[A11y] Accessibility in Open Textbooks



  • @apurva thanks-- im not used to using @ even though new replies add it automatically. i havent used twitter in years, and (for me) its not a typical convention for forums, but im still getting used to nodebb. the more people @ me in their replies, the more obvious the convention. but youre right, that would help.


  • administrators

    @figosdev No worries, it’s taken me a while to get used to them myself! Hopefully we’ll hear from Jess, else I can think of a few other people in the community who might have an answer for us. :)



  • @figosdev :( I know not why this is undesirable. IMHO if it is perceivable and understandable by a diverse audience, then I think it would be achieving the intended.



  • @jmitchell perhaps @michelle-reed can weigh in here?



  • @jmitchell

    im sure screen readers have something to do with it. but given that they are computer technology, and “/” is the standard computer representation for division in basic (1964) and python (1991) and javascript (mid 90s) and even bash (1989, though i dont know when $((2+2)) was added) it seems like screen readers just need to be able to understand code. which sounds really complex until you know that code in webpages is almost always in pre tags or tags that are better semantically. in every instance i can think of-- “use proper semantic tags” sounds like a better rule than “dont use / for division.” but im still guessing-- “which tags?”

    its been many, many years since i noticed ÷ used in any context other than an ed sheeran album. im sure its more common if you teach primary school math. we didnt use it in algebra class. theres also no key for it on the keyboard (theres a % but thats worse than /) which has got to be half the reason using / is so popular.

    either way-- singling out “/” just seems weird. like its waiting to be generalised into a rule that is more obvious (and broadly relevant.)

    the other complaint i have is that it doesnt suggest what should be used instead. sort of like saying “dont use someones name to address them.” alright, what should i say, then? “you over on the left, with the short brown hair?”

    i guess i want the accessibility guidelines to be accessible. ok, im zeroing in on a particular one, thats true. but thats pretty much how you make things accessible, by zeroing in on the trouble spots and then trying to find solutions, where possible.

    due to the open collaboration inherent in free software, i had a gripe one time when someone said of their own pet list: “these rules are to be added to the list of free software rules and must now be applied to all free softwares.”

    i said “it wouldnt be free software then.”

    certainly we should make oer accessible, but that ultimately requires expertise-- sometimes technical expertise beyond the skills of the person who is creating a valuable resource.

    again, given the open collaboration nature of oer, rather than say “all oer should be accessible” i think it would be wiser to say “all oer should be adaptable to more accessible forms.” which it is.

    personally, i want as many people as possible involved and contributing-- if they are not accessibility experts, then guidelines are great. there should be accessibility teams to adopt works and make them more accessible, or to guide people through new skills-- but people will always create oer resources that “arent ready” until this stage takes place further down the line. since theyre open and adaptable, throwing them out or discounting them (as if they are fixed products we should just replace with new ones) can be wasteful.

    certainly if there are two otherwise equally good resources, the more accessible one has an obvious advantage. theres nothing wrong with rating works as-is for the accessibility, but the primary feature is the openness that allows anyone to adapt it to anyones needs-- including accessibility and even beyond that.



  • @figosdev said in [A11y] Accessibility in Open Textbooks:

    certainly we should make oer accessible, but that ultimately requires expertise-- sometimes technical expertise beyond the skills of the person who is creating a valuable resource.

    <math joke>To be additive, I agree 100%, I think! </did I just make a math joke?> We at the Inclusive Design Research Centre have worked hard to make not just guidelines, but also tools that will help developers and designers make more accessible website and webapps. The UIOptions Toolbar is a great example: https://build.fluidproject.org/infusion/demos/prefsFramework/ By using open standards and good practices with HTML 5, CSS, and JavaScript we can make accessible solutions w/o being ‘accessibility experts’ – though, like @michelle-reed , I don’t believe there is such a thing. (I think we are all accessibility practitioners or we should be.)

    again, given the open collaboration nature of oer, rather than say “all oer should be accessible” i think it would be wiser to say “all oer should be adaptable to more accessible forms.” which it is.

    And since we’re all practitioners, let’s not let folks ‘off-the-hook’ by saying they are making things more accessible just by virtue of licensing it as open. Open is a huge barrier unlocked – helping people learn to make inclusive content from the beginning and learning that it will benefit all is a critically important next step. (e.g. a finance book with just USA finance examples might be less relevant when used in Canada).

    personally, i want as many people as possible involved and contributing-- if they are not accessibility experts, then guidelines are great. there should be accessibility teams to adopt works and make them more accessible, or to guide people through new skills-- but people will always create oer resources that “arent ready” until this stage takes place further down the line. since theyre open and adaptable, throwing them out or discounting them (as if they are fixed products we should just replace with new ones) can be wasteful.

    Throw nothing away – be digital pack rats – but don’t stop ‘practicing’ making your content more inclusive and therefore more consumable by all. Isn’t that our goal in education – to reach as many as possible?



  • @jmitchell said in [A11y] Accessibility in Open Textbooks:

    let’s not let folks ‘off-the-hook’ by saying they are making things more accessible just by virtue of licensing it as open.

    no, that would be like throwing away the goal of accessibility. which is a goal we should keep on hand. my concern might seem hypothetical, that we would make good ideas a first priority and end up excluding others that are even more key.

    all im saying is that open is the foundation. personally, i work in stages where there is an initial development (basically all authors do this, and call it a draft) and then i develop further what is needed to be developed.

    if we can make “accessibility accessible” to every author, like your project aims to, thats a great step forward too. not in any way suggesting we shouldnt bother with that.

    but its all volunteer work, or mostly it is, and if you want to be economical (and effective) with volunteers, lets get the priorities straight-- first, do all that you can. and if someone has to stop in the middle of a project-- because theyre out of money and i have to get a new job, because a kid is on the way, or a sick relative calls them way from their volunteering–

    its alright, someone else can pick up that work where the other person left off. its not at all just about “i did what i want, let someone else worry about it.” its simply a matter of first things first-- and an in accessible work isnt rocket science to hone into something more accessible.

    for example, we do have screen reader technology. it can be improved. i watched a brilliant thing once about the very sad state of (most) closed captioning. it is improving, slowly.

    the nature of collaboration really does mean that things can be done in stages. this doesnt mean everyone is off the hook-- lets look at what we are replacing/supplementing though: corporate monopoly publishing. im not anti-business, but i am anti-monopoly, and oer shows where monopolies are inefficient and overly costly.

    so in a top-down monopoly structure, not everyone has to be expert or worry about every aspect of everything. further, and this is where the concern slowly begins to creep into reality-- ONLY a top-down monopoly can compete in terms of making everything fit an overburdened standard. i mean look at iso standards-- the more there are, the better they lend themselves to corporate management.

    we cant be efficient by having everyone do everything, except in the exceptions where that does happen sometimes.

    but we can be packrats, like you said-- and take unlimited inputs, and then create a line where the outputs are higher quality.

    this is akin to the software engineering principle “be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you output.” dont rubber stamp anything as “ready, approved” until it meets the standards you want it to meet for that stamp of approval.

    but do recognise that there is a growing amount of input to choose from, and its a very valuable place to start.

    the other thing that comes down is realism. i mean the standards (or best practices) being talked about here are really good ones, which is why im happier with rebus than other platforms. its not just about higher standards-- but better ones (more open.)

    for some, the oer standard has room for -nc licenses. mit opencourseware uses -nc licenses. i would agree with the rebus community (i think) that leaning on -nc is a mistake.

    what does -nc hurt? it hurts the reusability of the material. -nc is too vague and really doesnt achieve the creative commons goal of making the legal side of this “accessible” to non-lawyers. -nc is confusing enough to avoid entirely.

    i think we should accept input liberally, and be conservative with final output. by the time the cover goes on and the material receives a top listing, it should go through every quality process.

    but it doesnt have to be that way the whole way through. if it is, thats an advantage. but to borrow a thought from the python coding world, “avoid premature optimisation.” only some people think that means “dont bother with the rest.”

    the perfect is the enemy of the good, too. but thats no reason not to at least aim for perfection, just to recognise that there is plenty of good that isnt quite ready, but its getting there.

    i think the rebus community already gets this idea too, and im not trying to introduce it as much as reinforce it.


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