Increasingly, the teaching and learning content that students access is delivered online, whether through a learning platform or external web links. Changes to the disabled student allowance have put a legal obligation on learning providers to ensure that resources used in teaching and learning are accessible. Many organisations have responded by investing in commercial assistive technologies across the network but these are often underutilized. Depending on network configurations, they may have to be installed by the user for each session. Sometimes they have been setup incorrectly so fail to work with particular browsers. Sometimes a disabled student does not want to be using different software from everybody else, particularly if they only need a subset of the features available. Where available, commercial tools can make the difference between a student succeeding and a student failing; but commercial tools may not always be available, for example in a work placement or on the student’s personal laptop. In these circumstances, an awareness of assistive technologies available as browser plugins can be extremely useful. Furthermore, the availability of a ‘productivity tool suite’ sitting in a browser menu bar helps create a culture of assistive technology being a mainstream tool that can benefit all users at different times and in different contexts.
This is a practical session where we invite delegates to bring their laptops (we won’t be looking at tablet/phone browsers), and install selected plugins. The session is structured around genres of assistive technology plugins that reflect particular challenges faced by different types of student. These will include support for effective reading, personalisation of browser colours / contrasts, note taking, referencing and study aids. We set the practical work in the wider context of the things to look out for when installing plugins and we point delegates to some tried and tested examples.
Delegates will leave the session with a Swiss army knife of tools on their browser, and some experience in using them on a range of online resources.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
The session is based on several years experience in working with browser plugins to support students with disabilities. This type of workshop has been delivered in a range of contexts from training University support staff through to working with tutors in Adult Community settings and students preparing to transition to university.
Although the session will make recommendations as to particular plugins, one of the session objectives is to create a culture of enquiry. In many cases, plug-ins can be short-lived so having the curiosity and skill to find a replacement for a favourite tool is a significant learning outcome of the session.
Organisations wishing to broaden and promote the use of plugins could evaluate their effectiveness in a variety of ways. One of the most effective ways would be to conduct longitudinal studies of different disabled users before and after they were given access to information / training on these tools and techniques.
McNaught. A (2016) Browsers – a hidden solution. [online] Accessible Organisations. Available at: https://accessibility.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2016/02/11/browsers/ [last accessed 23 March 2018]
University of Wisconsin Green Bay. Accessibility Extensions for Chrome. [Online] Disability services . Available at https://www.uwgb.edu/ds/resources/students/browser-extensions/chrome.asp
Resources for participants
Browsers – a hidden solution. https://accessibility.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2016/02/11/browsers/ last accessed March 2018
Jisc guidance on Browser Accessibility https://www.learningapps.co.uk/moodle/xertetoolkits/play.php?template_id=1117 last accessed March 2018