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Creating Onscreen Text that is Readable and Accessible.

Despite the many advantages of multimedia, it remains the case that a lot of the information that learners need comes in the form of extended pieces of text – books, articles, etc. Increasingly, this sort of information is being disseminated electronically, but a lot of what is disseminated electronically is either difficult to read by anyone or inaccessible to some categories of learners. Over the last few years my colleagues and I at the University of Teesside (along with many others, of course) having been seeking solutions to the problem of producing text that can easily be read on screen by anyone and everyone.

Initially, our work began as a response to a specific problem. We had 1500 pages of paper-based distance learning materials on the subject of distance learning that we wanted to make available for use in Blackboard. We have reported this work elsewhere (Ingraham & Bradburn, 2003) and the resulting materials, called iPALIO are available from the Open Learning Foundation (free to members).

However, in the course of solving our particular problem we discovered that many of the people who knew most about designing text for the screen were people who were engaged in addressing accessibility issues; and this led us, with support from TechDis and the ILTHE, to develop our specific solution into a set of guidelines and style sheets that can be used to help in the creation of text that will be both readable and accessible to all. These materials and a range of other information concerning electronic text can be found at http://www.techdis.ac.uk/ebooks/Home.htm and a one page summary of the guidelines is attached to this article.

More recently, we have developed some staff development workshops to help staff prepare text-based materials for inclusion in Blackboard (or elsewhere). One workshop addresses issues surrounding the use of Microsoft Word© to create learning resources for electronic dissemination and the other focuses on the similar use of Microsoft PowerPoint©. Both of these workshops focus around worksheets that are designed to be used by independent learners and the editors of BbMatters have asked whether we would be willing to make these worksheets available to readers.

Naturally, we are more than happy to make them available and they can be found in Accessibility matters under ‘Activities’. However, readers should note that these worksheets don’t refer exclusively to accessibility, although it is an important element. Also, there is reference in the worksheets to various sample documents, etc. It would be too cumbersome to distribute these as well; and, in any case, it is probably best that people follow the guidelines to create their own documents. Finally, while you are more than free to modify these worksheets to meet your own needs, we would ask that you give us credit for the original work and please send us copies of any improvements that you make, so that our own material can be as good as possible.

Reference

Ingraham, B. and Bradburn, E. (2003), Converting OLF Materials for use Online, Multi-PALIO: A Case Study, The Open Learning Foundation, London.

Author: Bruce Ingraham

01 July 2004

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