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Accessibility testing

Benefits of Accessibility testing

It is far easier and less costly to incorporate accessibility features from the start rather than requesting 'fixes' once prototypes are in an advanced state of development. Testing for accessibility provides:

  • real user experience data from which developers can learn much about actual user experience of websites, software and materials
  • feedback from users with disabilities on their usual method of approaching websites, software and materials and whether what is being tested meets their expectations
  • opportunities to understand, via the data collected, that can lead to improving the accessibility of websites, software and materials for disabled users, which often means that non-disabled users benefit from improved usability too

OU Policy on Accessibility

Approximately 5.5% of the University's students are disabled.  The OU is committed to making its teaching inclusive - this is implicit in its mission statement and its Widening Participation aspirations.  In addition, the OU is required to comply with the Equality Act 2010.  Students with disabilities have a right to expect that reasonable adjustments will be made to enable them to take part in all the activities available to their non-disabled peers. 

IET Core service

Accessibility testing is one of the core services provided by the Institute of Educational Technology to the University.  Module and programme teams are encouraged to use this service early during module (course) production so that their products for students are as inclusive as possible when they are made available.

The Jennie Lee Research Labs include a dedicated and specially designed lab for Accessibility testing.

For a description of accessibility testing, please read the Accessibility case study.

Scheduling

It is crucial to schedule the testing into the production cycle so that feedback can be incorporated into final versions while the changes are still feasible.  This means testing should start as soon as possible.  If the testing involves student participation, then you will need to apply to the Student Research Projects Panel.

Assistive software and hardware

We have the following software and hardware in the Accessibility lab.  The links to the various software shown below will take you away from the Jennie Lee Research Labs website.

Screen readers

Screen readers analyse the text on screen and output it as synthetic speech.  They are mainly used by people with severe visual impairment.

Screen magnifiers

Visually impaired people who have some useful sight may need to change the way that information appears on the screen.  As well as changing the size, they may also need it in a different font or in different colour combinations.  They usually want to do this for all areas of the screen rather than simply changing the properties of an individual document.

Voice recognition

Voice recognition software can be used to issue commands via a microphone as an alternative to keyboard and mouse.  It is commonly used by people with manual dexterity problems and by people with dyslexia.

Software for Dyslexic users

Software designed to help people who need extra help reading or composing text.  It has a predictive text function which helps the user who has difficulty with spelling.

Alternative hardware

Alternative input devices range from large trackerballs to sophisticated single switches operated by eye movement.  Various hardware items can be provided in the labs:

  • keyguards that fit over a keyboard to guide fingers to individual keys and prevent keys being pressed in error
  • track balls, joysticks and various designs of computer mice
  • arm rests and height-adjustable desks
  • keyboards with high contrast keys and large keys

If other hardware is needed we can endeavour to provide it in the labs.

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