites.
• Inaccessible videos, and videos in Flash format, that are not captioned.
• Inaccessible library database materials.
• Inaccessible course registration through a website, Cyber Bear.
• Inaccessible classroom clickers.
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First, let’s define a screen reader.
Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer. A screen reader is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen. A command can instruct the synthesizer to read or spell a word, read a line or full screen of text, find a string of text on the screen, announce the location of the computer’s cursor or focused item, and so on.
from American Federation for the Blind (opens in a new window)
Now, watch a video of a user with a screen reader.
I’d like to share a video of Neal Ewers of the Trace Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. He shows how he uses a screen reader and talks a bit about what this means for designers.
Next, try to simulate using a screen reader yourself.
The directions for this simulation point out that you may be frustrated trying to find the answers to the questions on this website for a fake university. The creators have tried to simulate what blind readers experience when using many web sites.
WebAIM Screen Reader Simulation (opens in a new window)
Now, download a screen reader to your own computer and use it with any website or document.
NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) software (opens in a new window) enables blind and vision impaired people to use a computer by communicating what is on the screen using a synthetic voice or braille. You can use this to see what your web page will sound like in a screen reader. If you are trying to simulate blindness, just turn off the monitor and try to navigate a web page using only NVDA.
NVDA is a screen reader for Microsoft Windows that is totally free, yet fully functional and portable. You can download it to your PC, or to portable media such as a USB stick which you can use with any computer at school, work – anywhere!
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Another article from The Chronicle of Higher Education – Wired Campus (June 29, 2011) about students suing a university over lack of accessibility. I know our instructional design team talks about this issue a lot. We are moving to Moodle 2.0 soon and know that there will be some challenges making sure all content is accessible.
Blind Florida State U. Students Sue Over E-Learning Systems
Two blind students at Florida State University have sued the institution and its Board of Trustees for discrimination, arguing that a mathematics course at the university relied on e-learning systems that were not accessible to the disabled.
by Jie Jenny Ziu
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