[Athen] FW: BlindNews: Court case shows that education must
Teresa Wells Haven
tlwells at uark.edu
Wed Jan 31 06:22:42 PST 2007
Wonder if this will eventually help any with standardized tests (LSAT,
GRE, etc.) here in the States? I work with students every year who
cannot get accessible versions of any of the prep materials for these
exams, and have incredible difficulties getting accommodations on the
From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On
Behalf Of Ron Stewart
Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 6:35 AM
To: 'Access Technologists in Higher Education Network'
Subject: [Athen] FW: BlindNews: Court case shows that education must
Interesting case out of the UK
Monday, January 29, 2007
Court case shows that education must be accessible
By Peter Abrahams
By: Peter Abrahams, Practice Leader
In a recent article, I argued that vendors need to look at the
accessibility of all stages of their sales cycle-not just the product
itself. In particular this should include accessible education and this
has been highlighted in a recent successful legal action.
Sam Latif is an IT project manager at Procter and Gamble in the UK and
has been registered blind since 1988. In 2004 she decided to further her
career and her professional expertise by studying for and (hopefully)
acquiring the "Project Management Professional", qualification, known as
the "PMP" from the Project Management Institute which is based in the
US. She had significant difficulty obtaining the necessary course
reading material in a format that she could use and further difficulty
with sitting the creditation examination which she did pass.
She, with the assistance of the Disabilities Rights Commission in the
UK, took her grievance to an Employment Tribunal and has been awarded
#3000 compensation in respect of injuries to her feelings. A more
detailed description of the case can be found in an Outlaw.com article.
Several important issues come out of this case that all IT vendors
The case was brought under UK law against a US based organisation. This
suggests that companies should aspire to best practice in accessibility
and not just the letter of the law in their jurisdiction. The new UN
Convention on Disabilities should greatly aid this process.
Being able to acquire externally recognised qualifications is vitally
important for people with disabilities and every effort should be made
by the software vendors and educational establishments to assist.
Educational material includes not only specialist course material but
all related reference documentation and all of this needs to be
Trying to retrofit accessibility on to existing documents is hard. The
Institute provided both PDF and Word versions of the documents but
neither was suitable for a screen-reader. The problem goes back to the
authoring of the documents. If they had been structured properly using
style sheets they could have been made accessible. The sad thing is that
a well structured document is easier for everyone to use and much easier
for the author to modify but so few organisations know how to use styles
Providing suitable facilities for examinations is complex. Allowing
extra time is straightforward but needs to be seen to be fair to all
students. Providing students with a human reader/transcriber and a quiet
environment for them may be necessary. The best solution is to enable
the student to use the assistive technologies (screen-readers,
voice-recognition, tactile diagrams etc.) they are familiar with; the
challenge is how to do this without breaking the normal technology
provided by the examiners and not allow the student to abuse the
situation by having access to private 'crib' information.
As with most accessibility issues, resolving the situation early in the
design cycle is by far the best solution and will, by its nature, create
other usability benefits to the wider community.
As a post script I would suggest that the Reading Employment Tribunal,
that heard the case, learns from this case and puts its own house in
order. The findings are available in PDF, RTF, DOC and HTML versions but
none of them has been structured (no headings, titles or even ordered
lists were used), so they are all relatively inaccessible. The PDF
version is a scanned document so a screen-reader cannot read anything.
In my opinion legal documents in any modifiable format are of dubious
value. What is needed is an accessible PDF version. I am sure this
problem is not confined to Reading but is true of most court
documentation and an issue that the DRC should raise and resolve.
More information about the athen-list