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JILT 2009 (3) - Ball

Making Law Teaching Accessible and Inclusive

Simon Ball,
Senior Advisor, JISC TechDis
Helen James
Head of Law, University of Winchester

Abstract

Best practice in teaching suggests considering a wide range of ways in which learning can be enabled, some of which can be supported by the use of technology. Legislation requires that teaching be inclusive to students with a range of needs including disabilities. This paper introduces a variety of ways in which technology can be integrated into everyday law teaching practice to enhance accessibility and inclusion. Many of these techniques do not require law teachers to be experts in the use of technology, and some can be integrated into everyday practice with minimal effort. Suggestions for ‘reasonable adjustments’ are given in relation to a range of user needs, and case studies exemplifying some strategies adopted by particular institutions in moving towards more inclusive law teaching are described. Finally this paper suggests seven questions law teachers might ask in order to determine their approach to inclusion in relation to each piece of learning – whether they change the current medium of delivery, add to it by offering a range of routes to achieving the learning outcomes, or provide alternatives as and when required.


This is a Refereed Article published on 22nd December 2009.

Citation: Ball, Simon, and Helen James, 'Making Law Teaching Accessible and Inclusive', 2009(3) Journal of Information, Law & Technology (JILT), <http://go.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/2009_3/ball>.


Keywords

Inclusion, inclusive teaching, technology, accessibility, e-learning, reasonable adjustment, disability


"If a teacher today is not technologically literate - and is unwilling to make the effort to learn more - it's equivalent to a teacher 30 years ago who didn't know how to read and write ." Fisch, 2007, winner 'Most Influential Blog Post, EduBlog Awards 2007

1. Introduction

Innovations in teaching have the potential to provide and liberate, but there exists also a responsibility on lecturers to ensure they do not prevent and restrict access to learning. This is not the same as suggesting all teaching materials must be accessible to all learners, which can be an unhelpful approach, resulting in the stifling of innovation. The key is to ensure all students, regardless of any impairment or disability they may have, can access the learning and achieve the learning outcomes - sometimes this may mean modifications to a mainstream resource, and sometimes it may mean creating separate resources, which usually carry added benefit for a range of learners in addition to the intended beneficiaries.

There are a vast variety of types of teaching styles and resources with many purposes and myriad audiences. All of these factors play a part in the actions that must be taken to ensure the teaching is as accessible as is appropriately achievable. Teaching resources may be simple or complex, textual or graphical, they may be for undergraduates or postgraduates, for information provision or skills development. They may be for consumption by the wider public (for example MIT's Open Courseware (MIT, 2009)) or a known subset of them (such as students enrolled upon a particular university course or module) with known characteristics. These factors must be determined before any consideration of accessibility can be made.

The increasing pervasiveness of ICT into the realm of the law teacher or lecturer offers an opportunity for increased engagement with a wider variety of learners. In some instances the characteristics of these users are known and can be directly catered for, but in some cases the user audience (or at least their specific requirements) are not known. The range of possible characteristics and needs across this audience is potentially as large as within the general populace, and online resources must be designed and created with this factor very much in mind. However, this does not mean that creativity need be limited, or that materials that are inaccessible to some cannot be used to bring benefits to others. This article will highlight the effects that good and poor teaching practice can have on the learner's experience.

It is important to note that the designers and creators of learning materials are not expected to be experts in assistive technology - the scope and function of the technologies available are always changing and there are experts who can advise on the way they interact with the web. Rather, teachers and lecturers should be aware of the ways in which learners interact with their materials, regardless of the technology they use to do so, and ensure their teaching meets all types of need so far as is possible. If that is done, then the only barrier to a learner will be technological, and usually in time technological barriers can be overcome with expert assistance.

Some basic principles may be worth bearing in mind with respect to developing inclusive law teaching (from LSIS Excellence Gateway, 2009):

  • there is no single solution for accessibility;
  • the optimum "reasonable adjustment" may depend on the nature of the learner, the nature of the impairment, the nature of the resource, the learning objectives and the context of use;
  • the most time-consuming and expensive adjustments are not always the most effective;
  • staff supporting learners often have a range of alternative adjustments they can make in discussion with the learner.

2. Learner characteristics

If your student audience is discrete and known, certain assumptions can be made regarding the likely user characteristics in terms of level of academic ability, perhaps also technical ability, for example where the resource will only be accessed by a specific year group on a law programme, or the mode of access and support is restricted, perhaps only accessible during supervised sessions. However, assumptions about the learners' needs or impairments cannot be made, because not all such needs are evident to the observer, or even known to the learner themselves in some instances. If the audience is much wider or public, then no assumptions can be made at all.

3. Practical advice for specific needs

In this section we attempt to address some of the more common specific needs that law teachers will come across in their daily practice and how assistance can be provided. It is important to remember that not all needs will be obvious and indeed many learners may either not know that they have a particular difficulty or they may feel, for a variety of reasons, that they do not wish to disclose this. As law teachers this means that we should endeavour to produce a suite of learning resources that is accessible to as wide a group of students as possible (indeed in Law teaching the onus may be more keenly upon us to do so, as we work in a field where language alone can cause considerable difficulty for many learners (Plain English Campaign, 2009a). This is not a difficult or onerous task in most cases. It requires only a little thought in adapting or developing materials that we may already use. It is important to remember that the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA (1995), as amended) requires only that students with specific needs are not 'substantially disadvantaged'[1]; there is no requirement that every resource has to be accessible to all users, but merely that the offering as a whole must be accessible to all users.

3.1 Users who have difficulty seeing things

Some learners have no vision, some have low vision, some will be able to see only part of a page or screen at one time (for example if requiring magnification), some will be unable to distinguish certain, or indeed any, colours or colour combinations. These are all issues to consider when putting together learning materials, and are usually easy to simulate to some degree to check whether resources are accessible or not.

As lawyers we need to be able to access considerable amounts of complex textual information, which of course poses specific difficulties for visually impaired learners. There are a number of ways in which assistance can be provided- none of them a panacea, and no one method suitable for all students and all purposes. A general rule of thumb is to keep passages of text short, using as many subheadings or new paragraphs as possible (Plain English Campaign, 2009b), and to orient tables so that they are 'tall and narrow' rather than 'short and wide' where possible. Long tables should feature repeated column headings every 8-10 rows to aid those listening to the table via a screen reader (JISC TechDis, 2009a).

A range of assistive technologies are available to support learners with visual impairments and are discussed in more detail under this heading by JISC TechDis (2009b). There are a range of ways in which text can be made accessible, such as reading aloud (which can be automatically provided by staff, using free software such as D-Speech or Robobraille (JISC TechDis, 2009c)), enlarged print and screen magnification. It is however worth pointing out that most visually impaired people do not use Braille extensively for reading long pieces of text. Additionally most will not be able to use Braille to a sufficiently complex level for purposes of understanding the technical language of law. Therefore the time consuming and costly process of transcribing materials into Braille may be of little benefit to most visually impaired students.

However, in terms of routine law teaching we can do a number of things to assist all students, in particular those with visual impairments. Below are a few techniques you may be able to utilise to this end.

One of the specific problems faced by visually impaired law students is the accessibility of printed copies of law reports and legislation. Working in pairs with a sighted reader can overcome this to some extent but it may be necessary to ensure that the use of online material where a screen reader can be used becomes regarded as acceptable in these circumstances. Failing that, familiarity with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software will enable electronic copies (that can be recognised by screen reading software) to be produced from paper text documents. It is worth noting that the Society of Visually Impaired Lawyers (SoVIL) offers support and advice to students and lecturers, as does the RNIB, who have an excellent library and transcription service, while JISC TechDis offer guidance on obtaining texts in alternative formats for visually impaired students.

PowerPoint presentations can and should be provided in electronic format directly to any student who needs them. Ensure with any PowerPoints provided in electronic format (including mounted online or on a Virtual Learning Environment such as Moodle or Blackboard) that the text contained on the slide is either visible in Outline View or is copied into the Notes field - the slide itself is not accessible to screen readers but the Outline View and Notes field are. Be sure to provide in the Notes field descriptions of any images or diagrams (JISC TechDis, 2009d).

If video is used it will be of value to many students, but for students with visual difficulties it is important to ensure a transcript or scene descriptors are used - an excellent guide to making audiovisual material accessible can be found at Skills For Access (2009), while Youtube have recently launched features that enable automatic captioning of uploaded videos (Google, 2009).

If creating web-based materials, attention should be paid to the number of links per page, as it has been shown that scanning a page containing many links can be an onerous task for blind and visually impaired learners (Brazier and Jennings, 1999).

Where we are aware that we have visually impaired students, images should be described and their relevance to the topic explained, the amount of detail given depending on the use to which the material is to be put. Generally, however, the advice is to avoid information overload and use images only when necessary and when they add something to a presentation. If images (including flow or process diagrams) are central to a concept, it may be worth producing a Tactile Diagram (most universities' Disability Office will have the technology to do this, otherwise see the RNIB National Centre for Tactile Diagrams).

Tables can present a peculiar set of difficulties for visually impaired students because they exploit the visual capacity to scan. Small tables are not usually a problem, but they should be oriented towards few columns and many rows, rather than many columns and few rows, because screen readers will progress linearly row by row. If there are many rows, repeat column headings every 10 rows to remind users what each column represents. Large tables will be difficult to use in Braille or even under magnification, as following a long row or column can be very difficult when using magnification software. It may be appropriate to draw out into the text specific features of the data contained within the table, particularly if the table is being used to illustrate a specific point or points.

It may be more difficult to create workarounds if the problem lies with third party resources - for example many web resources containing case information require the use of Captcha[2] technology to enable login - this can be impossible for blind users, and so when using with students resources that deploy this technology you may need to consider perhaps directing students to work in pairs, for example, to get around the problem.

3.2 Users who have difficulty hearing things

Some of your learners may be Deaf and others hard of hearing. This has implications not just for the use of sound in teaching (audio and video files and related subtitling or transcription issues, for example), but also in that many deaf users' first language will be British Sign Language (BSL). BSL has a different structure and syntax to written or spoken English (and is recognised as a language in its own right) and so the use of Plain English (for further information see the Plain English Campaign) will be beneficial to this group, as well as to other users for whom English is not their first language. Whilst most people with major hearing needs would have an interpreter or support assistant to help with taking notes in lectures, consideration must be given to their use of other, perhaps web-based resources - in particular resources where rapid language processing will be required, for example discussion fora.

It is becoming extremely popular for law lecturers to use film and podcast materials to support their teaching. This is to be welcomed due to the inclusion benefits it brings. However this also poses obvious difficulties for the hearing impaired student. However, it is in most situations possible now to use a subtitle function that will substantially resolve this issue - see Skills For Access (2009) or Youtube (2009) for further advice on this. Be careful when providing transcripts or subtitles to convey context as well as spoken word (for example, if an actor's face in a mock trial is conveying one emotion while their words are conveying another).

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing may have difficulty in situations such as moots where vocal contributions are made from a variety of directions. It is good practice to pass around a microphone to speakers if one is available, or at least to encourage contributors to stand before speaking to enable students who are deaf or hard of hearing to locate them and face the sound. Repeating the words of quieter contributors may also help.

In contrast to visually impaired learners, students who are BSL users may prefer a visual or diagrammatic representation of key concepts to a text-based description. This contradiction highlights the importance of providing a mix of media in a given course to prevent particular students being continually disadvantaged. Mind maps can be a useful way of meeting a variety of needs, as they are inherently visual but can usually be readily converted into text equivalents.

3.3 Users who have difficulty accessing text

A high proportion of the population has some kind of cognitive need, including a variety of conditions known collectively as dyslexia. Other needs manifest in a variety of ways, such as difficulties with numbers, time or information management, navigation and short term memory. The difficulties experienced by dyslexic students are varied in both nature and severity. However, there are also often strengths that make dyslexic students ideal lawyers: these include:

  • Problem solving and lateral thinking abilities,
  • The ability to think 'outside the box',
  • Creativity.

Because the nature of dyslexia is so diverse this means that support will often need to be negotiated directly with the learner. However, there are a range of everyday adaptations we can make to our materials that will assist.

Clarity of purpose, layout and structure of your resources will aid these users. Most significantly the provision of materials well in advance of the time at which they are actually needed can be of considerable help, especially to law students where organisation and comprehension of substantial amounts of text is often required.

Try not to use black on white - either in printed material or in presentation slides, as this combination is known to cause issues for many students with dyslexia or visual impairment (WebAIM, undated). Where possible use a lightly coloured background. Many dyslexics prefer a sans-serif font (although there is debate around this issue for the general populace (Poole, 2004) so you may find you satisfy more students by using a font such as Arial in a font size of no lower than 11 for printed material and 24 for PowerPoint slides (if you need to reduce slide text below 24 point, you have too much information on the slide!).

Text should not be justified but left aligned. This is because justification leaves uneven spaces between letters and words that can be difficult for dyslexic students to interpret (PATOSS, 2006).

Avoid using capital letters inappropriately and avoid italicised text (to demarcate a quote, for example, indenting will not decrease readability whereas italicising will), again dyslexic students can find these hard to interpret.

Where possible avoid making online materials 'read only' as this will enable students to choose their own preference of font, layout, background colour etc. These are simple amendments that are not specific to law teaching. However, they can make the world of difference.

It will also help these learners if you try to avoid scenarios where reading or writing is required within a timed context - allowing extra time is an obvious but blunt modification which rarely enables the student to perform at their best, and an alternative without the timing / writing combination may be more suitable. Amongst law teachers this always raises the cry that we are obliged by the JASB (Joint Academic Stage Board), at least in so far as the foundation subjects are concerned, to assess by at least 50% examination. It is important to remember however, that no definition of 'examination' is given. Nowhere in the guidance does it say that this has to be entirely a time constrained exercise (although clearly there has to be some element of this!). For instance an oral examination could be offered for some students, or a take-away paper could be given, for completion over the course of a day, week, month or even a term.

Finally, in common with a range of other students with specific needs, those with dyslexia often have difficulty concentrating for long periods. It is in any event good teaching practice to break sessions down into smaller sub-sessions and to vary the activities. This is particularly important for dyslexic students who often find active learning much more effective. This is something that can easily be accommodated, given the move many law departments are making towards a more skills-based approach to teaching. Providing materials that can be accessed remotely can also assist here and will enable a student to compensate for short attention span by accessing complicated law materials at their own pace.

Case Study Example demonstrating the use of technology to turn a traditionally text-based process (feedback on assignments) into one suitable both for learners with and without difficulties accessing text. "Using podcasts and vodcasts in assessment and feedback practices in Law and Economics" (Smedley, 2009)

The project team was awarded under the JISC TechDis HEAT Scheme Flip Video cameras, voice recorders and headphones to provide feedback on student assignments in audio and video formats. It was expected that the podcasts would be the most popular with vodcasts being a second stage. However, the video application was more appealing to the staff involved (due to the ease of development). Following feedback from vodcasts in Law modules, students commented that they had valued the additional approaches in feedback. They commented that it provided opportunities to review the content discussed in face-to-face classes and also provided a more emotive transfer of information.

All staff involved in this project had had no previous experience of using modern technologies in assessment and feedback. The project has demonstrated that the vodcast developments have increased optimism and confidence among staff in using technology in enhancing the student learning experience. Given the embryonic nature of technologically focused learning and teaching initiatives within the School with the resulting challenge of inexperience of the staff, the outputs achieved (tangible outputs of podcasts/vodcasts and the more non-tangible outputs of raised confidence in using technology and greater vision in application) have been encouraging, contributing to the continuing development of learning technology approaches. The methodology worked albeit with some initial modifications to accommodate the limited initial expertise of staff. However, the rapid demonstrable progress with associated increased vision encouraged others to become involved, whether formally (in using the equipment) or informally (in listening and becoming aware of the project and progress). The reaction of students in their responses to the staff productions, such as expecting higher quality of video resources, was a surprise, and highlights that student skills and expectations are often greater than those of the staff in certain aspects.

3.4 Users who have difficulty handling and manipulating things

This group of learners includes people who cannot physically access a computer using the conventional input devices (i.e. a keyboard or mouse). It may be considered reasonable to assume that all learners will be able to input to a computer using some device, but not to predict what that device might be (for example via voice recognition software, virtual or physical head pointing or screen reading and navigating devices).

Ensuring documents are available electronically is one of the most common and helpful adjustments for students with requirements related to mobility and dexterity. Simply avoiding the need to carry around books and folders can help a great deal, but often the tutor needs to make efforts to ensure this provision is effected (JISC TechDis, 2009e). Law texts are often large and heavy. Many publishers are now happy to provide electronic copies where necessary. This makes text accessible to a wide range of students, not only those who have physical difficulty, but also dyslexic students and others who may benefit from either adapting text into a format to suit their individual needs or having text read aloud to them. Loading resources onto the VLE can also help students to acquire documents only where and when they need them.

Certain activities may require modification - for example drag-and-drop exercises may need a slight modification to enable them to be completed via the keyboard with a click-to-pick-up and click-to-drop facility. You will need to ensure that if materials cannot be accessed by people with mobility and dexterity needs, a workaround or alternative is considered, so that it can be provided quickly if required.

The use of online materials is becoming increasingly popular in law teaching. When creating online materials (or documents that will be posted online or on a VLE) try to make it possible to navigate the materials without a great deal of scrolling. For Word and PDF documents using Heading Styles and Bookmarks makes documents much more easily navigable (JISC TechDis, 2009d) for further details. For web-based resources providing a site map to enable the student to jump from any page to any other page will help, for example if a student knows they need page 15 of a VLE-based module they should be able to get there in a couple of clicks instead of having to click 'Next' 15 times.

Tolerance may also need to be given, particularly in examination situations, to typing errors. If extra time is allowed it should be possible for this to be applied flexibly by the student to the parts of the assessment in which they need it most.

Specific adjustments may need to be made for assessment situations. For example many users with limited mobility or dexterity make use of voice recognition software to enter text into their computer, but this only works effectively in the setting for which the students has 'trained' it, and so it may not be as efficient in an exam room (even if the student is allowed to use their own computer or has their own 'trained file' transferred to the exam computer).

Case Study Example demonstrating the use of technology to support students with mobility or dexterity difficulties. "ALERT Project " (ALERT, 2005) C

Below is an extract from a series of case studies prepared for the ALERT project run by Durham and Bournemouth Universities between 2003 and 2005. This extract relates to the use of a virtual learning environment and discussion boards by a student "A" with Cerebral Palsy. "A" is a full-time Law student who is a very confident computer user and rates her competence in using the VLE as good. She accesses the VLE every day but does not feel that it has any effect on face-to-face delivery of her classes. She does not feel her use of the VLE has affected the amount of notes she takes in lectures. "A" likes the convenience of the VLE as it offers online volumes and reading lists that remove some of the necessity for her to go to the library or carry heavy books. Pre-prepared online reading lists also ensure that she doesn't have to spend as long looking for books, alleviating the pressure on her back.

"A" comments on the use of technology in learning:

"If you could go in (to the discussion board) and just have a look at what issues people have raised, maybe it's something you haven't thought about, so probably it would be interesting, and quite useful in that sense"

"A" comments on technology supporting her with her disability:

"(With the VLE) when the library shuts I can still be in my room and I can check my emails and things in the comfort of where I've got, like, a back support and things. I've got a special kneeling chair that gives my back a break and I can't use that in a library facility so it's really easy to have (the VLE) straight into your room, being able to contact people straight from your bedroom..."

3.5 Users who have difficulty communicating with others

This includes students with hearing impairment, speech difficulties and those on the autistic spectrum among others. Some students may have problems in communicating in written, spoken or kinaesthetic language and providing assistance in the learning of law, which is not only language-based but presents many linguistic peculiarities of its own, can be challenging (Plain English Campaign, 2009a). The study of law involves developing the ability to communicate in a variety of ways and to that end we employ myriad techniques such as mooting, debate, negotiation, or mock trials, as well as more traditional methods of written communication. Where we have students with communication difficulties we need to consider how they can engage with the process and yet not be disadvantaged in relation to others. Where work is written problems are more easily resolved through the provision of scribes or readers or a revision to the activity to allow for non-written submissions where appropriate. However, where work is oral and the student has specific difficulties in this area, this is more problematic and in some instances, especially in assessed work, an alternative may have to be found. It may be possible to deliver a moot for instance in a written format.

Case Study Example demonstrating the use of technology to support students with communication or confidence difficulties. "User testing the SIMPLE VLE " (Counsell, 2009)

The project leader was awarded under the JISC TechDis HEAT Scheme a laptop computer, digital video camera and digital voice recorder. The department uses a VLE called SIMPLE (simulated professional legal education) which was designed to simulate a transactional learning environment for law students although it is applicable to other disciplines. The developers considered issues of accessibility when developing the environment but wished to conduct a more formal examination of the accessibility issues when moving on to the next phase, particularly for the next version of this environment which would produce inter alia, check lists for what lecturers need to consider when dealing with special needs students and to provide on-line support for staff. The SIMPLE environment is used for the first year Law of Torts module as a method of assessment. The project divided the students in to 28 teams containing an average of 4 members who took on the roles of solicitors advising either a claimant (a victim of a personal injury accident at work) or the defendant employer - the University of Cwmfelin. The environment invented a fictional welsh town called Cwmfelin, a map, a directory, allowing students to receive information in the form of documents, photographs, from role playing members inside the simulation, usually their senior partner (the tutors).

The environment allowed the students to choose their own team members. The simulation was divided in to four states with teams needing to be closely supervised through the character of a senior partner who would sign them off each state before they proceeded to the next. They would also interact with a senior partner. The project leader initially used the lap top computer to work with these students in the classroom in order to provide support. Once the project had been underway and the students had gained some confidence, the lap top and digital video camera were used to allow the tutor to conduct interviews with the students interacting with the software whilst being filmed. Use of the lap top in class allowed the students to gain confidence in using the software within the classroom environment and to raise any issues they might have. The students provided very useful guidance regarding the issues of inclusion. The project leader reported that it was fascinating to listen to their opinions generally and suggested that the way in which this exercise was carried out allowed them to reveal their own opinions in an uninhibited manner.

The project leader thought at the start of this project they would be reporting on the physical aspects of the VLE e.g. layout, colour etc but came to realise:

"that the method of working encouraged by this environment was also an important factor for special needs students. The original developers of this environment appear to have hit on a method of working that is very beneficial to the needs of many students. The students appreciated being able to break down tasks, to work at their own pace and to be given the opportunity to check their work for presentation, spelling etc. before communications. They would not feel so comfortable in class doing this. Sometimes class work just moved at too quick a pace for them to assimilate information or they lacked the confidence to participate in class work. Inclusion does not mean students are different or separate; it is a means of ensuring as far as possible that such students are able to fully participate in all learning opportunities offered to them which can benefit all users."

The student completion rate in this year was excellent compared with other years, with only one team out of 28 failing to engage. All of the project's students completed and all gained marks over 60%, which the project leader reported "was most encouraging". The students seemed to blossom within this type of environment and appeared to enjoy this method of working. The tutor doesn't think this saved staff time but suggested that it would not take up much staff time to consider these issues before such a project started. According to the project leader "the benefits produced in terms of student satisfaction, increase in confidence and development are beyond measure".

3.6 Users with other needs

There are numerous other needs that in any given cohort of learners will feature to some extent. These include, for example, needs related to mental health, diabetes or fatigue (for example it may not be appropriate for someone with diabetes or fatigue to sit two-three-hour exams in one day), and specific conditions such as epilepsy or autism (for example it is common for people with autism to find flashing displays or repetitive sounds (such as a ticking clock) especially distracting, or to experience difficulty in interpreting two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional objects (JISC TechDis, 2005).

3.7 Technological Needs

Some of your learners may do much of their learning on public transport, looking after children, or in breaks during their employment. Therefore many learners may be accessing learning via a mobile device with a small screen - you should test any resources you use to see how they exhibit on these devices. Some learners may access the web at home via a slow internet connection - you may need to consider providing materials on CD or enabling students to download onto memory sticks while on campus, to enable them to work at home later. Many departments now have online learning environments, such as Blackboard or those supported by platforms such as Moodle, that can be used as a repository for such materials and accessible to students in a variety of locations.

4. Questions to ask

In order to create a learning environment that is fit for use by all of your potential learners, a process must be undertaken that examines each of the issues identified in this article and addresses each of them in the context of the learning and its aims and purposes. It may be helpful to consider an overview of this process in the form of a series of questions.

  • What is the purpose of this piece of learning? What are the learning outcomes?
  • What is the breadth of the audience? Is it the general public or a defined and known group of learners?
  • Where is the resource likely to be used? On campus or off campus? In a scenario with staff at hand? Is it likely that mobile devices will be used to access the material? Is it likely that users with slow internet connections will need to access the material?
  • What needs are easily within your ability and resource to cater for?
  • Where can you go for expert advice on aspects of accessibility that are beyond your capability or resource?
  • What alternatives might be available for some of your learning materials, that will still enable satisfaction of the learning outcomes? What might be possible in addition?
  • Who makes the final decision on resourcing - if more resources are required to make your learning and teaching accessible to your whole cohort, is the decision maker aware of the legal responsibilities?

Summary

There is no definitive right and wrong answer when creating learning materials, and no checklist or benchmark that one can accurately and objectively judge inclusivity against. However, if the teacher or lecturer understands the material and learning outcomes and the ways in which they need to exhibit sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of the full range of potential learners, then an inclusive experience is likely to result. This article will hopefully exist as a tool to enable that process become better understood and more widespread in the domain of teaching and learning in law and associated disciplines.

REFERENCES

ALERT (2005) ALERT Project: Accessibility in Learning Environments and Related Technologies http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/alert/index.html 

Brazier, H. and Jennings, S. (1999). Accessible website design . Library Technology, 4 (1), February.

Counsell, K. (2009) User testing the SIMPLE VLE. JISC TechDis. http://www.techdis.ac.uk/index.php?p=2_1_7_26_26

DDA (1995) Disability Discrimination Act http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/ukpga_19950050_en_1

Fisch, K. (2007) Is It Okay To Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher? The Fischbowl Blog, 26th November 2007. http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-it-okay-to-be-technologically.html

Google (2009) Automatic captions in Youtube http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/automatic-captions-in-youtube.html

JISC TechDis (2005) SimDis: Simulations of some aspects of disabilities. JISC TechDis. www.techdis.ac.uk/simdis

JISC TechDis (2009a) Adapting tabular-based materials. JISC TechDis. http://www.techdis.ac.uk/index.php?p=1_38_1_2_5

JISC TechDis (2009b) Creation of Learning Content. JISC TechDis www.techdis.ac.uk/getcreation

JISC TechDis (2009c) Assistive Technologies: The Untapped Potential. JISC TechDis www.techdis.ac.uk/getfreesoftware

JISC TechDis (2009d) Accessibility Essentials. JISC TechDis www.techdis.ac.uk/accessibilityessentials

JISC TechDis (2009e) Guide to obtaining textbooks in alternative formats. JISC TechDis www.techdis.ac.uk/getaltformat

LSIS Excellence Gateway (2009) Users who have difficulty seeing things. http://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/page.aspx?o=160307

MIT (2009) MIT Open Courseware http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Sloan-School-of-Management/15-615Law-for-the-Entrepreneur-and-ManagerSpring2003/CourseHome/

PATOSS (2006) Readability Project Final Report. British Computer Society http://www.bcs.org/upload/pdf/readabilityproject.pdf

Plain English Campaign (2009a) The Plain English A-Z Guide to Legal Phrases http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/files/legalguide.pdf

Plain English Campaign (2009b) How to write in Plain English http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/files/howto.pdf

Poole, A. (2004) Literature Review: Which Are More Legible: Serif or Sans Serif Typefaces? http://www.alexpoole.info/academic/literaturereview.html

SENDA (2001) Special Educational Needs and Disability Act http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2001/ukpga_20010010_en_1

Skills For Access (2009) The comprehensive guide to creating accessible multimedia for e-learning www.skillsforaccess.org.uk

Smedley, J. (2009) Using podcasts and vodcasts in assessment and feedback practices in Law and Economics http://www.techdis.ac.uk/index.php?p=2_1_7_26_4_1

WebAIM (undated) Fonts. http://www.webaim.org/techniques/fonts/

Useful Related URLs

Group for Solicitors with Disabilities http://gsdnet.org.uk

JISC TechDis: Advice and guidance on accessibility through technology http://www.techdis.ac.uk

Royal National Institute for the Blind (library and transcription service): www.rnib.org.uk/library

RNIB National Centre for Tactile Diagrams http://www.nctd.org.uk/

Society of Visually Impaired Lawyers: www.sovil.org.uk

UK Centre for Legal Education: Accessibility in law schools - resources http://www.ukcle.ac.uk/resources/wp/accessibility.html

Endnotes

[1] s28T(1)(c)

[2] Captcha technology is the distorted visual representation of characters often required to log in to web resources, used to prevent access by automated 'robot' software seeking to generate spam