A contextualised model of accessible e-learning practice in higher education institutions

In this paper (Seale, 2006) the author accesses the current models of e-learning accessibility used in higher level institutions of learning and proposes a new contextualised model of accessibility.

The author claims that although there are three shortage of drivers of  more accessible e-learning. These are accessibility standards, accessibility guidelines and disability discrimination. However these drivers though now in use for a number of years have not eliminated e-learning resources with poor accessibility levels.

According to the author there are a number of reasons for this:

1. The existing guidelines, standards and legislation do not provide specific and practical information on how they should be implemented nor best practice examples on how it has been achieved.

2. Also the author claims asserts that the e-learning community itself has not developed a consensus on what best practice for accessibility should be.

The purpose of this paper is to assess the existing models for accessibility in e-learning and how they can help inform a new contextualised model developed by the author.

She analyses three separate accessibility models:

1. web accessibility integration model (Lazar, Dudley-Sponaugle & Greenidge, 2004)

2. the composite practice model (Leung et al. 1999)

3. the holistic model (Kelly et al. 2005)

Each is criticised for not involving a wide enough range of stakeholders in the accessibility development process. She argues that all stakeholders need to be involved and the context of the delivery of accessibility standards needs to be fully understood by all involved.

Seale proposes a new model called the contextualised model of accessible e-learning. This model factors in the input of a range of stakeholders through a range of mediators, the influence of drivers and the context in which these will interact to shape the resulting outcome. (See Figure 1).

image of contextualised model of accessibilty in e-learning

In conclusion the author proposes that the benefit of her contextualised model is that it does not just represent the drivers of accessibility but also the views of those who will be practicing it and the realistic influence that context will have on the resulting accessibility policy developed through it.

This paper became part of my reading as it became clear to me that the group project I am working on, though focusing on dyslexia, was based in the wider context of accessibility of e-learning in higher level institutions. It seemed to me that a better understanding of what standards and guidelines are in place for higher level institutions would benefit not only the project but also my own understanding of what is best practice standards exist for an online educational provision.

In an Irish context it seems there are certain legal frameworks in place such as the Disability Act 2005 and the Equal Status Acts 2000 and 2004 and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 (Authority, 2012)(for under 18 year old persons) which legislate against discrimination towards people with disabilities. The clearest source of guidelines I could find were the Universal Design guidelines provided by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design for the National Disability Authority (Design, 2012). This source may provide useful resources for our group project.


Authority, National Disability. (2012). Education.   Retrieved 19.12.2012, 2012, from http://www.nda.ie/cntmgmtnew.nsf/educationhomepage?OpenPage

Design, Centre for Excellence in Universal. (2012). ICT.   Retrieved 19.12.2012, 2012, from http://www.universaldesign.ie/useandapply/ict

Seale, J. (2006). A contextualised model of accessible e-learning practice in higher education institutions. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 22(2), 268-288. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/ website: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet22/seale.html


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