Universally Designed Web Pages: A Case Study on Access Issues for a Student with a Learning Disability

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Background

John has a severe learning disability that affects his ability to read. He uses a text-to-speech system to read computer screen text to him. He is attending his first semester at a small, private college. Each student at the school is given an email account for academic use. The directions for establishing and using the email account are available in printed format and on the computing services website.

Access Issue

John was having difficulty accessing the electronic information at the computing services website with his screen reading software.

[A computer screen is shown with some text highlighted.] Select the image to the right to view a captioned video clip, in Real Player format, about the use of screen reading software for individuals with learning disabilities.

Solution

John came to the disabled student services office for help with email. The disabled student services counselor helped John establish his email account by reading the directions to him. The disabled student services counselor then followed up with computing services and provided them with information on how to make their website accessible. He described how the format of the electronic information on the website was not compatible with screen reading software used by students with learning disabilities, as well as by those who are blind.

Conclusions

This case study illustrates the following:

  1. Campus computing services and other campus departments should make sure that their electronic resources are accessible to students with disabilities.
  2. Clear accessibility guidelines should be available to those on campus who develop web resources.
  3. Short-term accommodations can be employed to address accessibility barriers to electronic resources; however, information technology that is developed with access in mind can eliminate the need for these temporary accommodations.

Last update or review: January 24, 2013