By 2020, the technology environment may provide faster and more unique ways to access information but what I believe will not change, is the right for universal access to all information, for all types of student abilities. A variety of tools, such as Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat and others, are available to author electronic documents to create learning material. When authoring documents it is important to use specific techniques to maintain accessibility and universality so all students can read the document effectively, especially students with a print disability. The principles for authoring a document are the same regardless of the tool used but the techniques can vary. Using specific authoring tool techniques will assist in creating an accessible electronic document that lessens the chance of a ‘road block’ being generated for a print disability student. By providing authors with the correct techniques, we mitigate the risk of an electronic document being created that a print disability student cannot read, which would otherwise hinder their access and ability to learn. There is also a financial and risk management incentive for creating accessible documents, as it reduces the risk of possible litigation by students with a print disability against the University under the Disability and Discrimination Act 1992. Understanding how a student with a print disability interacts with a piece of learning material is very important. Depending on the form and severity of the disability, students may utilise a number of technologies to read the material. Students with sensory disabilities, including vision and hearing loss, will utilise text-tospeech software, zooming and captions; students with physical disabilities will utilise speech-to-text software and keyboard/ switch hardware; and students with cognitive and learning disabilities may use a combination of software mentioned to support their needs. The key issue arises when the technology is solely dependent on how the document is formatted, which impacts the access, usability and speed a student can read the learning material. With reference to specific digital standards and guidelines, it is possible to create learning material that is universal and accessible to all students without involving extra effort on the part of the author. Not doing so actually creates more work, especially if learning material requires adjusting or reconstruction once a road block has been identified by a print disability student. In some examples, using the techniques can make the authoring process more efficient, such as utilising headings correctly, which consequentially automates the process for creating a table of contents. By implementing techniques that directly address how a student reads a document using text-to-speech, speech-to-text software and other devices, we create a document that is accessible to all that does not impact the context or visual appeal of the information. In many cases, it is not only print disability studentsthat benefit from the techniques implemented, as all students may experience improved usability that can result in enhanced learning outcomes.
2016 Learning & Teaching Week: 2020 Teaching Visions. 2020 - What's Next?, Sunshine Coast, Australia 31 October - 4 November 2016