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MON: Does freely available mean freely accessible? (Penny James)

Cloud created by:

Catherine Penny James
22 January 2019

Facilitating access to educational opportunities for all those who wish to use them is a central value of open educational practice.  Although open educational resources are made available for use free of charge, financial constraints are not the only barriers preventing access to educational resources.  Disabled users often face challenges accessing and using resources that have been made freely available. This may be because the original design for the material did not include consideration of accessibility, or because resources made available using open licenses (for example Creative Commons licenses) have been edited and redistributed by a variety of users.  In this way, materials may become more or less accessible over time, even as they become more readily available.

By focusing this project on the diverse needs of disabled users I do not mean to suggest that resources that remain inaccessible to particular groups are without value.  Indeed, insisting on a one-size fits all approach may well hinder creativity and may prevent the release and use of educationally valuable resources. However, consideration of the needs of different groups when designing open educational resources is critical to ensure that these materials may be as widely used as possible.  This may include the production of alternative versions of the same resource, for example audio transcripts describing animations to enable use by those with visual impairments.  

Although some research into the needs of disabled users of open educational resources has been done, several key uncertainties remain.  These include:

(1) In what ways do disabled users seek open educational resources? (i.e. what are their search strategies, and which search tools do they use?)

 (2) Do disabled users use open educational resources in the same way as non-disabled users? (i.e. do they use the same platforms and technologies?  If they use alternative platforms, does this alter or limit the usability of the resources?)

 (3) Following on from uncertainty (2), how are the requirements of disabled users considered at the design stage of the development of open educational resources?

(4) Would resources developed to meet the accessibility requirements of disabled users meet the needs of, and be acceptable to, non-disabled users?

 In order to fully consider these questions, it is first necessary to understand disabled users’ experiences of Open Educational Resources. In this presentation I will describe the findings of a survey into disabled users’ experiences. The findings will be presented in the context of existing research, and suggestions for further addressing research uncertainties will be considered.


Extra content

Poster Accessibility Statement


This poster has been made using text and animation rendered as an mp4 file.  Both the text and animation are simple, with black text or images on white background.  This level of contrast is intended to be suitable for as wide an audience as possible.  Although there is background music, this does not contribute to the information the poster communicates; the format is therefore suitable for those with difficulty hearing.  There is no need to scroll or type, other than pressing the play button, thus ensuring the format is as accessible as possible for those with disabilities affecting their dexterity.  


This poster is not fully accessible to those with visual impairment.  For this reason, the alternative format is an audio (mp3) file describing the poster.  A transcript of the audio file is included below.  In addition to users with restricted vision, this format may also be of use for those for whom the animations and relatively fast moving text are not suitable.


Transcript of mp3 file (NB the mp3 file cannot be attached to Cloudworks)


Screen 1:

Speech bubble with “Free for all?” written in it.  More text is underneath the speech bubble; this says “Or not?” in brackets.


Screen 2:

A box, with “Open Educational Resources” written in it as a title.  Inside the box, it says: “intended for all – but not always accessible to all”.

Screen 3:

There is an animation of a notebook.  To one side there is text.  The text reads: “How do disabled users experience OERs? How do I make my OER accessible?”


Screen 4:

Animation with moving stars


Screen 5:

Text; this reads: “Find out: Monday February 18th, 21:00 GMT… H818 Online Conference” and then includes a internet address.  The web address is:


Screen 6:

Animation with clapper board.


Screen 7:

Text; this reads: “Thank you”

Catherine Penny James
09:42 on 6 March 2019

Embedded Content

Animated poster

Animated poster

added by Catherine Penny James

Insights from a closer look a data from the OER Research Hub

Insights from a closer look a data from the OER Research Hub

added by Catherine Penny James